In Harm's Way -----------------( A Crime Drama) --------------by Luckymama

The Comfortable Couch
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In Harm’s Way

by Marie Crim

Chapter 1

I'm not a squeamish person by nature. I think that’s why I joined the army at 18 and signed up to train as an MP. It is also the reason why, when I was discharged from the army, after six years of active duty, some of which was overseas in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, I decided I wanted to be a New York City cop. You can’t be squeamish in this job or you will lose your sanity.

I guess it was a far cry from the dancer my mom wanted me to be, and the teacher my dad expected I would be. Mom looked at my 5’8" frame, lean from all the army training, my long legs, and blond hair and figured I would be the next Ginger Rogers. Dad was a teacher and thought I might follow in his footsteps. But sitting behind a desk trying to beat knowledge into a bunch of juvenile delinquents all day, while appealing, wasn’t really what I wanted to do with my life. I have always been a person of action, and I knew there was plenty to be had in the NYPD.

After graduating from the police academy with high honors, I was assigned a uniformed job on the lower east side. Known traditionally as the Bowery, it was the home of Little Italy, China Town and a half a dozen other older ethnic neighborhoods, as well as most of the anglo wino population of Manhattan. We might not have the same ethnic mix as say the upper east and west sides, places like Harlem, with its large African American population and Washington Heights, with its large Hispanic communities, but we have gang wars and drugs to deal with too. And I saw my share of action, some of which was as gruesome as anything I had seen during the Gulf War.

Owing to the fact that I was ambitious, I took my detective’s test after only 9 months on the force and passed. I asked to be assigned to my old precinct, since I knew everyone there. My only problem was Jim O’Riley, my partner. He was OK, but didn’t trust me. I guess I was used to his brand of prejudiced, I had dealt with it my whole army career. It wasn’t my nationality, which was Danish, German and a smattering of Irish. Nor was it my religion, I really didn’t practice any, even tho my dad was a staunch Lutheran and my mother as equally a staunch Roman Catholic (she is the one that gave me the smattering of Irish). The real problem O’Riley had with me was the fact that I was a woman. He didn’t trust women cops.

He wasn’t alone in his prejudice, but I didn’t have to work as closely with the other chauvinists in my precinct. I did have to work with him everyday. I guess it was no surprise, then, that he went all macho on me in his time of need and got himself killed on duty. It wasn’t fair, but I never will believe to this day that it was my fault either.

We had been on a stake out, checking out a lead to do with a rash of young male deaths in the neighborhood. I'm pretty good with the Internet. O’Riley, an older cop, didn’t seem to care for the electronic age, so he left the research to me. I had discovered a group of skin heads that might be behind the murders of mainly ethnic males, ages ranging from 13 to 25. Most of the vics were of southern and eastern European descent, with a few Asians thrown in for good measure. All six had been gruesomely killed, the most telling similarity in all of the cases being the fact that the males had their genitals missing. O’Riley and some of the other detectives thought that it was the work of some crazed female killer. I hadn’t heard of a woman that would mutilate young men like that for kicks. The only women crazy enough to resort to that sort of butchery were the jilted wives and lovers of men who couldn’t keep it at home. This was definitely different. The only other explanations that were bandied about the precinct were gang retaliations or drug turf wars. Most of those kinds of murderers didn’t bother castrating the vics, so I wasn’t convinced. That is when I went on the Internet looking for other motives. The other detectives thought I was nuts to think that these murders might be racially motivated, O’ Riley included. The captain was more open minded and asked us to check it out.

We were staking out the apartment of a possible suspect, when things went bad. O’Riley saw some suspicious movements coming from the apartment window of the suspect and told me to sit tight while he investigated. I told him that I needed to be with him and call in back up. He said screw the back up, he was going to get this collar and I was to sit tight. He mumbled something under his breath as he left the car about not letting a dame screw up his chance at a promotion. I was a bit surprised that he would even do this, being he didn’t believe that this was a legitimate suspect, but like I said, O’Riley was a chauvinist, and as I had learned early in our partnership, a bit of a glory hog. He went into the building, and me, being a good cop who plays by the rules even if her partner doesn’t want to, called for back up and got out and followed him in.

He had a few minutes head start on me, so I didn’t see him when I entered the building. Proceeding cautiously, I went looking for him. The building looked deserted. It was in bad shape, another example of slum lord indifference our fair city had been plagued with. As I rounded the stairs to the 5th floor I saw a door swing close. On the door in faded letters was stenciled in chipped white paint ‘Roof’. I opened the door, my service revolver drawn. I heard voices from the far end of the roof, on the other side of the door well. O’Riley was telling someone to drop their weapon. I rounded the side of the well only to see a large, white male-- 20-ish, with a bald head--- pointing a weapon at my partner. O’Riley, instead of keeping his eyes on his suspect, averted his vision to me. He had his weapon trained on the suspect, but in his moment of distraction, the suspect fired. I sensed that he would do just what he did, and I had fired my weapon almost simultaneously at the suspect’s gun hand, but the bullet from the big man’s gun found its way to my partner’s abdomen. O’Riley had not had a chance to fire his weapon. I went over to the suspect, who was on the ground holding his injured hand and moaning. I cuffed him just as my back up, Dets. Jensen and Poole arrived on the scene. I left the suspect in their custody and went over to check on my partner. He was still alive, but his breathing was very shallow. "Damnit, Jim, why didn’t you let me back you up?" I asked through tear blurred eyes. He wasn’t responding to me. I hollered to Jensen and Poole to call for an ambulance, and I heard Poole on his walkie-talkie radio in that there was an officer down, and a request for an ambulance. They transported O’Riley to the hospital, but the doctor later told me that he died en route. There was really no hope, because he had sustained too much organ damage from the bullet.

I was exonerated for my actions that day, but the stigma of losing your partner stuck to me like the scarlet letter. The captain was having a hard time reassigning me to another detective. No one said it to my face, but I knew what was going around the precinct. It is one thing for a guy to lose their partner in the line of duty, it is another thing all together for a woman to lose one. Damn these macho cops. O’Riley should not have gone in without me, and the captain said as much in his report, but when he called me into his office a week after the incident, I knew I wasn’t going to be around to finish out the day.

"Look, Grieg, I know it wasn’t your fault what happened to O’Riley out there, but you know what is being said as much as the next person. I don’t want to lose you, you are a damn good cop. But I had a talk with the commissioner and we both think it might be best for the precinct and for you if you were reassigned to another precinct."

I hit my palm on his desk and said, "Damn... Jim screws up and I am the one who takes the rap."

The captain, instead of blowing up at me, continued in a much softer voice, "Janice, look, I know you did what you were supposed to do. And I guess Jim paid with his life for his stupidity. I just think you would be better off leaving the bad feelings around here. You aren’t being demoted or anything. You will still be a full detective, and your pay will stay the same." He asked me to sit down and he took out a folder and opened it. "Actually, the assignment was made based on your work on the last case you and Jim were working on. Seems this little murder spree isn’t confined to our little corner of the world. You will be sent to the 127th to check out a similar murder that happened two days ago."

I thought a minute. "Captain, isn’t the one two seven up in Washington Heights?"

"Yes, you have a problem with that?"

"No," I lied. I had a BIG problem with that. I thought I had problems down here with prejudice, wait till I got into the land of the Latino lovers as Washington Heights was called. I didn’t have anything against Hispanics, I want to make that clear right now. It is just that my blond haired, blue eyed, long legged look was a bit of a problem for them. I shuddered and thought about my need for action. I would certainly get some up there, but not the kind I was looking for.

"Good. You are to turn over your case files to Jensen and Poole and report to the captain of the one two seven this afternoon. Please take copies of the case work you have been doing just in case this is a related case. We will work with you if you need us."

"Thanks." I didn’t stay to say anymore. I was just managing to maintain my cool in the face of this bad news and knew if I were to stay any longer, I might say something I would regret. I had a habit of doing that in the past.

I cleaned out my desk and locker and turned over the files to Poole. He didn’t say much except a feeble "good luck". I took it as a sign that the captain was probably right and I would be better off not being reminded of my pariah status everyday at work. So that is how I wound up at the one two seven.


I live on the east side, in a little brownstone apartment on the edge of Greenwich Village. It is a pretty nice neighborhood, as far as neighborhoods go in Manhattan. I usually took the bus to work, being that my former precinct wasn’t that far from my home, but the 127th was a bit of a distance. I took most of my stuff home before I decided to report in for my new assignment. I debated on trying to find the bus connections to Washington Heights or just splurging on a taxi for the first day. The taxi won out, only because I didn’t have a lot of time to be searching for the bus connections that day.

I arrived about 2 in the afternoon. The neighborhood where the precinct house was located was as run down as the one I left, but the difference was this area was still green with trees. I don’t think there were any trees left in the Bowery.

I entered through the old wooden doors and went to the reception desk. The sergeant on duty directed me to the third floor to the detectives’ room. The elevator wasn’t working that day, so I wound up climbing the stairs to the third floor. The city cutbacks were evident in this place. No one had money for the niceties of the job. This squad room looked very similar to ours, except we had air conditioning, they seem to have missed out on getting it. Large fans blew stale hot air around the room from their dust encrusted blades. I asked a detective sitting at a beat up desk near the door of the squad room where I could find the captain’s office. He was typing with one hand on his computer and eating a candy bar with the other. He never even looked up at me, but pointed in the general direction of a glass door on the far side of the room as he continued to type.

I approached the office door, noting the name painted on the door. It read "Captain Tyrone Jackson... Please Knock". I followed the directions and gently rapped on the glass. A "come in" answered my request. I slowly turned the knob and looked in as I opened the door. The office wasn’t that much different from my old captain’s office. The one thing he had that the rest of his men didn’t was a small window air conditioner grinding away the cooler air that filled his space.

"Come in, Detective Grieg. Please close the door. Gotta try to keep in the cool. Your boss told me you would be on your way." Jackson musta weighed 250 if he weighed an ounce. The office was an icebox compared to the squad room, but sweat still rolled from his dark brow. When he got up to move a mass of papers and books off of a chair sitting in the corner, I ascertained that he was about my height and probably in his fifties. His hair was in a short afro, graying around the edges as some African - American males do when they age. He pulled the now empty chair to the edge of his desk. After inviting me to sit in it, he rounded his desk and resumed his place in his overstuffed office chair. He pulled out a folder from a pile of paperwork on his desk and read a few minutes. I was not really comfortable in the silence that followed, but I used the time to take a closer look around the messy office. I could see that this guy wasn’t as organized as my old boss. I wondered what he would be like to work for.

"Well, Ms. Grieg, you come highly recommended and you have an exemplary service record. Capt. Sam Harris speaks glowingly of you."

"Thanks," was all I could manage weakly.

Capt. Jackson put the folder down and looked me in the eye. I appreciate a person who can do that. "This is a real family here at the one two seven, but I will let you know, it is a rough place. We have a reputation for doing things on the edge if you know what I mean. We only have team players here." He got up and went to the only window. He looked out the window and continued. "Out there is a war zone. We need people who will be there when things go bad, and they do, all too often I am afraid."

"I understand," I answered him, suspecting where he was going with this line of thought.

"Look," he said turning back to me, "I know what Sam said about what happened the night your partner bit it, but I want to hear it from you, if you don’t mind."

I sighed and related once again the events of the night my partner was killed. "My partner, James O’Riley, and I were out on a routine follow-up to some research I had uncovered while working on our current case. We had a suspect under surveillance when we spotted some suspicious activity in the building we were staking out. My partner told me to stay put and not call for back up while he went to check it out. I knew that this was not only against regulations, but dangerous as well. When he left, I called for the required back up and then, with my service revolver drawn, I went in search of my partner. He had cornered the suspect on the roof, both had guns drawn on each other. I had my gun trained on the suspect’s gun hand waiting for my partner to secure the suspect, when the suspect fired on my partner. Jim had been momentarily distracted when I had come on the scene and the perp took advantage of this to fire on him. I instinctively sensed that he would do this and almost simultaneously fired on the suspect. My bullet incapacitated the suspect and I had him in cuffs when the two detectives who arrived as back up took charge of him. I then went to my partner to check on him. He was alive, but not breathing right. An ambulance was called, but he died on his way to the hospital. The doctor said there would have been nothing anyone could have done for him, the damage the bullet inflicted was too severe."

"You think things would have happened differently if you and your partner had followed correct procedure?"

"I can’t say for sure, but it is my belief there would have been a better chance that Jim O’Riley would be alive today if we had done things by the book, sir."

The captain came over to me and stuck his hand out to me. "Welcome to the 127th, Detective Janice Grieg." He shook my hand and then went back to his desk chair and sat down. "I think you will make a fine addition to this motley crew. I have a special assignment for you. Sam told me that you were informed about our latest murder, a little black boy who was killed and mutilated two days ago. I am assigning you to the other detective on the case. Muff Kovack’s partner was just put on administrative leave due to some medical problems, so he is in need of a partner anyway. Come with me and I will introduce you."

Capt. Jackson got up once again and I rose from my seat. I was led back out into the oven that was the squad room to another dingy corner by the bathrooms. There were two beat up desks facing each other, but only one was occupied. The occupant was a long haired Hispanic looking guy, maybe 6’3"-6’4". He was rather good looking, but something about him reminded me of the hard look people sometimes get from being out on the street too long. He, like the detective I asked directions from when I entered the room, was working on a report on his computer. Unlike his colleague, he was typing with two hands and with more competency than the other guy. I could tell right away he was computer savvy. That would be a refreshing change from O’Riley.

"Muff," the captain yelled at the man at the desk. Muff looked up. The captain continued, "Janice Grieg, this is our resident tech head, Muff Kovack. Muff, this is Det. Janice Grieg, from the three four. She has been permanently reassigned to our little zoo. I am putting her with you. I think you two will make a great team."

Muff looked hard at me and mumbled, "Oh great, a blond dame." Aloud he said, "Well, Det. Grieg, here is your desk, make yourself at home. My former partner left you all the files on his computer for you to peruse through, but good luck making sense of them. He didn’t know much about using it."

I shook my head and looked at the captain, who was retreating back into his air conditioned office. "Look, can we start on a good foot here, Det. Kovack? I have been on the NYPD for about 2 years and before that I was an MP in the army. I have a good service record and I think I would make a hell of a partner for anyone who could look past my sex and see what a good cop I am."

"Look," Muff said, "I’m sorry. I guess I overreacted. It is just that, in the two years I have been in this hell hole, I have had a string of loser partners. Seems no one trusts me with anyone with a brain since I am an ex con."

"I gotcha, I guess I can relate. You are judged before you are tested. I have gotten that a lot myself. I can assure you, I have a brain.... and I am very capable of using it." I sat down at the empty desk facing Muff’s desk and put my few belongings away. "What are you working on at the moment. My old boss and the captain here tell me there was a gruesome murder of an African American boy a few days ago."

Muff looked up from his report. He pointed to the laptop computer sitting on my desk. "You know how to use one of these?"

"Sure, why?"

"Well that is a good start at least." He made a few more strokes on his keyboard and then took the mouse and clicked it a few times. He then took a disk out of his laptop and handed it to me. "Here is a copy of the file on the case as we know it. My former partner’s files are probably not worth reading. I would start with this and then create your own files on it. I will warn you, it is not for the squeamish."

Like I said from the outset, I am not a squeamish person. I took a few minutes to read the report that Muff had prepared so far. The scenario sounded sooo familiar. A 17 year old black male was found in an alley, his throat had been slit with a large knife, his body had been mutilated, and his genitals were missing. No matter how many times I saw this or read it, it did make my stomach turn. Who would be so sick as to do this to kids. I guess I must have looked a little green, cause Muff asked me if I needed a drink of water.

"Yeah, and maybe something stronger when we are off duty."

"I told you it was not for the squeamish", he said as he got up and went to the machine nearby to get me a bottle of water.

"Yeah, well I have a strong constitution, but I would have to be dead or as sadistic as the killer not to be affected by this. Your theory is that this is drug/gang related. Are the gangs this vicious up here?" I thanked him for the water, opened it and took a big swig.

"They can be, but for the life of me, I can’t think of any other motive for this brutality. Usually they aren’t into this kind of mutilation. We’re also considering a psycho."

I nodded. "Sounds like all the things we were considering in our cases."

Muff looked at me hard. "You have seen this kind of thing before?", he asked incredulously.

"Sorry to say, yes I have. My former partner and I were working on a series of similar murder/mutilations when he died. I was researching another motive with another set of suspects."

"Well don’t hold back. I’m all ears."

Just then the captain poked his head out of his office door and said, "Kovack and Grieg, you have a call. 145th and Lex. Looks like another one of those mutilation murders."

Muff went over to grab the piece of paper with the information on it from the captain and he led me out of the office and down to the street. He pointed to a beat up Chevy Impala parked on the street in front of the precinct. " I know it doesn’t look like much, but it has it where it needs it. Get in."

"Whatever you say." I didn’t have time to argue with him. He got behind the wheel and started the engine. Where the car was beat up, the engine sounded smooth and quiet. I smiled as he pulled out into traffic."

"I don’t know what you were used to in the 34, but money is tight up here. This baby gets me where I need to be, so I guess I can’t complain."

"Well ours aren’t much better. It sounds smooth at least."

"Yup, this engine purrs like a kitten thanks to me. I don’t let the department touch her. I do all the work myself."

I was impressed. "You sure are a man of talent then. Where did you learn how to work on engines?"


"Oh," I felt like I had stepped in dog dirt. He had told me he was an ex con. I know the department had employed some, something to do with knowing the criminal mind and all, but I also knew that those who had been in prison didn’t like to be reminded of it. He didn’t elaborate and I didn’t press it.


We drove in silence for a few minutes so Muff could concentrate on the traffic. Winding our way down Broadway to 145th street and then turning east to get across to Lexington Ave., I wondered if this area was still covered by the 127th precinct. It was then that I experienced the first incident of Muff’s uncanny ability to sense what I was thinking. "This isn’t really our territory, but the precincts up in the northern parts of Manhattan are stretched to the limit right now with manpower, so if the precinct covering an area can’t handle the case, they ask for assistance. Besides, not all of the precincts in this area have detective squads. It turns out this one doesn’t. So we get called in on a lot of homicides in this area."

After about 20 minutes in traffic, we finally arrived at the alley where another black youth had been found by a restaurant owner putting out his trash. The place was swarming with curious onlookers, most of whom were black. We had to cut our way through a sea of inquisitive black faces to get to the crime scene. I felt a little nervous, being one of the only Caucasians at the scene. But Muff’s arm around mine, leading me through the crowd with the help of a black uniformed officer, helped to easy my apprehensions of the moment. After all, I was here to do a job.

We finally got to the crime scene and I bent down to get a good look at the vic. This one looked to be about 16. He had a gang jacket on, but it had been cut to ribbons. The boy’s throat had been slit deep and again there were mutilation marks on the body. I didn’t have the nerve to check to see if anything was missing, so Muff did it. The genitals were gone. "Damn," Muff exclaimed under his breath. "If I ever get my hands on the sick bastard that's doing this....."

I pulled Muff away from the body and directed the coroner to tend to the body. Some uniforms were looking over the site for clues. I said, "Look, Muff, I would love to string this guy up too, but we have an investigation to do.... let’s do it and get out of here. I want to show you something back at the station."

"You’re right. When kids are involved, I lose it. You were about to tell me about the research you did on your cases back at the three four," answered Muff.

I was glad he didn’t blow up at me. "Yeah, but it can wait. Let’s process this place first."

We went around looking for clues and questioning the crowd milling around. The uniforms took pictures of the body and the crime scene. One of the cops found a wallet in the pocket of the remains of the jacket. Jesse Morgan was the name on the student ID found in the wallet. There was also about ten bucks in small bills. So robbery was ruled out. I dreaded having to call in the kid’s family to identify the body. Fortunately, the killer wasn’t interested in messing up the faces of his vics. I remember the other identifications I had witnessed. It was never easy watching family members identify their loved ones, no matter how good a shape they were in. Dead is dead, and death is always hard to swallow, especially when murder is involved. Muff must have been reading my mind again, cause he said, "Well, at least his folks won’t have to look at the rest of him to identify him..... damn." He went over to the car and slammed his fist on the roof.

"Look, this isn’t easy for any of us." I went over to the uniform in charge and asked him to finish up gathering evidence for our investigation. Then I went back to the car and looked at my watch. "Looks like our shift is about over.... lets get some coffee and compare notes. I think we might be dealing with the same thing up here that we did at the three four."

Muff looked at me and nodded. Silently, we got in the car and he started to drive. After a few more moments of silence, he said, "You mind if we get the coffee to go and go somewhere else to talk about this. I have to clear my mind, and I have a special place I go that helps me to do that."

"Sure, whatever," was all I could say. I could understand wanting to get away from the horror we had just witnessed. I might be callused to some of it cause my job requires me to be that way, but no one can be truly callused to it all.

We went to a little coffee place on 145th and got our java fix and then headed up Broadway, past the Washington Heights neighborhood location of our precinct. I thought Muff might be heading back to the station first, but he turned on to Washington Avenue and headed toward Inwood. I then realized where we were going.



In all of Manhattan, the Inwood area looked less like Manhattan and more like the upwardly mobile suburbs of say, Long Island or White Plains. Fort Tyrone Park, located on the northern tip of Manhattan on land donated by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the late 1920’s, still retains much of the natural beauty that was Manhattan Island before the twentieth century paved it over. Where places like Central Park and the other smaller parks of Manhattan were planned, Fort Tyrone Park reflects nature’s planning. The Cloisters, located in the park, is a collection of medieval styled buildings, most of which were abandoned pieces of Gothic architecture from French villages brought to the city by the sculptor George Grey Barnard. The collection of mainly Romanesque and Gothic styles of medieval art, architecture and decoration was purchased by Rockefeller and then donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art along with the land. Because the Cloisters and the rest of Ft. Tyrone Park is a peaceful place, visitors speak in quiet whispers while walking the courts and surrounding paths along the Hudson River. It is the getaway for many Manhattanites who don’t want to go far to get some peace. I could see why Muff liked coming here to think. It sure was a change of pace from the neighborhoods that bordered this oasis of sanity and nature.

Muff found a parking place in an overflow parking area away from the main section of the buildings. I could see that he wasn’t interested in the art of the area, but the nature. I grabbed my coffee from the cup holder in the car and followed Muff’s long stride as best I could. Being tall, I was able to keep up with most men, but Muff had a good six inches on my height and stride. I couldn’t help but notice, as I tried to close the gap between us, the distinctive strut in his gait. His posterior was well proportioned and swayed with rhythm when he walked. I surmised from the pace he was setting, the determination as well as the rhythm in his tread, that he was using exercise as well as the peacefulness of the surroundings to help him clear his mind of the recent events.

From this conclusion, I decided not to waste my energy calling for him to slow down, but put all my efforts into trying to keep up. I was just getting use to the pace when he surprised me by stopping abruptly, so much so that I almost ran into him. I found we had stopped by a railing on a path that overlooked the Hudson River. Looking south, I could see the outline of the George Washington Bridge and across the river lay Englewood, New Jersey, another bedroom community of Manhattan. Directly below us was the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Amtrak train tracks that ran along side the river. Except for the drone of the traffic from those two major thoroughfares, the air was relatively silent. I guess I was looking around at all the scenery because Muff remained in his brown study and I didn’t know what, if anything, to say at that moment. In my mind I compared the serenity of the Park to the chaos of the overcrowded neighborhoods that made up most of the rest of Manhattan. Beauty and space were at a premium in Manhattan, and I was glad Muff had brought me here to get away from the rest of humanity for a while. I also used the interlude of silence to catch my breath. The scenery might be different from the rest of Manhattan, but the air was just as hot and humid as the rest of the city, even though there was a bit of a cool breeze coming off the river. I welcomed it to dry the sweat forming on my face and body as I stared across the river, waiting for Muff to speak.

He finally broke the silence that was becoming as thick as the humidity in the air. "Thanks for not saying anything. I know I'm not an easy person to get along with. I keep to myself most of the time. That trait has been hard on some of my past partners. I guess it partly comes from my past life. When you are planning a crime you learn not to share too much of yourself so you don’t blow your operation."

"Well you get like that being a cop too, I suppose. Especially when you work undercover."

Muff looked at me with a surprised frown, "How did you know I did undercover work before I was assigned to homicide?"

I was now the one to show surprise, "I didn’t, I was just speaking in generalities. I have always been in homicide since becoming a detective. What unit were you in before homicide?"

"Well it was a special unit working with white collar crimes mostly. I don’t think we really had a name for it. They thought, since I had experience on the other side of the fence in that area, I might be good at infiltration.... but it didn’t work out, so I asked to be transferred to homicide in my old neighborhood." He looked out over the river as he spoke, avoiding eye contact. I was beginning to realize that he didn’t feel comfortable about talking about himself. But he had piqued my curiosity about my new partner, and I guess I was just as anxious to put the present case behind me for a little while longer as he seemed to be. I thought, what better way to do that than by finding out more about the person with whom I would be spending most of my time.

"So you are originally from New York? I thought you might be from the Midwest, since...." I left the rest unsaid, not knowing how to again remind him of his incarceration.

"Nope, born and raised right here in Washington Heights. After graduating from Columbia, I went to work for the Chicago transit authority, the only job I could get. It was there that I learned I could make more money making illegal bugs for the bad guys, but they double crossed me and I wound up in stir for three years. I tried to get back at my old bosses at the transit authority for blowing the whistle on me, but it didn’t pan out. I was just glad I didn’t get caught. I decided to go straight and I went into the used car business. I wasn’t too happy there and I tried opening my own electronics shop. But after a while, that didn’t work either. That's when I decided to come home to New York. I really didn’t know what I was going to do till an old friend told me I should join the NYPD. He’s a lieutenant and was able to put in a good word for me at the Academy." He finally turned and faced me at this point in his narrative, his face lined with the pain of the telling. "Now you know the full Muff Kovack story. Satisfied?"

"Hey, I’m sorry if it sounded like I was prying. I am sure that isn’t the full story, but it’s more than enough." For now, was what I added in my thoughts. "I guess I get a little nosy, another occupational hazard of being a cop."

Muff, for the first time since I met him, smiled. His smile wasn’t a half hearted grin, but a full blown spread of the lips so his perfectly aligned white teeth showed through. I thought I even detected a bit of a laugh behind it. "Hell, Grieg, don’t worry about my foul mood. My bark is worse than my bite. I guess I don’t know how to lighten up very well."

I relaxed a little bit. "It’s ok, this job tends to make most of us too serious most of the time. Not much to be light about in police work."

"Truth, but I guess I don’t have to bite off my partners’ heads. I guess it’s one of the reasons I haven’t gotten on too well with my past partners....."

"Forget it." I took sips of my now cooling coffee and then said, "If it would help any, you have my permission to ask me anything you want about me. After all, we should get to know a little about each other if we are going to spend so much time working together."

"Well, I guess it is a cliché, but what is a nice looking gal like you doing in a crappy job like police work, especially in a place like this?"

Fair question, I thought as I smiled at the obvious question. I had been asked it many times before, my parents being the first. "I dunno, crazy in the head I guess...." We both chuckled. I continued, "But seriously, I have never been one to settle for quiet domesticity. I like action, and being former military, I couldn’t see myself settling for a boring desk job somewhere, or even worse, a housewife for some executive type." I shuddered at the path some of my high school friends had taken in that very direction. It wasn’t for me and I knew it.

"But, now you have to forgive me for being nosy, why police work? I mean, it is, by its nature, rather gruesome," Muff asked.

"Well, gruesome doesn’t seem to bother me too much, when it is all in the line of duty that is. I guess I had too healthy a dose of super hero tales growing up, you know, where the good guys fight for truth, justice, and the American way....." There were other reasons, too personal to mention at this point in our relationship. I decided this would have to do for an explanation for the time being. I had sensed that Muff had not really given me all the details of his past either, so I felt we were on even ground with the depth of our revelations. Muff seemed to get the hint and didn’t ask me anymore questions.

I drained the last of my coffee and said, "I think we need to get back to the business at hand, even though the peacefulness of this place teases me with its siren call to forget it. I can see why you like coming here."

"Well it isn’t really to escape the cases I am working on, I just find I can think about them with a clearer mind here where my senses aren’t being bombarded with the misery around me." Muff bent down and picked up a stone and tossed it over the railing. I was a bit alarmed, thinking how dangerous it was to do that with the traffic below us. But to my surprise, the tiny missile cleared not only the highway but the railroad tracks beyond. It landed with a faint splash only inches from the shore in the waters of the river. I was impressed with the power behind his pitching arm. "You missed your calling... you should have been a pitcher for the Yankees."

"Nah, that would have been too easy." He smiled again. "I just do that when I have to leave here. It is my way of assuring myself I will get to the bottom of the case I'm on. I used to come up here as a kid and pitch stones off of these cliffs when I had problems at home I was dealing with. I used to hit the railroad tracks a lot, but after a while, my distance improved and I was able to make one hit the river..... since then I have rarely missed it." Muff started to walk away from the railing and the river and head back in the direction of the car. As before, I had a hard time keeping up with that determined stride of his. He smiled back at me when he got to the car ahead of me. "You are out of shape, Grieg. Musta been that cushy job at the three four. You will have to work out to keep up with me." I glared at him as we both got in the car. I decided I wouldn’t dignify his remark with one of my own.

He deftly swung the Impala into the traffic on Washington Avenue and headed south in the direction of the precinct. "I want to get our laptops so we can work on this case. You still have that research you wanted to show me. I know of a cyber cafe close to Columbia University where we can go and get on line and talk about it in peace."

"Oh," was all I could think to answer him. We drove in silence again. I looked blankly out the window at the tenements of the Washington Heights area as we turned back onto Broadway. I suddenly had a thought. "Forgive me for being nosy again, but how did you get the name Muff?" Kovack didn’t exactly sound Hispanic either, and he certainly looked like he fit in this predominantly Hispanic section of New York City. But I thought it might be less intrusive to ask about his unusual nickname... at least I presumed it was a nickname.

"Well my real name is Esteban Fredrick Kovack y Ramirez. My dad was Hungarian and my mom Puerto Rican. He wanted to name me Stephen Fredrick, but my mom insisted that one of my given names be Hispanic, so they used the Spanish version of Stephen, Esteban. He was big into the medieval history of his home country, and Stephen and Fredrick were well known names of kings from that period. Stephen means crown and Fredrick means peaceful ruler. My dad was into all that chivalry stuff." Muff shook his head.

I now knew about his nationality, something I thought he would be more uncomfortable talking about, but he didn’t really answer my main question. I wondered if I should try and ask him again. I guess my unconscious curiosity won out, cause I heard myself form the words of my inquiry again, much to my surprise. "But why Muff?"

We had come to a stoplight and as the car idled, he turned to me, as if searching my face for something, I wasn’t sure what. Trying to put on my most innocent countenance, he then looked away and said, "It’s a name my late mother gave me."

"Oh," I said, with obvious regret in my voice. I couldn’t help it. He sounded so sad and so vulnerable when he made that simple statement. I felt like a heel.

The light turned green and we started on our way once again. With more strength in his voice, like he had gathered all his emotions and put them in check, he continued, even tho I was willing to drop it. "When I was little, I had such chubby cheeks, you know, the kind all the matronly aunts love to pinch. My mother always thought my given name was too much of a mouth full for a little guy, so she called me Moflete--- Spanish for chubby cheek. When I got older, it was shortened to Mof, but most of my friends, not knowing why my mom called me Mof because I had grown much leaner when I reached puberty, thought she was saying Muff, and just got to calling me that."

"Oh," I said. Then, wondering if I had overstepped a boundary I added, "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude."

"No, it’s ok, just don’t repeat it, will you? I haven’t told anyone that in years. I doubt many people know the reason behind my name and I would like to keep it that way. I dunno why I keep it, but I guess it is in memory of her....." His voice trailed off and then, after drawing in a breath, he added, "And before you ask, my parents were killed by a drunk driver years ago, while I was in Joliet...." His voice trailed off for a second time. But there was no more additions to his revelations. I suspected he harbored a lot of guilt for being locked up in his parents hour of need. I decided I found out more than I needed to know about my new partner for one day. No sense alienating him with more questions.


Back at the precinct we signed out for the day, something we hadn’t gotten around to even though by this time we had been off duty for a couple of hours. Grabbing the laptops and our personal gear, Muff asked me if I would like to grab a bite to eat before we headed to the cyber cafe. I was game, having nothing to go home for. I was not a person who enjoyed cooking for myself alone, although if I had someone to cook for, I was a pretty good cook.

Muff took me to an ethnic restaurant not to far from work. He told me that he ate there quite a bit. The owners had been friends of his mother and had gotten many recipes off of her. He told me it was like coming home to eat when he ate there. The menu consisted of mainly Puerto Rican dishes.

The waitress came over and Muff asked me if he could order something for me. I guessed he wanted me to try the foods made from his mother’s recipes, and since I wouldn’t have a clue as to which ones they would be, I allowed myself to be in for some surprises for once. He ordered a delicious sounding turkey and rice concoction and some side dishes. We both opted for iced tea to drink. I figured that after talking about the case, we might both need something stronger later. I was willing to wait, wanting to keep my head clear for the business at hand .

"I hope you will enjoy my mom’s food. I only wish she could have been here to cook it for you. She was a great cook," Muff said as he took a sip of his iced tea.

"I am sure I will love it. You must have been very close to your parents."

Muff smiled. "Mom mostly, dad was a bit of a kook, but lovable I guess. I never really understood him, or how he met and married my mom, but my mom assured me it was love and she still loved him. Mom was the best, but I guess I am a bit prejudiced in that area. I was her only child and she doted on me."

"I understand that, my mom still dotes on me. I have a brother, but he is much older than I am. When my mom and dad had me, it was a big surprise to them. My dad died a few years ago from cancer, but my mom still lives in the same Long Island home where I grew up. Tad, my brother, is married and a lawyer out in California. I don’t see him much. My mom, on the other hand, seems to think I need someone to watch over me, that is why she calls me almost every night. To her, I am still her little girl, even though I am 35."

"Gee, I wouldn’t have guessed you were that old," Muff said with a grin.

"Yup, six years in the Army after High School and then a few years doing odd jobs before I decided I wanted to be a cop. Thanks for thinking I looked younger. You are just a young thing yourself."

"ME!" Muff choked on his tea and then let out a sonorous laugh that turned most of the heads of the other patrons of the restaurant. "Honey, how old do you think I am?"

"Well after that outburst, I guess maybe older than I thought, I dunno, I am not good at guessing ages, but maybe 38...."

Muff grabbed my hands and put them to his lips. "Janice, you have just become my new best friend, I love you. I hate to burst your bubble, but I am 49."

"NO!!!!" I exclaimed pulling my hands from his lips rather abruptly, I am afraid, cause he sheepishly put his hands under the table. Now it was my turn to get the restaurant patrons’ attention. "You are pulling my leg."

"As appealing as that proposal sounds, I cannot tell a lie."

I must have blushed at his suggestive retort, but his sincerity moved me. He sure had aged well. His dark, thick hair didn’t have a gray strand in it. He kept it a bit on the longer side, which made me think he might not be lying about his age, the cut harkened back to an earlier time. Even his face didn’t show many lines of age, the only lines that seem to be there were the ones that appeared when he laughed. Maybe his thick eyebrows and mustache hid those telling signs of age.

Muff sensed my embarrassment and quickly changed the subject as the food arrived at our table. "This neighborhood wasn’t always this rundown, but it was never a real garden spot either. Bordering on Harlem, we had our share of ethnic gang wars back in the day. I am just glad they didn’t decide to knock down all the trees. I guess the Puerto Ricans in the neighborhood insisted on keeping some of the greenery to remind them of home. It is one of the few ethnic neighborhoods that have so much of it. Someone once said that Washington Heights was like a slum with trees. I guess that is a pretty good description of it."

"Well it is a nicer place than where I came from. The Bowery is nothing but concrete and steel. I guess since it borders on the Wall Street area, the power brokers of the city decided it needed buildings more than trees. Don’t get me wrong, the little ethnic areas of the Bowery are interesting, but I think I will like working where there are more trees and more oxygen getting to the brain so I can think better."

Muff smiled and took a bite of his food. I followed suit, allowing the aroma to invade my olfactory glands as I chewed. The smell and taste was wonderful, spiced mildly, to allow a person to taste the food. I told him that I approved of his choice with a, "MMMMMM". Muff looked pleased that I was enjoying his mother’s recipe.

As we ate, I was picking up vibes from Muff that, even though we were both interested in putting our heads together about this case, we were also interested in delaying that task long enough to get to know one another a little more. I dunno if it was the good food or the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant, who served their food family style, but it appeared that Muff was starting to warm up to my presence. He seemed to enjoy telling me stories of growing up in the area and I was more than willing to let him talk. After about an hour of reminiscing about our childhood, we paid for our meals on separate checks --- at my insistence, and we headed south on Broadway to Columbia University.

The ride down there became a study in silence once again, as if being forced to think about the brutality of our vics kept us from the lighthearted banter that took place at dinner. I could tell, that even though we were technically off duty, we were back on the job. Muff seemed to have a distinct demarcation line when it came to work and leisure time conversation. When he did speak, he was all serious and all business.

"I think the first thing we should do when we get there is to get online. I would like you to show me what you found in your research. Then we need to compare notes as to the particulars of the evidence in each of the cases from the three four and the two up here."

"That sounds like a logical start." I pulled out a disk from my purse and showed it to Muff. "This has all the data I scanned from the files on the six similar cases down in the Bowery. I also am waiting for the report from the two detectives reassigned to the case when I left concerning the interview of the suspect we collared, the one that shot my partner." My voice trailed off unexpectedly when I mentioned O’ Riley. I guess his death got to me more than I realized. I just hadn’t let myself feel anything about it till now.

"Hey, I understand," Muff responded. "I had a partner killed in a shoot out on a drug bust once. There wasn’t anything I could do at the time, but it still gets to you."

Ignoring the similarities of our careers, I seem to cue in on the words ‘drug bust’. "Were you in narcotics too?"

"Not really, it was when I was still a uniform.... you know, we always got the shit jobs. It was after my partner died that I took my detectives test. I wanted out of the line of fire. I foolishly thought that the uniform was the target, but I have found out that no matter what you do in the NYPD, you are always a target."

"Jim found that out the hard way, I’m afraid." I went silent once again, wondering what to say next. I was spared the effort when we arrived at our destination. Muff swung the car into the student lot on the edge of the campus. Being a cop sometimes has its perks, parking where you wanted to without a permit being one of them. After putting the car in park, Muff took out a rearview mirror tag identifying the car as having legal permission to park in the spot.

We walked across Broadway to a little cafe. It was a bit crowded, but Muff flashed his badge and a student acting as a host showed us to a booth with a privacy screen. I was impressed. Muff could see the surprise on my face and commented, "I come in here a lot, so they have this space reserved for me. I find being down here at Columbia far superior to trying to research in the squad room. Too many interruptions."

"Very true, especially in a precinct where not many use the Internet for research. I was kind of an oddball at the three four, in more ways than my gender," I said. "A lot of the cops there were older and didn’t know much about Internet research. Not that you and I are really that young, but...," I stopped, more out of embarassment than anything else.

Ignoring the remark about our ages he replied, "Well that happens a lot in the older neighborhoods. I guess the precincts where the computer savvy end up deal with more white collar crime and such. Not many of the younger cops want to deal with gangs, drugs and homicides."

"I guess. I never really thought about it, but I could see that." We plugged in our laptops and logged on. I went to the first site I had book marked, one with the dubious title of ‘People for a Free America’.

I pushed my laptop toward Muff and let him read what was on the site for a while. It had been a long day and I decided to take advantage of the time by closing my eyes and sitting back to catch a small nap. The booth had very comfortable computer chairs with high backs, to my surprise. Catching five or ten minutes of sleep was something I had trained myself to do when I was in the Army on nightly guard duty. I could sleep and still be alert to anything that might need my attention. I always thought it was one of the side benefits I got from the Army. It sure had helped on long stakeouts, especially if I could persuade my partner to take turns doing it with me.

Muff must be a fast reader, only fifteen or twenty minutes had passed when he gently brought me out of my light sleep. "Catchin a few Zzz’s isn’t a bad idea, from what I see here, we might be at this a while. This group is unbelievable."

"Oh I know. I knew the KKK and the Neo- Nazi groups were against everyone who wasn’t white or Aryan, but some of the ‘solutions’ this group proposes are down right medieval."

Muff read from the screen--- "We of the People for a Free America are calling on all true citizens of this country to take up the cause and rid our land of those who are unfit to share the same space as those chosen of God. They should not be allowed to contribute to our superior gene pool any longer, polluting it with their inferior genetic material.----- Geez, Janice, this group sounds more paranoid than most."

"Yes, and even though they don’t come right out and call for ethnic cleansing, the link to an email address for those who want to join in whatever fight they are eluding to here makes me think that they might encourage it, and, just maybe, some crackpot might be taking this to the next step and committing these crimes." I had told this to Jim and my captain. Jim thought I was nuts, but the captain was convinced enough for us to check it out. With this past history, I did wonder what Muff might think of my theory.

He did seem a bit skeptical. "What evidence from the crimes makes you think that?"

"Well, I guess the only thing that really made me wonder was the fact that all the vics were young males of non Aryan backgrounds ---- that and the fact ---- ahem ----" For some reason, I had a hard time speaking the next part. I usually wasn’t afraid of any line of conversation, but being a woman, I supposed it might be embarrassing for a man to hear a woman talk about their most private parts in this manner.

"You mean the castrations," Muff volunteered, helping me out of my dilemma. "Don’t be prissy on my account."

"Sorry, and I wasn’t being prissy, just trying to be sensitive. I guess that little fact doesn’t bother you though."

"That the vics were castrated?" Muff asked in a whisper, trying not to draw attention to our booth. I nodded my head. "Well it doesn’t make me feel comfortable, if that is what you mean, but I never thought that...." he didn’t finish the sentence and I gave him a puzzled look. He saw my face and said, "Forget it. You think that fact might play into this?"

"Well it might go into the psychology of the motive behind the attacks..... ethnic cleansing and all. Some nut seeing the phrase "inferior genetic material" might think they needed to get rid of the source of that, as if death wasn’t enough." I shuddered, as I finally voiced my inner thoughts about that for the first time. "I have seen some sick stuff in my two years on the force, but this is the sickest."

Muff just pondered what I had told him. "You might have something there." We got quiet again, I was taking the time to think happily on the fact that someone else was taking my theories seriously, and I supposed Muff was trying to logically put more of the pieces of the cases together in light of this new theory.

"You told me that you had a suspect in mind after this research, the man who ... ah ... shot your partner..." Muff still felt I might be sensitive to that topic, so I jumped in confidently, ignoring the discomfort in his question. "Yes." I took the laptop back and started clicking through some links. "This site keeps a list of its members, although you really have to know how to look to find them. One of them was located in the general area of our precinct, so I thought that might be a good place to start. I really didn’t know if he would be our perp, but you have to explore all possibilities." I turned the laptop back around so Muff could read the screen I had displayed. It was a list of names and general locations of hundreds of members. I had scrolled down to the one that we been staking out, remembering back to the hours I spent scrolling down the list of names to find it. I was still floored as to how many people bought into the crap this group was dishing out. Just goes to prove what a few nuts with the power of the Internet can accomplish.

Muff must have scrolled up and down the list, cause he whistled and said, "Wow, look at all these names....."

"Yes, disturbing, isn’t it?"

"That is an understatement..... at least you are safe from them. It makes me want to go back to Puerto Rico and hide. These people are nuts!"

I understood the reason for his comment, being his ethnic background was a perfect target for this kind of hate. "I am still a little confused by the fact that this perp is only targeting young males tho.... you would think that any non Aryan would be a target."

"Well I might have a theory as to that.... it goes to the male psyche.... I mean, males usually don’t feel threatened by females, but there is something about the virility of young males that set some guys off. Think of those who prey on young males as sexual targets.... I think it is the same sort of idea, but with a different motive."

I pondered that. "I guess I see your point. I just had another thought too. I know that in many cultures, the future of the race is seen as resting with the male line... at least that is the case in many western cultures."

Muff added, "Yes, it is a biblical idea as well, and these people sure are Christian in their ideology."

I cringed. "Well maybe, but this group sure isn’t orthodox in their brand of Christianity. All Christian teaching I have ever heard tells you to love your fellow human beings, even your enemies."

"Truth, but nuts usually aren’t interested in orthodoxy. At least this seems to fit facts in these cases. This is a great piece of detective work, Janice."

"Thanks," I said, blushing but feeling really good about having a partner who recognized the hard work I had put in. "The guy we were staking out seems to have spotted us when O’ Riley made his move. Jim didn’t say much to me as he dashed out of the car to check on him, but I did see the suspect look through some curtains and then directly at our car before he pulled his head in rather abruptly. I guess Jim’s gut told him the guy was on to us and was going to make a break for it. Makes you think he might have been guilty of something." I shuddered as I thought back to that night once again. Then thinking about the fact that the guy was in custody I added, "At least we got him. I will phone Larry or Mike in the morning and see what the bastard had to say."

"Larry and Mike?" Muff asked.

"Sorry, I meant, Dets. Jensen and Poole. They worked with Jim and me on the cases and now they have exclusive rights to them. Cause Mike did tell me when I was scanning the files to take with me to get in contact with them if I had any ideas that would help. I think the captain told him there was at least one case up here that had some of the same pattern to it as ours."

"Well it will be interesting to hear what this guy," Muff paused and looked at the computer screen, "Albert Beckman, has to say for himself."

"Yup." I rubbed my eyes. It had been a long day and I was starting to tire. "Let’s get to the evidence so we can compare notes on the crime scenes."

"It can wait." Muff must have sensed my need for rest. Looking at his watch he added, "It is getting late. We both need to stay fresh and focused on this. Let me get you home and we will start again in the morning."

Seeing that it was almost midnight, I said, "Well I normally take a bus home, but since it might be prudent not to at this hour, I will accept a ride home, but just this once. I don’t need you to be my chauffeur."

Muff looked hurt. "I didn’t mean..... oh, never mind." He got up and unplugged his laptop. "Look, I don’t mind giving you a ride. I know you don’t want to feel you are imposing, but you aren’t. I like to drive and a jaunt down to Greenwich Village isn’t an imposition."

I looked at him with obvious shock registered on my face. He said, "Yes, well I knew you were going to be my partner before you arrived this afternoon and me being the nosy person I am, looked up some basics on you, like you address. It is in your personnel file, you know."

"Oh, yeah, I guess....." I was really at a loss for words. No one from the three four had paid that much attention to my personal life, least of all Jim. Muff’s interest took me by surprise. Thinking back on it later that night as I was falling asleep, other little things took me by surprise as well. The most glaring of these was the fact that we fell into calling each other by our first names, something I didn’t do at the three four. Cause when I thought about that, I was the one who started it, preferring Muff to Kovack. So I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when he called me Janice instead of Grieg. At least he used the more formal version of my name.

Muff dropped me off at my brownstone, and I said a simple good bye and see you tomorrow as I opened the door and climbed out of the car. I intentionally hurried up the steps quickly, hoping to give Muff the impression I wasn’t too keen on have him ask if I needed an escort to my apartment door. I guess it didn’t bother him, cause he never mentioned it the next day.

Chapter 2

I was on my second cup of coffee, looking over the bus schedules for a possible route up to the one two seven when I heard someone honking their horn outside my building. I didn’t think too much of it, it was the city after all, horns blow and sirens sound at all hours of the day and night. I am almost deaf to them anymore, you almost have to be in order to get any sleep. So I didn’t get up right away.

The horn blew again, with more urgency and length. I think the cop in me kicked in, cause I got up to see who was making a public nuisance of themselves at 6 o ‘clock in the morning so I could go down and arrest them. When I parted the curtains of my living room window, I was surprised and a little dismayed to see Muff’s Chevy Impala parked in front of my building. His windows were open, so I yelled down to him, "Quit blowing that damn horn, you want the neighbors to call the cops on you?"

He leaned over to the passenger window and looked up at my fourth floor window. "Buenos días, mi socia. I hope you slept well," Muff answered, in a much sweeter voice than I had used with him.

"Yes, but why are you here?"

"Hey, I was in the neighborhood and ---" Before I could let him finish the trite cliché, I said, "Never mind, I’ll be right down." I could see the neighbors starting to look out their windows at the exchange, and, being a nosy lot, I didn’t want my business gossiped about all over the place.

I quickly gathered my things and headed down the four flights of stairs to the street. There was a working elevator in the building, but I remembered the little jaunt in the park yesterday and decided that taking the stairs would be a good way to stay in shape so I could keep up with Muff. I wasn’t exactly out of shape, but I guess my pride was wounded by his off handed joke at my expense yesterday.

When I got to the car, I opened the door and slid into the passenger seat. "I told you I didn’t need a chauffeur. I am perfectly capable of catching the bus to the precinct every day." I saw him starting to respond, and I cut him off. "And don’t try that lame line about being in the neighborhood, I know you must live up in the Washington Heights area, which is well out of the way."

"How do you know WHERE I live?" he answered smugly, knowing I had not had any time to check up on him like he obviously did with me. I had thought about it last night when I came home, but being way too tired for any more investigations that day, I headed straight for bed. Again his uncanny way of knowing what I did or what I was thinking was working that morning. I knew he knew this to be a fact.

"I-- I guess I don’t know where you live, but assuming you grew up in that neighborhood and work there now---" I was digging myself a deep hole.

"Doncha know that assuming things is the first thing they teach you NOT to do in police work." He put the car in gear and said, "Last night I thought I got a partner with brains for once, but now---" His tone was deadpan serious, but a little upturn of the corners of his mouth betrayed the fact that he was kidding with me. I didn’t know whether or not to hit him on the arm for that, but seeing that he was now in traffic, I decided to let that remark go, as I did the one in the park. I would have to think of a good way to get back at his wisecracks, but I knew that wouldn’t be easy. One thing was certain in my mind, I would have to take the time at my earliest convenience to check my partner’s records, as he had done with mine. He was, for damn sure, not going to tell me anything he didn’t think I should know. Well, two can play at that game, mister, I thought to myself as we wove our way through the rush hour traffic of mid-town.

"You were awful early coming to get me this morning," I said after many minutes of silence. I was beginning to get used to these long stretches of listening to the sounds of the traffic and not our voices. I didn’t know if it was because Muff didn’t know what to say, unless it was about the job or making wise cracks, or maybe he preferred silence to mindless chatter. I have always taken my cues from my partners in that regard, it doesn’t matter to me whether we talk or not. I used the time to think about my next comments carefully.

"Well I wanted to make sure I was there before you left to catch a bus. Traffic this hour of the morning is murder." As if to punctuate this remark, we hit a particularly nasty snarl of vehicles and Muff stuck his head out the window and spat out a string of Spanish that sounded like epitaphs to me. He followed it up with an upturned fist. I couldn’t see if his middle finger was in or out, but I guessed he was trying very hard to keep his wits about him, so I guessed it was just his fist.

"I see," was all I could answer when he put his head back in and found a small opening and sped through it. "Remind me not to meet up with you in a dark alley..." commenting on the road rage I had just witnessed.

"Oh, Jan, don’t think that what I did was an indication of my normal sweet personality. If you drive in New York, you have to act like a New York driver sometimes."

"Guess so," I answered. I was becoming the master of the understatement around him. Muff always seemed to have a comeback. And it wasn’t lost on me that he shortened my given name to a nickname. I decided our time might be better spent talking about what was on the agenda when we got to work instead of personal banter, which was getting me in trouble.

"I want to call Mike Poole at the three four when we get in and see if he and Jensen got an interview with our Mr. Beckman yet."

Muff looked over at me briefly and then turned his attention back at the traffic. "You haven’t interviewed him yet? What about this guy’s rights?"

"Hell, I could care less about his rights, but I don’t mean the initial interview." I wondered if Muff was thinking I was brainless again and it aggravated me. "We interrogated him as soon as Poole and Jensen hauled his sorry ass into the station. The only thing the perp said was he was defending himself against two trigger happy cops, that his injury, which turned out to be a flesh wound, was evidence of his claim and that he wanted his lawyer. That was the end of the interview till the guy’s mouth piece came in, and then we got nothing. I do know, from the DA, that this guy is pleading not guilty, that the shooting was purely self defense."

"Shit!" Muff exclaimed as he pulled into a space reserved on the street for his car. He put it into park. "Well, what are you hoping to get out of the second interview?"

"I wanted to ask him about his involvement with this group, but I didn’t get the chance. I left a list of questions for Poole to ask him, if they got the chance. Seems now that the guy has been arraigned on the 1st degree murder charges, we have to go through the DA in order to get an interview. I was glad we were at least able to get a warrant to search his place from a judge. Being that it is a clear cut case that he shot and killed a cop, the judge was all too happy to issue the warrant."

We got out of the car and climbed up the front stairs and through the front doors. The humidity was already starting to make it hard to breathe normally. I changed the subject briefly to ask, "What’s up with the elevator and the air conditioning in this place?"

We entered through the lobby, signed in, picked up a large envelope from the evidence clerk, and headed for the stair well. "You know the city," Muff answered, "no money for the creature comforts--- but I did hear that the elevator might be fixed by the end of the week."

"That’ll be something at least," I remarked, as we climbed the stairs to the third floor. I stopped at the machine to get a cold bottle of water to replace the fluids I had sweat out coming up to the squad room. I offered Muff a bottle and he accepted. Sitting down at our desks, we got our laptops from the briefcases we carried and plugged in for the day.

"What did you find in the perp’s apartment?" Muff asked as he started to type the report from yesterday’s incident. Neither one of us had gotten to do that in all the running around we did afterwards. I pulled out the envelope we had picked up down stairs when we came in. In it was the evidence that had been collected from yesterday’s crime scene along with the photographs of the area and the body.

"Not too much, the guy was a slob. There was a box of ammo that fit the perp’s gun, the one he used to shoot O’Riley. We looked for a knife, since that was the perp’s weapon of choice in the murders --- but nothing. He had several hunting catalogues in apartment. There were pages of blades that had similar characteristics to our murder weapon, but this wasn’t enough to tie him to the murders. Poole and Jensen were suppose to canvas the weapon shops to see if he bought throw-aways. The knives in the catalogues were all rather expensive to be used as throw-aways. And looking at the condition of the rest of the apartment, this guy wasn’t one of the Rockefellers. Wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t look at those catalogues to get his rocks off. These guys are sicko’s, if you ask me."

Muff just chuckled under his breath. "You crack me up, Greig. But it wouldn’t surprise me what any of these perps do in their spare time." He went on typing the report. "Well, let’s leave your old case for a minute so we can get this one typed up. What evidence is in the envelope?"

I got the impression from the way Muff called me by my last name that he was all business now. It was that dividing wall up again. I took this cue and put on my best professional act. Reaching into the envelope, I took out each piece one at a time and read the label as I scrutinized it. The first was the wallet I had found in the vic’s torn jacket. "One wallet, student ID gives the name ‘Jesse Morgan’. The ID was issued from PS183. I guess that is the high school he attended. We should get it touch with the administration over there and interview them for possible leads."

Muff typed this info into the computer and said, "You think anyone is around since it is summer break?"

"Oh yes, my dad was a teacher and I know the administration has to report to work year round. Besides, most schools are running summer school programs right now. I am sure someone will be able to talk to us." I thought for a minute and added, "I know we both think we know what is really behind this, but it never hurts to eliminate other motives."

"Truth," Muff answered. "What else is in the wallet?"

"Not too much, a bus pass, $12 in ones and a five, a picture of a girl, maybe a girlfriend... She might be another person we should interview."

Muff put this all into the report and said, "Did anyone get a hold of his parents. In all the confusion yesterday, I wasn’t sure if someone was assigned that task."

"I dunno, pretty sloppy work on our parts, I guess."

"Not necessarily.... up here we sometimes assign one of the uniforms the job of getting a hold of the family. Even though this guy had an ID doesn’t really mean it was his.... Maybe he stole the wallet. Does the ID have a picture?"


Muff thought a minute. "Let me go ask the captain if they have positively ID’ed the body yet. After all, it hasn’t been 24 hours."

"OK," I answered as Muff got up and rapped on Captain Jackson’s door. I started to look through the other evidence while Muff was in talking to the captain. There wasn’t a whole lot in the envelope. The forensics team sent blood samples found at the scene to the lab and the body was waiting to be autopsied. The kid might have worn glasses, cause a pair was found close to the body. They could have fallen off in the struggle. Those were in the envelope as well. There was a report in the envelope saying all the items had be dusted for fingerprints and that the lab was in the process of putting them through the AFIS system. The vic’s clothing was at the forensics lab as well, so there wasn’t much physical evidence in the envelope. The only other thing they found was the photo’s and the transcripts of the interviews the uniforms did of any potential witnesses on the scene. I was starting to read these when Muff came back.

"Cap says that when the body came in, he wanted to wait till it was positively ID’ed before we went to find the parents. He didn’t want to cause any unnecessary grief. He wants us to go down to the morgue and see if they got a positive ID by now."

"OK," I answered.

Muff unplugged his computer after saving what he had been working on. "You never know if you might need to reference things, I never go anywhere without this."

I was impressed. "You have something there. I guess I should take mine too."

"Wouldn’t hurt."

I returned all the evidence to the envelope and secured it in my locked desk. We were responsible for these vital clues and I wasn’t going to have it come up missing. Then I grabbed my computer and put it in my briefcase. I had my cell phone plus some other things I use when on cases in the bag as well. I had found one of those leather looking shoulder satchels that are advertised as laptop cases. It was very portable and even a bit fashionable looking. Muff looked at this and then down at his rather conventional hard-shell case and said, "I think I have to get me one of those."

"I like it," I answered as we walked down the three flights of stairs. We exited the building and headed for the Impala. I asked him how far it was to their crime lab and he answered that it was located close to the Columbia University Presbyterian Medical Center. "We can’t afford the fancy equipment they can at their School of Forensic Sciences. But that isn’t where we are going now. The body is at the morgue at the Harlem Hospital Center cause it was the closest to the crime scene."

"I see." I also saw that I needed to spend more time researching the locations in my new neighborhood. I am glad Muff knew where we were going, cause I sure was lost.

"By the way, did that ID have an address on it?" Muff asked.

I looked on my computer. I had taken the time to scan the ID into my hard drive while Muff was talking to the captain. "Yeah, East 143rd street. 211, Apt 4A."

"Well if this turns out to be Mr. Morgan, we will have to go and talk to the parents. I dunno if we will have to bring them down here or not, but I guess it would be a good idea."

I shuddered. This was the crappiest part of the job.


We stopped in the part of the lot reserved for the police and went through a back entrance and down the elevator to the basement. I always wondered why most hospitals kept their morgues in the basement, but I guess it was a logical choice. Dead bodies don’t need windows and sunlight. I wondered what kind of a person would want to work in such dungeons, but I guess there were as many people who wondered why anyone would go in for police work, so I shrugged and thanked God that someone wanted to do this necessary but ghoulish work.

Muff spoke to the coroner in charge of the case. Besides ascertaining the cause of death, it is the coroner’s job to make a positive ID based on what the body could tell them. Since the fingers were still intact, the coroner lifted prints from the body and sent those to AFIS, but there wasn’t a hit. That didn’t really surprise me, since most people don’t bother to have fingerprints taken. It just meant the kid didn’t have a criminal record or work for someone who might need to take fingerprints for a background check. I know there had been a push to get school kids to be fingerprinted for missing person ID’s, but that program had it’s detractors, and not many school systems had bothered to have the police in to do the work. This made the ID harder in these cases.

"You been able to ID him any other way?" I heard Muff ask the coroner, a Dr. Basu Kumar. Dr. Kumar said, "We checked hospital records, we figured if the boy lived in this area a while, he might be on file. Most residents have been to this hospital at one time or another. We found records for a Jesse Morgan around our vic’s age, so we did a blood match, since the records had his blood type in it. Turns out they have the same type. Good chance this is your boy."

I turned away so the guys couldn’t see a tear form in my eye. I might not be squeamish, but the death of kids always got to me. I know the doctor was only doing his job, but it sometimes struck me as cold, the way they had to go about identifying a DOA, like it was a thing and not a person. When I got myself under control and turned back to Muff, I got that feeling he knew what I thinking. This uncanny sixth sense of his was starting to get on my nerves, but I didn’t want him to think it was getting to me. Hell, maybe he couldn’t help it.

"Looks like we will have to get the parents down here for an ID then," Muff said, almost in a whisper. It didn’t take any sixth sense on my part to tell that Muff hated this part of the work as much as I did. "When can you have the boy ready for them?"

Dr. Kumar looked more human when he said, "Give me about an hour and I will have him looking presentable... I guess just the face will be necessary, since it is unmarked.." It seemed to me that even Dr. Kumar had some trouble with these cases. Made me feel better about my momentary emotional break.

"Yeah, Doc, that will be fine. We need to find the parents first. It might take that long to find them and break the news to them. We will be back in about an hour."

Muff and I got back into the Impala and drove out of the parking lot. As Muff maneuvered the car into traffic, I asked, "You want me to break it to them?"

"It would be the easiest thing for me to say ‘yes’ to you right now, but maybe I should do it." He looked at me hard and added, "and not because I think you will get all sappy on me being female.... I got more respect for you than that. I just think you being white might have a negative affect on these people." I was about to make a comment about that being a real racist remark trying to ignore the sexist one that came before it, but he stopped me before I got anything out of my mouth. "Look, Grieg, like it or not, we are all a bit racist under the color of our skin. I just want this to go as smoothly as anything like this can. So you will have to trust me on this one. Nothing personal, you understand."

I guess I could see his point. I had felt a bit like a fish out of water yesterday when we went to look at the crime scene. I swallowed my indignation and said, "Sure, you have the experience up here. Whatever you think is best." I guess when I thought about it some more, I was actually relieved I didn’t have to be the one to find the right words.

The apartment building was typical of the area. Located in a low to middle class neighborhood, there were kids running around the streets trying to cool off by an open fire hydrant. The building was run down, but not so much so that the tenants didn’t try to make it decent looking. There was no elevator in the building, so it was another walk up on a very hot day. I couldn’t wait to go home that night and stand under my shower for an hour to take the grime and the sweat off my body.

When Muff knocked at the door, a pleasant looking black woman answered the door. She looked to be in her thirties. "Yeah, whach want?" she asked as Muff identified them and showed her his badge. He asked if they could come in and ask her a few questions. She looked reluctant, but when Muff smiled at her, she seemed to warm up to him and let the two of us in.

The inside of the apartment was not fancy, but I could tell that Mrs. Morgan kept it clean and presentable. Music from a stereo in the back of the apartment blared out and Mrs. Morgan hollered to someone named Taniesha to turn it down. Then she invited us to sit on her sofa. We took our seats and Muff asked her, "Mrs. Morgan, do you have a boy named Jesse?"

"Yeah, what has he done now?" She looked hard at Muff, but there was a bit of fear in her voice.

"Nothing that we know of. Was your boy in the habit of getting into trouble."

Mrs. Morgan got defensive, "No, my Jesse’s a good boy. Good in school, good grades, helps me out around here when his daddy’s on the road." She looked at Muff with questioning eyes. "My husband is a truck driver, he’s on the road a lot. In fact he is out there right now, but should be home tonight for a few days. When he isn’t around, Jesse looks after his sister and me." She paused again and said in a very frightened voice, "What’s this all about? Where’s my Jesse?"

"He hasn’t been home, ma’am?" Muff asked her.

"He never came home from his job yesterday. He works at the grocery store over on 150th street, Taggart’s market."

"Is this unusual for him, staying out all night after work?"

Mrs. Morgan thought a minute before she answered Muff’s question. "Well normally when his daddy’s away he comes right home after work, cause he don’t like me and his sister to be alone--- but lately he’s gotten hisself mixed up with those street punks that hang out at the Scorpion’s club. He told me it was for protection, that the brothers would be watchin his back--- even gave him a jacket a few nights ago. I swore to him that if’en he got himself into trouble with that gang, I wouldn’t be around to bail him out, that he didn’t have no use messin’ with that crowd, he was a good boy---" Tears started to form on her face. "He’s not in any trouble with those low-lifes, is he officer?"

"Not that we are aware of, Mrs. Morgan," Muff answered. I knew he was preparing her for the inevitable, but these questions were driving me a bit nuts, knowing what was coming. "Had Jesse gotten into the habit of staying out at night lately?"

"Yeah, a couple of times, and when he would come home he would be real evasive, telling me not to worry." She got a tissue from a box on the coffee table in front of the sofa and wiped her eyes. "Wha’cha here for then, if my Jesse isn’t in trouble?" Her voice cracked as if it were finally dawning on her what Muff was eluding to. I guess Muff realized this and knew instinctively it was time to break the bad news to her.

"Mrs. Morgan, we have a boy down at the morgue that fits the description of Jesse." Muff stopped at that moment because Mrs. Morgan began to cry loudly and yell out, "Noooo, it can’t be--- not my Jesse--- NOOOO." At this outburst, a girl about 10 years old came out of the back bedroom and said, "What’s the matter, mama?" Looking hard at us she added, "Was’sa cops doin’ here?" She put her arms around her mother’s weeping form and then asked us, "Wha’cha upsettin’ my mama about?"

Mrs. Morgan answered her daughter’s question before Muff or I could think what to tell the girl. We normally don’t talk to the younger siblings unless the parents give us the OK. Sometimes parents like to break news of this nature their own way to the younger kids, and we don’t like to interfere with that. "Taniesha, honey, did Jesse come home last night?"

"Not that I know of, Mama. He told me he was comin’ home after work, tho, cause he was gonna bring me some candy from the store. I figured he was working late again."

Muff needed to step in but did so cautiously now that we had young ears listening in. "Mrs. Morgan, your son’s ID was with our--- person, so we need you to come with us to-- em--"

"It’s ok, -- Officer?" she said hesitantly.

"Kovack, ma’am."

"I understand, Officer Kovack. Let me get my things and get my sister to watch Taniesha."

The daughter started to protest, but her mother said, "Look, baby, Mama needs to go with these policeman--- it’s real important. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back. Go up to Aunt Patty’s for a bit and tell her your mama needed to go out. I’ll be over there as soon as I find out what is goin’ on, OK?"

"Ok, Mama, but what will I tell Aunt Patty?"

"Just tell her your Mama needed to go out about Jesse, OK?"

"OK," the girl said reluctantly, and left the apartment.

"My sister lives upstairs. Taniesha will be OK with her."

Muff thought of something else. "Mrs. Morgan, did Jesse’s work call you today looking for him?"

"No, but he wasn’t scheduled to work today. I thought he might just be hanging around with that gang of his. You remember what it was like to be 16, don’cha Officer Kovack?"

"Yes, Mrs. Morgan, I do." I was guessing she was trying to defend her position as a parent, not knowing where Jesse was and why she didn’t question his being missing for this many hours. I know my own mother would have had the FBI looking for me two hours after I didn’t show up from somewhere, but I guess things were different these days.

I let Mrs. Morgan ride up front so she wouldn’t feel like a suspect. For most people there is a stigma attached to sitting in the back seat of a police car, even if it is an unmarked one. Muff questioned her more about the gang Jesse had gotten himself involved in, and Mrs. Morgan gave a few sketchy answers through her tears. I knew Muff was trying to get her mind off of what was to come, but I also knew that was impossible.

At the hospital, we entered through the same back door, but instead of going downstairs, we entered a small waiting room with a window. The hospital had set up this room strictly for families to identify dead loved ones. It was more personable than the lab downstairs. I was grateful for this small concession for grieving loved ones. Muff went to the interior window and, through a speaker on the wall, asked if they were ready with the body. "Any time you are, Detective," came the answer over the speaker, in Dr. Kumar’s Indian accent.

Muff then turned to Mrs. Morgan and gently asked her if she was ready. She nodded ever so slightly and I offered her my arm to lean on. I had not spoken to her the whole time, so I wasn’t sure if she would take me up on the offer, but when I smiled at her, she seemed to be grateful for another woman in the room and took it willingly. Muff slowly opened the curtain on the window, and through the glass I could see the dead boy laid out with a sheet over most of his body. Only his head was visible, the sheet covering all the signs of violence that had been done to the boy. The coroner had even combed his hair and made his face seem more natural. I had a new respect for his job.

Mrs. Morgan gripped my arm tightly as she broke down for the second time that day. She yelled out "Oh, Jesse, Nooooo" and leaned back against me. There was a sofa on the far side of the room and I helped her over to it before she collapsed on the floor. Muff closed the curtains and joined us on the sofa.

"I am truly sorry for your loss, Mrs. Morgan. I just need to be 100% sure for my report. This is your son?"

Mrs. Morgan just nodded through her sobbing. I offered her some Kleenex when she let go of my arm. She took it and continued crying. "Mrs. Morgan, do you have anyone you can be with right now?"

She finally found her voice. "Just take me back to my sister’s--- Oh my God, what am I going to tell my husband? Jesse was his life!" She broke down again. Muff wanted to ask the doctor something and left me with the grieving mother. When he left the room, she looked at me and asked, "How did this happen?" I knew enough not to go into the details, so all I said was, "It looks like he was murdered. We are investigating it now. I want to assure you, we will do everything in our power to find out who did this to your boy, Mrs. Morgan."

"Murdered? Who would want to kill Jesse? He was such a loving boy."

"I don’t know. Did Jesse ever mention anyone who might have been hostile toward him lately?" I normally waited to ask the family questions of this nature, but she seemed open to answering them, so I ventured to ask.

"Not that I was aware of, cause that gang of his had plenty of people who didn’t like them. I told Jesse not to get mixed up with them." She started to get upset again and I decided it was best to hold off any more questions till the husband came home. Then, when the shock had worn off, the family would be in better shape to answer more questions.

Muff came back into the room and went over to Mrs. Morgan. Taking her by the hand he said gently, "Mrs. Morgan, because this is a homicide, we will have to let the doctor examine your son. This should take a couple of days, but after that is done with, we will release him to you for burial. You said your husband was coming home tonight?"

"Yes," she answered him. I handed her another Kleenex. She wiped her eyes again.

"Here is my card," Muff handed her one of his business cards. "Have your husband call me." He pointed to the numbers on the card. "This one is my desk phone at the precinct, and this is my cell number if I am not at my desk. I will give him all the information he needs to tell the funeral director about getting Jesse to you."

"OK," she answered meekly. Muff knew she was no longer able to take any more information in, being she was still in a state of shock. "Let’s get you to your sister’s now. And again, I am sooo sorry for your loss."

"Thanks, you have been very kind to me." We left the hospital and headed back to Mrs. Morgan’s apartment building. She insisted on sitting in the back seat on the ride back. I knew it was because she needed to be alone in her grief for a bit.


We left Mrs. Morgan in the care of her sister and to tell the rest of the family what had happened. Muff told me in the car on the way down to the crime lab that the coroner would call them with his findings as soon as the autopsy was over.

"Damn, that was hard," he exclaimed as we stopped at a red light.

"Yup," I answered. "Hardest part of the job. Especially when kids are the vics."

"Yup," he said. "I just never understand why---" and his voice trailed off into silence.

"I don’t think sane people will ever fully understand the motivation behind this kind of sickness."

Muff looked at me hard, "You aren’t one of those people who believe that these sick bastards aren’t responsible for their behavior, are you? Cause if you are---"

I headed off that one before it went any further. "NO! Don’t misunderstand me. I just meant that people try to understand the psyche of killers, and most people who refrain from killing their fellow man can't fully comprehend those who have no problem killing.

"You sound like a psyche major."

Now I was embarrassed. I didn't tell too many people what I did before I joined the force. "Well, if you must know, I have a master’s in criminal psychology from Hofstra University. I thought it might come in handy when I decided to join the police academy, something I had considered while I was in the service. I wanted to get my degree, taking advantage of the GI bill."

Muff didn't say anything at this point. It was one of the reasons I didn't talk about my degree much. I always thought it might intimidate people. I was afraid it did with Muff. But after a few moments he said, "Sounds reasonable to me. I guess that is what helped you profile someone for these murders."

"Yes. I wasn’t convinced it was drug or gang related, cause of the nature of the mutilations. I guess we can’t rule out a general crazy person, but I just don’t know. This still has the markings of some sort of revenge, and racial revenge would fit. There is only one thing that is bothering me."

Muff parked the car at the station but made no move to get out. "What’s that?"

"Well, this can’t be the work of one person. I mean, if the guy who shot O’Riley was the perp in my murders, and even in your first one, he couldn’t have done the Morgan kid. He was in jail when that happened."

Muff said, "Yes, which makes your case for this racist group stronger. Unless your perp isn’t the one who is doing these."

"Which leads us back to finding out what Jensen and Poole might have learned. I really should call them." I got out my cell phone and dialed the number of the three four. I asked for Poole’s extension.

"Thirty-fourth precinct, Det. Poole speaking."

"Poole, this is Greig."

"Hey, we wondered when we would hear from you again. Have you been busy up at the one two seven?"

I laughed. Of all the detectives in my old precinct, I think I got along with Mike Poole the best. I knew it bothered him that I was transferred. He never said it to me, but it was well known around the three four that he never got along with my former partner. "I’ve only been gone a day."

"The longest twenty four hours of my life. The place hasn’t been the same without you. No scenery!" He laughed. Mike liked to kid me with the macho ogling bit, but I knew he was a happily married man. He was just a hopeless flirt.

"That’s a shame," I said, teasing him back. Then it was time to get down to business. "Poole, have you had the opportunity to question our cop killer yet?"

Mike knew when it was time to get back to work. "No, but the DA is trying to set something up. Jensen and I could use to talk to you first, if you have some time."

I looked at my watch. It was 11:30 a.m. "You have plans for lunch today?"

Muff looked at me inquisitively. I tried to ignore him and Mike said, "Not that I know of, hold on."

It sounded like Mike had put the receiver against his body, because the sound became muffled. While Mike asked his partner about lunch, I took the time to answer Muff’s inquisitive look. "Mike said he needed to talk to me before they see our perp."

"Oh," was all Muff replied. I heard Mike get back on the phone. "Yeah, lunch would be fine. Harry’s OK?"

"Sure, we can be there in about thirty minutes."

"OK, we’ll save you a seat. Bye."

"Bye." I pushed the end button on my cell phone and said, "He wants us to meet them at Harry’s Bar and Grill. It is over on Delancy and Bowery."

"OK" Muff went to start the car.

"Hold on, let me go in and get something first."

Muff looked puzzled. "Call it a hunch," I said, trying to explain.

"OK, well let the desk know where we are going since you are going in."

"Sure," I said as I headed up the stairs. "I’ll only be a minute."

Actually it was about 10 minutes later, owing to the lack of an elevator, but I returned with an envelope in my hand. I got in the car and told Muff I was ready.

"What’s in the envelope?"

I put it in my satchel. "I decided that it might be helpful to have the crime photo’s and the reports with us, so we could compare notes. I also took the time to take the other physical evidence back to the evidence desk. I asked to sign out the crime photo’s and the reports on the similar case you had before I got here. I think it would be a good idea to compare notes on these cases with Jensen and Poole. Which reminds me---" I took out my cell phone again and dialed Poole’s number.

"Thirty-fourth precinct, Det. Poole speaking."

"Good, I caught you before you left. Would you sign out and bring all the crime photos from the six cases O’Riley and I were working on. I have copies of the reports on my laptop. Maybe you better bring anything you have discovered since I left pertaining to those cases as well."

"Sure thing. We haven’t had time to look at those cases yet, since all our time has been taken up with Jim’s murderer. We need to compare notes about those, especially since you think it might all tie in."

"Yup. Thanks. We’re on our way."

"See you in a few." Mike hung up and I pressed the end button again and put my cell phone away.

We arrived at Harry’s a little after noon. Mike and Larry were already there and had saved seats for us. I introduced Muff to them and we sat down and ordered some lunch from the menu. Harry’s was known for his steaks and sandwiches. We ate there quite frequently on our lunch breaks at the three four.

When the orders had been taken, Mike cleared his throat and handed me a blue folded packet of papers. "I hate to start our meeting with this, but I want to get this out of the way, so we can get on with other things."

"What’s this," I asked, knowing full well it looked like a subpoena.

"They need you at the grand jury. The DA wants to put you on the stand to tell your side of what happened that night."

"Damn," I exclaimed.

"Well, it makes sense," said Muff.

"Yeah, I know, but still, I had hoped---" I stumbled.

"What’s wrong?" Muff asked. The other two detectives looked at me with the same question in their eyes. I knew that this was SOP and I also knew this was coming, but somehow I had hoped to avoid it.

"I know, I know, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am not looking forward to this. I’m afraid of what effect my testimony might have on the grand jury."

"What do you mean?" Jensen said.

"Well, the events don’t exactly put my partner in a good light. I mean, he did disregard normal procedures. I am afraid if I bring that fact up, there might be an internal review and O’Riley’s widow could lose his death benefits."

"It is that damning?" asked Poole.

"Well I dunno, I guess I could gloss over that. The problem is I know the defense lawyer might make a big deal of it, cause it would strengthen their case that this guy shot Jim in self defense."

"You really think this guy has a case for self defense, asked Poole.

"Not really. If this guy wasn’t guilty of something, then why did he have a gun trained on my partner. And I knew O’Riley. He might have been a macho glory hog, but he wasn’t trigger happy. But I know how lawyers twist what you have to say so it sounds completely different." I frowned. Most of the cops I knew had the same low opinion of lawyers. Many good cases were lost because of loop holes lawyers would find in perfectly good evidence. It kinda made all our hard work look like a waste of time.

The men at the table nodded. Our waiter brought our sandwiches and we became silent as we ate. After a few bites, I said, "Well I think we should spend our time worrying about these murders. I am hoping we can tie our perp to these. It would make things a bit easier if we had something solid on this guy."

"But he couldn’t have committed your last murder. He has been in Riker’s since the night he killed O’Riley. Your murder happened a week later," observed Jensen.

"I know, that is what is bothering me," I answered. "You bring those photos I asked for?"

Poole pulled an envelope out of his briefcase. "Yeah, here you go." He handed it to me. "I still don’t see what you are looking for tho."

Something had dawned on me since looking at the website last night with Muff. I took them out and held them up one by one at arms length. The rest of the guys went on eating, but were looking at me with puzzled looks.

Muff looked at Mike and said, "Has she always been like this, all work and no play?" I made a face. Mike answered him.

"That’s our Det. Greig for you. A great package to look at, but all business."

I crinkled my nose up at that last remark. "Well some one has to do all the work around here when you boys are doing all the playing!"

Larry said, "We work, it is just that we know how to relax when we have free time--- and we are off the clock for lunch."

"I know, but this needs to be a working lunch. We have too much we need to compare notes about," I added. I knew where this was leading. The guys I have worked with have always been on my case about my work ethic. I know I put myself into my work too much, but it keeps me from thinking about how alone I am most of the time I am not working. Not that I am looking for a solution to that problem, it is just that I don’t have time to think about it. Or maybe I don’t chose to think about it.

The guys must have given up trying to get me to let it go for a few minutes, cause they proceeded to ignore me and talk about sports. I decided to go back to the problem at hand. One by one I held each of the crime photos up, squinting at times at each of them. I had also taken out the photos from the two Harlem cases. Finally a light bulb came on in my head and my eyes got really large and bright.

"What is it, mi socia?" Muff was the first to ask, noticing my excitement.

I put the photo’s in a pile in front of me on the table and directed my comments to him. "You remember that website we were studying last night?"

"Yeah, the People for a Free America, what of it?"

I smiled and turned to Jensen and Poole. Both had stopped eating and gabbing about the Yankees when they witnessed this exchange. I knew I had their attention as well. I turned my attention to them and said, "I don’t know how much time you have had to look over my case notes, but I had been looking at this group as possibly being behind our 6 murders."

Jensen shrugged and Poole just said, "O’Riley mentioned something about one of your harebrained theories."

I was smug now. I had reason to be. "Did he tell you that our Mr. Beckman was a member of this group?" Both detectives shook their heads. "Figures. I knew he thought I was barking up the wrong tree, only because he didn’t think of it first."

"That sounds like sour grapes," Jensen remarked.

I waved my hand as to dismiss his remark. "Never mind. I only wish he was still alive to see this," I put the pile of photographs in Muff’s hand. "Look at the chests on all the vics."

Muff took the photos and put them at arms length as I had done. "Looks like a series of knife marks."

I shook my head. "We have all been assuming that the knife that killed each of the victims also made these marks and performed the castrations. The thing that always bothered me about that was the fact that the throat wound was larger and a bit more jagged. These wounds are not as deep and seem more precisely done. I think the pattern is deliberate, not just a random series of cuts."

Muff’s face seemed to change with this new line of thought. "Hum, let me look at them again." He held each one up one at time and studied the marks closely. "Grieg, you might have something there. The pattern does look very similar on each of the vics. And it seems a bit familiar."

"Familiar?," asked Poole.

I had saved the webpage on my computer so I could access it off line. I pulled out my laptop and brought up the home page of the People for a Free America. I passed it to each of the detectives. "Notice the logo at the top?"

It was an elaborate drawing of a cross with a snake attempting to climb up it. At the bottom were flames. "I think this is what has been attempted on the chests of each of the vic."

Muff looked at the picture. "In a crude way, I suppose. But they all aren’t exactly the same, in fact the two up in Harlem have a lot of differences from your six down here."

"Which goes to my theory that there is more than one perp, but that they are tied somehow to this group." I took the photos from Muff’s hands and gave them to Jensen and Poole to study. After a few minutes of staring at the photos and the logo on the laptop, everyone began to realize there might be something to my theory.

"You said you think this wasn’t done with the murder weapon?" Muff asked.

I shook my head. "No the detail work is too precise for a knife. My guess is was done with a surgical scalpel."

"Maybe," Muff said. "Ties in with something I had noticed. The crime scenes didn’t seem to have enough blood."

Now it was my turn to be surprised. "What do you mean?"

"Look at all of these pictures... I mean, I have seen vics bleed out from slit throats before. There is a lot of blood. There is blood here, but not enough. Makes me wonder...."

"What?" I was starting to see his point.

"That this wasn’t done at the scene. I think these kids were abducted, taken somewhere else. That would give the perps time to do this carving on their chests."

"What did the M.E. have to say about the wounds found on the vics?" Jensen asked.

Muff took out the report I had taken from the 127th. "In our first case, the report says that the cause of death was from the vic’s throats being cut with a large knife, and loss of blood. We are waiting on the second report."

Poole took out the reports I had give to him when I left yesterday. "I grabbed these with the photos. The same thing is on our reports. The M. E. did mention that the wounds on the chest were consistent with a smaller blade." "Does either of the M.E.’s mention how the castrations were done?," I asked.

"Mine says that the testicles and penis were surgically removed postmortem but were missing at the time of the autopsy," Muff said.

"Same in each of our cases," answered Poole.

I was beginning to see a pattern. "Surgically removed, like with a scalpel?"

Muff shrugged. "Could be."

A new theory of how these murders might have occurred was forming in my brain. But more tests will have to be run. I turned to the detectives from the three four. "Jensen, Poole, I need you to ask the M.E. to check the lung tissue for anything that might have been used to cause unconsciousness. If the vics were abducted, they might have been drugged. Better have a total tox screen done."

"Well some of these vics might be ready to be released to the families," Poole commented. The first of the murders had taken place about three weeks ago. By law, we can’t keep a corpse indefinitely, but since there were several related cases, we had been able to keep the bodies in case we came up with more tests that needed to be run.

"Well, check to see what tests were run. The M.E.’s don’t always tell us everything if we don’t ask. Maybe the toxs were done on the earlier vics. We will check with our M.E. and have him look for drugs in our boys."

"What are you thinking?," Muff asked me.

"I dunno yet. Could be something as simple as chloroform. Let me check on something’s first."

Our lunch break was over and we had to get back to our precincts. We had promised to keep each other abreast of any new developments. As Muff drove us back uptown, I called the coroner at Harlem Hospital center. I told him what tests I wanted him to run. He told me he would add them to the standard tox screens he would be doing tomorrow.


Back at the station we spent the rest of the afternoon processing the information we did have on our latest case. Muff typed as I dictated what we knew. When he was finished he backed up the report onto a floppy disk and handed it to me. I took it and added it to the hard drive files.

The department issues laptops to their detectives, but since budgets are tight, each precinct is very possessive of their laptops. I had one at the three four, but need to turn it in to the property clerk when I was transferred. I seemed to have inherited Muff’s former partner’s machine when I arrived at the one two seven. I only wish I could afford one of my own, so I wouldn’t have to keep transferring information, but on a cop’s salary, that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Before I left the three four, I downloaded all the files and all of my personal research onto disks. Somehow I had managed to find time in the hectic 24 hours I had been at the one two seven to upload all this information onto the new laptop’s hard drive. I had gotten the report from Muff on the first case and now was adding this new case to that file. I knew that having all of these reports at my fingertips would help me figure out if they were interrelated, as my gut told me they had to be.

After making sure all the files were in order on the hard drive, I noticed it was quitting time. Muff closed the top on his laptop. "Time to call it a day."

"I only wish! I have that court appearance to prepare for," I answered him.

"Mike Poole was right, you are NO fun." Muff smiled.

"Maybe, but I can’t afford to have fun right now." I shuddered when I thought about my day in court. I hated that part of the job too. Some cops like to make appearances and look all important. I didn’t. All lawyers were too slick for my liking, even the DAs who were supposedly on our side.

"You want some help preparing?" Muff asked sincerely. "I’ve had a lot of experience on both sides of the docket in court."

I was kinda surprised that Muff never seemed to mind mentioning his life on the other side of the law. "Thanks, but I think I should just go home and go over my files on the case. I don’t want to be tripped up when the defense comes at me with questions to twist my words against me. After all, I did shoot the guy."

"That is what I am talking about. I could help you by asking you questions that a defense lawyer might think up. And if you want to do that at your place, I don’t mind," Muff added.

I thought about this for a minute. I had known Muff for little more than 24 hours. He was my partner, and seemed sincere about wanting to help me out. I know that this all appeared to be above board, but something inside of me told me that I should be a bit more cautious. But I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. I thought for a few more seconds and then said, "Look, I appreciate the offer. Maybe you could help me out. But let’s not go back to my place. You took me to your favorite eating place last night, let me take you to mine. OK?"

It seemed to my suspicious mind that a look of disappointment colored Muff’s face. But I have been told my many people that I take the way people react to me the wrong way. Giving Muff the benefit of the doubt, I dismissed my ideas regarding this look. Muff just responded, "OK sounds fair enough", to my suggestion. With a nod of my head, I got up and packed up my belongings. We signed out at the main desk and Muff asked me where we were heading as we got in the Impala. I gave him the address of La Gondola and he pulled out into traffic.

"I hope you like Italian food. I know I don’t have any Italian in me, but I sure like the food," I said with a smile, hoping to lighten the mood I had created back at the precinct.

"Sure, that sounds fine to me. I am not a very picky eater really. Couldn’t be when I was in stir or I would have starved. As it was, I did lose a lot of weight when I was in there. I was so skinny when I got out, people couldn’t see me when I stood sideways!" Muff laughed at his own joke.

"You mind if I ask you something personal?" I inquired. These references to his time in prison had piqued my curiosity to the point I had to ask.

"Sure, partner," Muff answered with a slight cowboy twang to his voice.

I smiled again. "Most people I know who have been in prison don’t like to talk about it much, but you don’t seem to mind making references to that time in your life? How come?"

Muff was quick on the retort, "Just how many people have you known who have been in prison?" I was taken aback by this question. "Well, to be honest, you are the first that I have known on a personal basis. The rest were in a professional capacity."

"Well, I guess you don’t have much data to base your conclusion on, but I will tell you why I don’t mind." He stopped at a red light and then looked me in the eye. I couldn’t help noticing how large and dark they were, and how one eyelid drooped slightly. "I don’t usually talk about that part of my life, that is true, but something about you seems to make me let my guard down." I could feel the red rise in my cheeks and I put my head down, not wanting him to see how uncomfortable he had made me feel. He must have seen how embarrassed I was cause when I looked back up again he was concentrating on the traffic. The light turned green and we continued on our way.

"I usually play my cards close to my chest," he continued to explain, keeping his eyes on the road. "I have had friends and lovers who have betrayed me in the past, so I am not usually forthcoming about stuff in my personal life, especially since I returned to New York. I guess another reason I usually don’t talk to people about my life in Chicago is because I came back here to put all of that behind me. I never really shared much of it with anyone else before. My other partners all had their own lives and we weren’t that close. I was happy to have it that way. But I have never had to deal with a case as intense as the ones we are on, and you seem to be just as bothered about them as I am. That is rare in this line of work, believe me. Most of the guys I have encountered take this kind of thing and never seem to let it bother them. Maybe that is why I kinda felt comfortable opening up to you. This stuff is bothering you."

I thought about this a minute. "I see what you mean. I know cops can appear to be hard boiled, and most of them don’t like to talk about how cases bother them, you have to be tough or it will drive you crazy. I haven’t had a partner that I could really relate to either. I always thought that was because I was a woman. Guys have a notion that women have to be treated differently than men when it comes to their feelings. I am not so sure that it true. It is something I have had to deal with all of my adult life really. The army was no better than the NYPD."

"I’m sure you are right," answered Muff as he pulled into a curbside parking place not too far from the restaurant. "I guess it is just as tough being a female cop as it is to be a cop with a record."

"Probably," I said as I got out of the car.

Muff locked it and we went inside La Gondola.

After being seated, I asked Muff, "It’s ok that we are eating out again tonight, isn’t it?"

"Sure, I eat out quite a bit, why?"

"Well I know we don’t make a whole lot. I usually fix something for myself most nights when I get hungry , but I try to get out a couple of times a week. I have found that the food at this place is not only good, but reasonably priced."

"Same with my favorite digs," Muff said. "Plus it has the added benefit of being run by family friends. I think they would feed me for nothing if I let them."

"Must be nice to have friends like that," I remarked without thinking of how that sounded. Muff picked up on it right away.

"I can’t believe a pretty lady like you doesn’t have friends."

At that moment the waiter came to take our orders and I felt I had gotten off of the hook. "Amerei dello spagetti con la salsa di marinara ed un piatto di lato di calimari, per favore," I said to the waiter. Muff looked at me with a shocked stare on his face.

"Bueno," said the waiter. He turned to Muff and asked him, "And for you, Signore?"

"Well I can’t speak Italian like my friend here...." turning to me he asked, "By the way, what DID you order?"

"Just spagetti with marinara sauce and some calimari." I smiled with a sheepish grin.

"Sounds good to me," he said. Turning to the waiter he ordered the same. We got some wine to go with the dinner and the waiter left us. I knew what was coming.

"Where did you learn to speak Italian? You don’t look it!"

"I’m not, but I had a friend in high school whose mother was and she taught both of us. That is where I acquired a taste for Italian food. Man, could that woman cook. Oh, and I also took Latin in high school. That helps too, being a root language. I would think Italian might not be hard for you to learn, since Spanish and Italian are very similar and have the same root in Latin."

"Truth, and I did pick up a little of what you said right now, but I think I would have to practice a whole lot." Muff looked me in the eye again like he had in the car earlier and said, "I guess you are full of a lot of surprises."

I felt myself getting all red in the face again. I was never one for intense eye contact. I guess I always thought if a person could see deep enough into my eyes they might be able to see into my soul and that was a scary thought. I looked down to avoid his gaze, trying hard not to insult him while I did this. "Well we don’t really know all that much about each other yet."

"Do you mind if I did get to know you better--- sorry, I know how that might have sounded. I meant platonically."

"No I guess not, it is just that I am kinda like you, I am not a very open person. I guess I have been burned a few times too many in my life too."

"Oh, sorry, I don’t mean to pry," Muff looked down, with embarrassment registering on his face now.

"No, it’s ok, it is just that it will take a bit of getting used to a partner who actually cares about my life."

"I hear you. Same here, really."

The food came and we settled into eating in silence for a bit. This was awkward for me. I didn’t know Muff that well to consider us having more than just a working relationship. I made it a rule to keep my social life separate from my professional life --- but truth be told, I really didn’t have much of a social life outside of visiting my mother once a week and my brother once a year. I suppose at 35 one could say my life was pathetic, since I didn’t date, but I had discovered early on that the guys I dated seem to have an agenda and I wasn’t ready to give up my freedom. So I quit trying to find someone. Plus there was that one relationship I had eluded to earlier, the one I tried hard not to think about anymore. So I didn’t know where this friendly turn in my current partner was going to lead, and that made me nervous.

"You said you wanted to go over your testimony for court," said Muff, taking a break from eating.

"I should, but you know, now that I have gotten away from the office, I think I would rather just put it aside for one night. I have been so intense with this case. I guess I just want a break."

Muff nodded as he took another bite of calimari. "I can understand that. When is the grand jury?"

"Not for four days yet, according to the subpoena. I have time. I think I would rather just look over my report of the events of that night and maybe get time to write down a few more things before I am ready to ‘practice’ my testimony. I never liked rehearsing for this sort of thing anyway. Seems too phony when you have to rehearse your testimony, in my opinion."

"Truth, but like you said earlier today, the lawyers always seem to be able to twist what you say, even if you are 100% truthful. It really pays to go over it ahead of time."

I nodded reluctantly, "I know, it’s a part of police work I can’t stand, but what can you do, huh?"

"Not a damn thing." We finished up dinner and ordered coffee for dessert.

"If you don’t mind me asking, what are your plans for this weekend," Muff inquired.

"Not too much, just hanging around the apartment on Saturday and going to my mom’s on Sunday," I answered him. I usually spent Sundays out at her home in Queens. Sometimes I would take her to one of the malls after church, but many weeks we would just sit around the kitchen catching up on family stuff and reminiscing. At least she was the one who reminisced, I just sat there politely and listened. I lead a pretty boring life. I don’t know what possessed me to show an interest in what he might be doing, but I found myself returning his question. "And you?"

"Well I was thinking about catching a movie. There’s this little revival theater over on 127th that runs the classics. They are showing a double feature of the Marx brothers."

My interest was piqued. I meet so few people who like the Marx brothers as much as I do. "Oh, which ones?"

"Coconuts and A Night at the Opera."

"Cool, two of my favorites."

Muff looked genuinely excited, "You interested? It would take your mind off of this grisly business for a while."

"Truth," I answered. "Just one thing I need to clear up tho."


"Well, I ---" how was I going to tell him politely that I make it a rule not to date cops--- "See the thing of it is, well ---"

"Let me help you out. I don’t date my partners either. This isn’t a date. It is just two friends going out to help take their minds off of their work. We pay our own way and everything. Whad’da say?"

"Sorry, I didn’t want to hurt your feelings or anything. Thanks for letting me off the hook there. That sounds kinda fun, really. I haven’t seen those two movies in a long time, and never on the big screen. Where is the theater located and what time is the first show?"

"Over on 127th and Lex, but I will pick you up, say around 12:30?"

I repeated my protest of this morning. "You don’t have to keep chauffeuring me around, you know. I am very capable of using the mass transit system."

"Hey, I don’t mind. I like to drive." Muff explained.

"OK, then, I will be ready around 12:30." I looked at my watch instinctively as we talked about time. "Well I think this has been a long enough day, and we have one more long one to put in before we can relax with Groucho, Harpo, Chico this weekend. We need to talk to the Morgans again and ask about Jesse’s girlfriend. We should talk to his school if we have some time, too."

"All work again, I see," Muff crinkled his nose. "I guess I am going to have to get used to having a slave driver for a partner."

Now it was my turn to crinkle my nose. "OK, PAX! I will try to curb my enthusiasm for the job." I knew his next remark might be about driving me home, so I decided to head than one off at the pass. "My apartment isn’t too far from here, so this one time I must insist that you let me walk. Thanks for getting me through my first full day at the one two seven."

"No problem," Muff said with his Hispanic accent in the thickest mode I had heard to date. We paid our bills and left the restaurant. I walked Muff to his car and said "Hasta mañana" to him. On the way home I thought how at ease Muff made me feel. I was glad to be his partner and wasn’t too unhappy to consider him as a friend as well.

Chapter 3

The next day was Friday, and as I anticipated, it was turning out to be a long one. Muff picked me up as usual, and even though I kept telling him I was quite capable of riding the bus to work every morning, I was beginning to see the advantages of having him perform this little courtesy for me. For one, it shortened the ride I probably would have had if I had to be at the mercy of the bus schedules and stops. The second was more important to me. It gave us time to talk about the case, and even get to know one another a bit more.

When we got in, we were blessed not to have any new work staring us in the face. The precinct seems even a bit too quiet, and when I commented on this fact to Muff, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Enjoy it while it lasts, because it doesn't happen too often."

The first thing we did was finish up our case notes on the Morgan boy's death. I called Mrs. Morgan and asked her when it would be a good time to talk some more, and she said that her husband had gone down to the morgue to see about her son's body being released. I asked Muff if we were finished with Jesse, and he said as far as he knew, once the M.E. did all the tox screens we asked them to do, he didnt see why the Morgan's couldn't have their son to give him a decent burial. I sensed that Muff felt like I did about that. It is bad enough for a grieving family to have to go through the trauma of having their loved one murdered, but the police can make it worse if they dont release the remains as soon as they can.

I put in another call to the M.E. and he told me that all the necessary fluids were taken from the body. He was waiting on our authorization to release Jesse to his father, who was waiting at the hospital with a local mortician. I told him that if he had everything we asked for, it was fine with us to go ahead and give Jesse's body to his father. I asked him to ask Jesse's father to contact us at his earliest convenience so that we could speak with he and his wife again. Then I added to convey our condolences to Jesse's father, since we had not had a chance to speak with him. Dr. Basu told me he would do that.

I called up the high school where Jesse went and made an appointment to speak with the principal that afternoon. I know a lot of cops who just call on people unannounced, but I found that people were more forthcoming if I called ahead. I knew enough not to do this with suspects, mind you, but people with information lead busy lives and appreciate these little courtesies.

Muff had been perusing the People for a Free America website all the while I was on the phone. When I had finished making all the phone calls I needed to, I asked him if he found anymore information that would help us. He told me he had accessed the list of names of members in Manhattan and was looking for possible suspects in our area. We both knew Mr. Beckman couldnt have been the perp in Jesse Morgan's murder, but since he was mutilated in the same manner, we were still focused on this group. "Looks like we have a lot of names to check out," he added.

"I know," was all I could answer with an overwhelming sigh. Then I thought of something. "I wonder."

"What?" Muff asked, with a puzzled look on his face.

"Well we know of at least eight cases on Manhattan that have the same M.O. I wonder if there are anymore in other precincts. I have been so busy with these cases, that I never thought that this might be the work of more than one person. If it is, as it seems to be with Jesse, maybe there are others on the island?"

Muff nodded thoughtfully, "You might have something there, Greig. I could put out an email to all the captains on Manhattan with a general description of our crimes and see if anyone has anything similar going on."

"That's a great idea." I was kicking myself for not coming up with this idea sooner, but cops tend to be rather single minded when they are dealing with a case. It is only after you have a pattern emerging from a string of cases that it will it dawn on you that this might be bigger than your cases. I had never been in on a serial murder spree before, but this had all the earmarks. The only difference was this looked like an organized arrangement by a group and not the work of an individual. To my knowledge, this was unprecedented. I shuddered at the thought of the ramifications. What if this wasn't even confined to Manhattan? This group seemed to have members in all 50 states.

"What's wrong?" Muff asked me.

I shook the disturbing thoughts from my mind. "Nothing, why?"

"You only looked as white as a sheet, that's why."

"Well I had a horrible thought, that's all."

Muff looked inquisitively at me. "Mind sharing?"

I shuddered again. In almost a whisper, afraid of giving credence to my thoughts by speaking them aloud, I said, "What if this is happening elsewhere?"

"Well that is why I am sending out the email."

"No, I don't mean just Manhattan.. After all, the membership is nationwide."

It was Muff's turn to react to my revelation. He grew silent and pale. "God, Jan, I hope to hell you are wrong about that, but it does make sense."

I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was almost noon. "Well we can only worry about one thing at a time. Let's wait to see if there are any answers from the precincts on Manhattan before we cast a broader net. I'm not really hungry, but I suppose we should think about a bite to eat before we go interview Jesse's principal. I want to make sure we bring the picture of the girl we found in his wallet with us. Maybe he can tell us who she is."

"Good idea." Muff closed up his laptop and packed it into its case. I did the same with mine. We exited the building and got into Muff's car. He turned to me as he started the engine. "I can understand you not having much of an appetite, with the thought of more kids being killed this way. Why don't I take you to a place where we can have something light and think for a bit?"

"Sure, anything you say. I don't think I could even make a decision about such things right now." I usually didn't let this kind of thing bother me, but I guess Muff could tell that it was getting to me.

We didn't talk anymore, giving each other the time to think. Muff stopped at a local health food deli. We ordered a couple of salads and drinks to go and then he drove back up to the Cloisters to eat. I was glad he was taking us there. If I ever needed a peaceful place to be, it was now.

We got out of the car and carried our lunches to a nearby picnic table under a spreading oak. Muff insisted locking up the laptops in the car. "I never take my work into this place. It might be in my mind, but I don't have to bring the rest of it here."

"Makes sense to me." We spread out several napkins over the rough hewn boards of the table. Taking our salads and drinks from the bag, we ate in silence. The air was hot and humid, but there was a breeze coming from the Hudson River, which offered a bit of relief. I was facing the river, so I got the benefits of this breeze full in the face. I avoided Muff's eyes, not wanting to invade his privacy. I don't know if he did the same with me, since I didn't look to see. I kept staring out over the river at the Jersey shoreline, watching the people go in and out of their cozy little suburban houses, wondering if they knew what monster had been unleashed on this side of the river. Here in this park it seemed like the evil we had been speculating about was nothing more than a child's nightmare. I kept thinking that all I had to do was wake up and it would all be gone. But I knew better than that. It was real. And I guess the powers that be were asking me to help rout it out and bring it to justice.

Breaking the silence, Muff asked me, "Evil doesn't seem real here, does it?"

I silently wished he wouldn't do that, read my thoughts that way. "No it doesn't, but it is real, and we have to do something about it."

"We will, I know we will. Just remember to be cautious."

Now it was my turn to look puzzled. "What do you mean by that?"

Muff smiled. "I dunno, just something in the way you were looking just now, over my shoulder. You kinda had that Crusader look in your eyes and on your face."

I still gave him a puzzled look. He responded, adding, "Look, I had a partner like that once, real gung-ho about catching the bad guys. The thing of it is, he didn't think about danger, and it cost him his life."

Now I knew why Muff never questioned me about Jim's death. There is an unspoken bond between cops that have lost their partners. I realized he knew what I was going through dealing with Jim's death. I gained a new respect for him. "I promise to think with my head and not my heart, OK?"

"Sure, I knew you would. Sorry I doubted you," Muff got up and started to clear away our trash.

"No, you were right. I think I am so incensed by these murders, that I could be capable of rushing in to fight this evil without thinking of the danger."

Muff smiled again, "Well don't think it hasn't crossed my mind either." Changing the subject, he asked me as we walked down to the edge of the river, "Are you prepared to face the Grand Jury on Monday?"

"I think so, as ready as I will ever be. At least I can try to put one of these bastards away for good."

"Are you convinced Beckman was the perp in the cases at the three four?" Muff asked. He leaned over with his elbows on the faded paint of the steel railing, looking out at the river, and not at me.

"It has to be him. I mean." Then I saw what he was getting at. "You think it could be only one killer and we got the wrong one?"

"It is only one of several possibilities, and every good cop has to keep an open mind to possibilities. The lawyers call it reasonable doubt, and it gets a lot of our cases thrown out of court."

"Truth," I answered. "I guess the cases at the three four arent as solved as I had hoped they would be."

"Not by a long shot," Muff added. Then he turned to me and saw the long face I was making and took my chin in his large hand and lifted my face to look at his. "Cheer up, Janice, well get 'em, don't you worry your pretty little head about that. I promise you, we will bring them all in. And get enough evidence to make it stick!" Somehow, looking into those large, dark eyes of his, I believed him. And I didn't even mind him calling my head pretty.


Mr. Green was waiting for us when his secretary announced our presence. I knew that the students had been dismissed for the day, owing to the unusual silence in the hallways as we entered PS. 183. He invited us to sit down in a couple of stiff wooden chairs. "Sorry for the lack of comfort, but budget cutbacks don't allow for many amenities around here." He went around to his beat up leather chair behind a solid oak desk. Both looked like they had seen better times.

"No problem," my partner answered him. "Things up at the precinct aren't much better." Both men nodded and smiled.

I reached into the envelope I was carrying and handed Mr. Green Jesse Morgan's student ID. "This is the student we came here to speak to you about."

"Jesse." Mr. Green sighed as he handed the ID back to us. "It is horrible what happened to him. He was a really good student. Never in trouble, always doing his best, the kind of student we need more have around here."

"His mother said he had gotten involved in a gang recently," I countered.

"I don't know much about that. He was never involved with any of the school gangs that I know of. Maybe it was a group in his neighborhood. I thought he had an after school job?"

"Yes he did, according to his mother," Muff flipped through his notes. "At a Taggart's market on 150th."

"I see," Mr. Green said thoughtfully. "What can I help you with?"

I pulled the picture of the pretty African-American girl from the envelope. "Do you know this person?"

He took the picture from my hand and looked it over. "This is Danielle Sims. Shes a junior I mean she will be a senior this year. How is she involved?"

"We dont know yet. Apparently Jesse had her picture in his wallet. Were they dating?"

"That is hard to say. I have enough on my hands maintaining discipline; I am not that close to the students to know their social lives. But one of Jesse's teachers might be able to tell you more. Mr. Maugins, our PE teacher, was working with Jesse. Jesse had some potential in basketball and Mr. Maugins was trying to help him hone his skills. They spent a lot of time together. He happens to be here teaching remedial math this summer. I could see if he is still in the building. He usually has some boys working on their basketball skills in the gym after classes are over." Mr. Green reached over to an antiquated paging system and pressed a button. "Pat, is Tom Maugins still around?"

A crackly voice answered his inquiry. "I think so, let me page the gym."

"Thanks," Mr. Green answered his secretary.

While we waited for this information, I asked, "Do you have Ms. Sims address. We will need to talk with her."

"Sure, I am sure my secretary can provide that information to you. You think this could be gang related?"

Muff jumped in, "We're not sure right now, we are just pursuing all possible leads."

"I see," Mr. Green nodded. Just then the buzzer sounded. Mr. Green pushed down a button and held it. The squawky voice said, "He is still in the gym and will be there till about 4."

"Thanks, Pat. Would you bring me Danielle Sims file?"

"Sure," she answered. Mr. Green turned his attention back to us. "I will get you Danielle's address and then show you to the gym."

"Thank you," I said.

Mr. Green's secretary came in and handed him a manila file folder and left. Mr. Green opened it and gave us Danielle Sims address, which Muff added to his notebook. Picking up the file, he escorted us from his office. He gave the file back to his secretary and led us down a maze of corridors till we reached a large double set of doors. He pushed one of them opened and we entered the schools gymnasium. I noticed some effort had been made to make the place brighter. Banners hung from the walls and new paint had been applied recently. Still, the wooden floorboards showed the same wear the rest of the building displayed. Tax dollars were tightly rationed in the poorer neighborhoods of the city. That reality seemed to apply equally to police precincts and schools. There was a young black man giving instruction on the finer points of the passing game to a handful of high school boys when we went up to him.

"Tom, these detectives would like to have a moment of your time," Mr. Green told him. Then in a whisper he added, "It's about Jesse Morgan."

Tom Maugins nodded and told the boys to practice on their own for a bit. Mr. Green introduced us and then excused himself, saying he had a lot of work to do back at his office. When he left, Mr. Maugins led us to his office, a small room off of the gym proper. He invited us to sit down on a couple of red padded chairs, a bit more comfortable than the ones in the principal's office. "How can I help you officers?"

I decided to let Muff do most of the talking here. Somehow he sensed this and said, "Mr. Green said you were close to Jesse."

"As close as a teacher can be with a student. Jesse was a good boy with a lot of promise. He had a talent on the court, and I was helping him sharpen his skills. I was hoping he would go to Columbia on a basketball scholarship after he graduated." Mr. Maugins hung his head, "But I guess that is a moot point now." His voice became low and intense. "If there is any information I can give you folks that will put Jesse's killer in the electric chair, you have it."

"Do you know if Jesse was seeing a girl named Danielle Sims?" Muff asked.

"Sure, Dani and Jesse were seein' each other. I don't think they wanted the folks to know, tho. See, Jesse's parents depended on him to bring in some money, and I don't think they wanted him to be involved with a girl when he had responsibilities at home. I don't think they had anything against Dani, but just Jesse's dating."

"Anyone have it out for Jesse, someone who was jealous of the time you were spending with him or his dating Danielle?" asked Muff

Tom Maugins put his large hand to his chin. Slowly and thoughtfully he said, "I don't think so. I mean, you get a lot of guys resentful when you show the kind of talent that Jesse had, but that usually doesn't lead to guys getting killed."

"Anyone threaten Jesse?" asked Muff.

Tom Maugins shook his head. "Not that he let me know about. And we talked about lots of things."

I chimed in with a comment of my own, "Jesse's mother told us he was involved in a gang."

Now Tom Maugins got a worried look on his face. "Yeah, he told me about that. I think he was only in with them for about a month. They hung out at the Scorpions club by his house. I asked him what he needed to be involved with a group like that for and he told me it was for protection."

"So he was being threatened?" Muff asked.

Tom shook his head slowly, like he wasn't too sure of his answer. "He never said he was being threatened, but if he needed protection..."

I could tell that Tom didn't seem to know much more. I handed him my card and said, "If you think of anything else we could use, let us know."

He got up and we rose as well. "Sure, you bet. I want to see who ever did this to Jesse get whats comin' to him. He was a good kid. He didn't deserve to die like this."

We left the high school and went in search of Danielle Sims. Her younger sister answered the door of her apartment and told us that Danielle was at work. It turned out that she worked at the same market that Jesse had.

Taggart's Market was a little mom and pop run place that catered to the African-American community. Danielle was working at one of the two cash registers when we entered. I asked her manager if she could take a break for a few minutes and after giving us the evil eye, reluctantly told Danielle to take ten minutes. We followed her back to a small store room the staff used for breaks.

"Whats this all about?" Dani said defensively. "Mr. Taggart's not too happy about having the police hanging around his store. It could cost me my job."

"We'll square it with your boss." I answered her. I gave Muff a look to let him know that I wanted to conduct this interview and he nodded back. I was kind of surprised that after only 3 days together, we had developed this rapport with each other. In a softer voice I said, "We're here about Jesse."

Her eyes grew moist and she quickly hung her head. "Somehow I thought so, but I didn't want to think it was that. Sorry I snapped at you. I wondered if you all would find me."

"Anything you know that could help us?" I inquired.

"I dunno, nothing specific, but Jesse was acting kinda funny the past week or so. I asked him what was up with that."

"Funny how?" I asked.

"Well, Jesse has always been a pretty happy kid, considering what we have to put up with around here. He had a good job, a good family with two parents, and was working on a scholarship to Columbia. I mean, he looked like he was going to be one of the few to make it outta this dump, and I was happy to be hitchin' my wagon to his. He taught me a lot of things, tutored me in subjects and all. He was smart. But lately he was gettin' all nervous, looking over his shoulder and all."

"You think it was because his mom started to suspect the two of you were dating?"

Danielle shook her head. "I know his folks didn't like us dating, his mom came in here one time and told me to break it off. We kinda kept our thing a secret, but I know she knew anyway." Danielle looked down at her feet, "She didn't want anything messin' up Jesse's chances for going to college. So I guess I can't blame her. I didn't want anything messin' that up either. She didn't seem to have anything against me personally. She was always friendly when she came in and bought stuff."

"What was he afraid of, then?"

Danielle shook her head. "You got me, officer. He wouldn't tell me anything, when I asked him once about it. He just said things were getting kinda intense on the streets and a guy like him could use the protection the brothers provided."

It was Muff's turn to shake his head. "Well I guess they weren't too much help the other night to him."

I looked hard at Muff and then put my arm around Danielle as she reacted to his comment by crying. She lashed out at us, refusing my comfort. "Well if the police were doin' a better job of protecting the people around here instead of always hassling the brothers about stuff, maybe Jesse wouldn't have turned to that scum for protection."

Muff and I rose, knowing that Danielle wouldn't be forthcoming with any more information at the moment. I gave her my card and told her to call me if she thought of anything else useful. I assured her that we were intent on catching Jesse's killer. She put the card in the pocket of her smock and said, "Well I guess I need to get back to work before I am out of a job."

As I had promised her earlier, I spoke to Mr. Taggart on the way out, telling him that we were asking everyone who knew Jesse if there was anything they could tell us that might help to catch Jesses killer. Taggart softened when we mentioned Jesse's name. "Jesse was one of my best workers. He left right after work that night, said he was goin' right home to his mom. He had a bag of candy for his little sister in his hand. He was always bringin' something home for the kid sister."

"We thought Danielle might know something that would help us," I added, trying to make Mr. Taggart know she wasn't to blame for our visit today.

"Yeah, I gotcha. She and Jesse were dating, of sorts. Didn't want the parents to know. Mom was kinda hot about it, but I suspect she was warming up to the idea of them together. Poor kid. She was so broke up about it the day after they found him that she asked off. I couldnt blame her."

I gave him my card, making mental note to get some more made up. "If you can think of anything that would help us, call me."

Mr. Taggart looked at the card and said, "Sure. Jesse was a good kid. He didn't deserve this." He put the card in his wallet.


It was close to six went we left Taggart's Market and headed back to the precinct. Silence prevailed as it had on so many other occasions after working the case. I was beginning to see that this would be the way we would operate. I didn't mind it really. Jim, my old partner, was a talkative soul, always talking about sports, his family, the weather, or most anything except the cases we were on. That annoyed me, but since he was the senior member of our partnership, I didn't think I had much to say about it. I learned to let him ramble. Muff was different. He seemed to like to gather his thoughts in silence, and then most of the time when he did talk it was business related. This took a bit of getting used to, but I was discovering that I preferred Muff's way to Jim's.

One thing that I couldn't get out of my head was the fact that everyone we had talked to about Jesse said the same thing. Jesse was a good kid who kept out of trouble and had a bright future ahead of him. It made me more determined to catch his killer. With his uncanny ability to read my mind, Muff startled me out of my thoughts with, "Well the only common thread here was that Jesse was a good kid, bright, with a promising future. We gotta find out who is doing this and fast, before more good kids are killed."

"Damn, I wish you would quit doing that," I exclaimed. Muff stopped the car rather short in front of the station house and parked the car. "What are you talking about?"

"Just this ability you seem to have to read my mind."

Muff chuckled. "Sorry, but I guess I could accuse you of the same thing. Maybe it is because we seem to think so much alike. And to tell you the truth, it kinda unnerves me too."

I found myself staring at him and then felt my face get hot and flushed. Few people in my life had the ability to embarrass me the way Muff just did. I turned away.

"Hey, I didnt mean to make you uncomfortable, but you know it is rare to find a partner who sees things the way you do. Maybe we were fated to be partners."

"Maybe, I answered him, in a hurry to drop the subject. Let's clock out. I am mentally exhausted. I am going to need the weekend to get my head together for the grand jury. Do you mind typing up the notes on the interviews from today?"

We signed out at the desk and gathered our personal belongings. "No, I got it covered," Muff answered me. Let me take you home so you can get a good night's sleep. You still up for the movies tomorrow night, or would you rather skip it?"

We got into the car and he pulled out into traffic. "I dunno. You mind if I call you around noon tomorrow and let you know?"

"Sure, whatever you want."

Traffic was rather light for a Friday night. I think I was so lost in my thoughts that I didnt realize the passage of time, because it seemed like the next minute we were at the curb in front of my brownstone.

I gathered my stuff and got out of the car. "Thanks, Muff. I'll give you a call around noon."

"You have my number?"

"Yeah, I hope you don't mind, but I kinda had a peek at your personnel file."

Muff laughed, "Well it's about time! I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Hasta mañana," I answered him. He did a double take as he waved and drove off.

A good cop tries not to let the cases she is working on get to her, but this case had gotten to me. My only consolation was that it seemed to be getting to my partner too. I found I couldn't go to sleep, even though I had told Muff I was exhausted. Instead of getting the rest I so desperately needed, I decided to get out my laptop and look back at the cases I had had worked on with Jim, trying to find a link that would make it possible to solve these cases and get the killer, or more likely a group of killers off the streets before more Jesses would die. I had not related to the other victims in these cases quite like I had with Jesse. I suppose it was because Jesses story had hit me closer to home than I was willing to admit.

When I was at Hofstra University studying law enforcement, I had a friend who was an education major. She was walking home from a night class when she was abducted and assaulted. Campus security found her hours later, badly beaten. She was able to identify her attacker, but died before she would see him brought to justice. It turned out that this guy had attacked and killed other college women. The thing that got to me about her case was the fact that the police had this guy in custody for one of the earlier attacks but had to let him go on lack of evidence. I always believed that my friend would be alive today if the police would have kept this guy under lock and key. It was only after I entered the police force myself that I realized it was the evidence in my friends attack that linked this guy with the other killings. I also found out how hard it is sometimes to get the killer before he kills again. Still, it doesn't make living with the fact that you might have prevented another murder if you had been more diligent about getting the guy after the first one any easier. I suppose that was the motivation that was driving me to work instead of rest.

The more I looked into the earlier murders, the more I realized Muff was probably right. We really didn't have any hard evidence to link the murders to this group. Maybe our guy, Albert Beckman, wasn't the killer. Maybe there is only one perp out there with sado-masochistic leanings. Still, it bothered me that Beckman was carrying a gun that night and that he ran when he saw us watching him. There were too many unanswered questions.

I looked up at the clock and saw that it was well past midnight. Shutting my laptop down for the night, I realized I was no closer to a solution than I was 5 hours earlier. I knew there was one thing I did want to do, but I didn't know if I would be allowed. I needed to talk to Mr. Beckman. Some how I knew he had a lot of the answers to the questions that were swimming around in my addled brain. I also was realistic enough to know he probably wouldnt be forthcoming with any answers, even if I were allowed to interview him. I laid down in frustration and tried to get some rest.



I must have been more tired than I was even aware of the night before. When I finally rolled over and looked at the clock beside my bed it was already 10:30. Shocked that I had slept in so late, I tried to get up and realized that my head was pounding. I laid back against my pillow and sighed. I had suffered migraines in the army and in college, but had not had a bad one since I graduated. I got up more slowly and went in search of the meds I had gotten for them.

While I was in the bathroom, after taking the meds for my headache, I decided to take a shower before I ate something. The warmth of the water felt good on my headache, even tho I rarely took a hot shower in the middle of the summer heat wave. The air conditioning in my building wasn't the greatest. Some of the heat and humidity seem to penetrate the brownstone exterior of my building and found its way into my apartment. I always preferred cool showers on such hot days, but today the warmer the water, the better it felt on my throbbing temples. I must have been in the bathroom longer than I realized, because when I was drying off, I heard the phone ring. Wrapping myself in my large towel, I went to my bedroom and picked up the receiver of my portable phone. Hello?

"You OK?" was the only answer on the other end.

"Muff?" I asked, even though I knew who it was. I couldn't help but identify the caller by his Hispanic accent.

"Who else you think it could be?" He laughed.

"Sorry, I am not really in the mood today," I said, rather shortly, I'm afraid, owing to the headache, I suppose.

"Hey, sorry, whats wrong?"

"Nothing a head amputation wouldn't cure," I answered him, trying to lighten the mood again.

"You don't sound too good," Muff said, with concern in his voice.

"It's just a migraine. I just woke up with it about an hour ago," I looked at my clock as I said this, noticing it was 11:30.

"Oh, sorry to hear it. You suffer with them too?"

"Occasionally. I think staying up too late doing more research brought this one on. The meds were starting to kick in and the pain was starting to lessen. I am guessing you know what I am going through."

"Yup, had them since I was a kid. And I wish you would have called me last night if you were going to do research. I was up half the night looking at this stuff too. I guess neither of us can let this go. At least we could have put our heads together about it."

I smiled. "Sounds like we are both too stubborn to know when to quit. I guess I am paying for mine this morning though. If I had been drinking, I would say I had a hangover, as bad as I feel."

"Well staring at a computer screen half the night can be worse than drinking sometimes, especially when the problem is nagging on your brain." The line went silent for a few minutes and started to wonder if he had hung up or had gotten disconnected. As I was about to call out his name, he spoke. "I have an idea."

"About the case," I asked hopefully.

"No, how to cure your headache."

"Thats ok; the meds are starting to kick in. I'll be ok. Thanks for the concern, though."

Muff paused again, but only briefly. Then he said, "Still, I think you should really get your mind off of this for a while. I don't want a partner who is going to get sick on me."

I really didn't have anything planned for today, just to rest and maybe go to the movies with him later. "What's the cure you had in mind?"

"How about a cruise up the Hudson?"

I knew what he was talking about. There were plenty of day liners who would take you up the Hudson River as far as the Tapenzee Bridge and back to Manhattan. I had never been on one before, being a good New Yorker; I left the tourist attractions to the tourists. I did enjoy boat rides. My dad had a friend who owned a boat he kept in a marina out in Mastic Beach and when I was growing up we would spend summers on the Great South Bay fishing and clamming. But I hadn't been on a boat since. Something about his proposal was appealing to me. One thing was for certain, I probably needed to get away from the city to get away from the problem.

"That sounds like a good idea."

"Great, then be ready to go in an hour." It was an order, not a request. In the state of mind I was in, I didn't have the strength to object. All I said was OK and he hung up.

Exactly one hour later, he honked his horn. I was ready for him. I told him he shouldn't call for me like that; the neighbors didn't like a lot of horns blowing. He apologized and told me he would remember not to blow his horn for me in the future.

We drove over to the west side and Muff parked his car in the lot marked Hudson Liner- All day tours up the Hudson River. We got out and went to the ticket booth. I got out my wallet and started to take out a $20 bill, but Muff shook his head and told me to put it away. "This was my idea and my treat."

But I started to object. Again, he knew what I was thinking.

"No buts. This isnt a date; its just one friend treating another. I am sure there will be opportunities to return the favor."

"OK, just this once, I guess." I could tell by his tone that he wasn't going to take no for an answer and my head was still kinda woozy from the earlier headache for me to have the strength of will to argue with him. He cheerfully paid for the tickets and we boarded the large passenger boat. It was a ferry style boat with three decks of bench seating. We headed up the stairs to the top deck, which was open to the air. "I hope you don't mind, but I think it would be more fun to be able to see more from this deck," he explained as we took a bench in the front row. "I have never been on a boat like this."

"Me neither and this is fine. The only boat I have been on was a small private boat on the Great South Bay."

"Great, then this will be an adventure for the both of us." As the boat slowly moved away from the pier, Muff got up and leaned out over the railing. I decided to join him. The breeze from the river and the motion of the boat was a refreshing change from the heat and humidity of the city. I looked out over the river and as we continued upstream, I allowed my eyes to be cooled by the sight of more and more trees that lined the banks. I had forgotten that we didn't live far from a more civilized place, a place that still had green and nature as its backdrop, instead of buildings and busy people going to and fro. I was starting to relax for the first time in months.

"Sure is pretty on this part of the river," Muff said with a sigh.

"Yup," I answered. I turned to him. "You ever been up this way before?"

"Not really, you?" he said.

"A few times, in the car. My dad would take us up to the Catskills to go camping occasionally. I always was surprised how many trees grew so close to the city. Even in Queens where I grew up there were too many buildings. I sometimes wondered why I didn't move."

"I bet you're the kind of person who needs the excitement of the city," Muff observed.

"Probably. Although some days I wonder if it is healthy," I answered.

"Like today?"

I just nodded and turned back to the river. The breeze was getting cooler and the trees more numerous. We were content to allow the scenery to heal our psyches in silence. Finally we came to the first stop in the tour, West Point. Muff asked me if I wanted to get out and walk around, and I said sure.

We decided to wander around on our own instead of follow the guided tour of the oldest military school in the country. Neither one of us had ever been, but both of us had heard of its long history. The buildings were air conditioned, but the grounds actually felt better to me. I usually liked viewing military history, but for some reason, I needed to be outside. After a quick walk through the museum, we got something to eat at the cafeteria and took it outside to one of the picnic tables by the river.

Muff seemed to be a creature of habit and I was falling in step with his routines. As we did at the cloisters, we ate our lunch in silence. I tried really hard not to think about work, concentrating instead on the warm breeze and watching the other tourists gathering around the other tables on the lawn. It was a pretty Saturday afternoon and many families had taken advantage of the time off to go sight seeing. It all looked so innocent and fun. There were many different nationalities represented and all seem to get along like the ugliness and evil we had been dealing with never existed. My heart seemed to cry out a lament to God, asking him why the evil and ugliness had to exist when this kind of peace and beauty was possible. I dunno what kind of expressions were on my face as I thought about this, but Muff broke me out of my gray study by asking me, "Is your headache coming back?"

"No why?" I answered.

"You had a pained look on your face a moment ago. I thought maybe you were having a relapse," Muff observed.

I let out a little snicker. "No just meditating on the irony of the peacefulness of this place as it compares to our normal lives." I took a sip of my ice tea. "Do you ever regret the path you chose for your life?"

Muff looked at me hard, but thought a minute. "Well I wish I had never gone to prison if that is what you mean."

"No, I know you would definitely do that part over, no I meant after that, going into law enforcement."

"Every time I have to look at a victim or tell a family that their loved one was brutally taken from them. I guess no one ever promised our job would be easy. But someone has to do it."

"Truth!" I crumpled up the wrapping my sandwich came in and looked around for the nearest trash container.

"And you?" Muff asked as I got up to throw out my trash. He followed with his own and the remains of our drinks. He handed me my cup and tossed his trash in the can after I did mine.

"Yes and no. I wish I didn't have to deal with the pain inflicted on people by the perps. But just because I don't want to do my job, doesn't mean evil will stop. Someone has to stand up to these people and say, enough is enough. I suppose I like to live by the motto, 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'."

"Edmund Burke," observed Muff.

"Yes I..."

Muff smiled, "I am fairly wide read. I didn't have much to do all those years in stir. Reading was a great way to pass the time. Besides, that is a pretty famous quote. You think if you don't do something, that the evil in this world will flourish. I supposed that is the motivation of most cops. Doing battle with the forces of evil is what we do most of the time."

I thought about this for a moment, wondering if he was baiting me into some sort of argument. "I dunno, I think battling evil is a pretty laudable reason for wanting to be a cop."

We started walking back to the boat. Muff continued, "Sure, it is better than some of the other reasons I have encountered."

I looked at him puzzled, "Such as?"

"Come on Jan, you know what I mean. I know you have run into cops with an unhealthy dose of gung-ho. All they want to do is exercise power over other human beings. There are plenty of power hungry people who become police so they can be the authority in peoples lives."

We walked up the stairs to the top deck and resumed our seats for the next part of our journey. I looked out over the rail and looked into the water below me. "You are right, Muff. I know some cops that seem to get off on the power trip of the job. I guess I'm just an idealist to believe that even those cops would have a deep down desire to see the right thing done."

"Are you thinking about quitting?" Muff asked me, out of the blue.

"No!" I answered emphatically. "That is, I don't want to quit, but it doesn't mean I don't think about it sometimes."

"That's natural. We all get to thinking about doing something else when the heat is on. Human defense mechanism I guess. I just wondered why you brought the subject up."

I thought about that for a minute and then realized that he avoided answering my initial question with his questions. I came to realize that Muff was good at this. But the nagging feeling in the back of my brain wouldn't let me let go of it. "You never answered my original question."

"Which was?" he asked.

"Do you ever regret the path you chose for your life?"

Muff looked me straight in the eye, "I did answer that. I said 'Every time I have to look at a victim or tell a family that their loved one was brutally taken from them'."

"Oh, yes. I think the heat of the day and the after effects of the headache were getting to me. "Sorry I guess I wasn't sure if that meant you would not be a cop if you had to do it over or not."

Muff grabbed my arm before I fell over on him. "You don't look to well." I was feeling woozy all of a sudden. Muff helped me to my feet and took me below deck, my arm draped over his shoulder, his hand around my side. Once we were below deck where it was darker and cooler, he sat me down on the nearest bench and told me to wait there. He proceeded to the nearest concession stand and bought two bottles of water. Returning to me he handed me one, after he opened the cap, and helped me to drink.

"Not too fast now..." He said as I started to gulp the water. My head started to get a little clearer and I sat up straight and said, "Thanks, I don't know what happened."

"It probably was the sun. Let's sit down here for a bit and maybe it will help you to feel better. The water should help too. Its easy on a day like today to get dehydrated."

I nodded my head slightly. I drank a good half of the bottle Muff gave me in a short time. I didn't really realize how thirsty I had become. "I hope you don't think I am some sort of dizzy dame now," I said jokingly.

Muff laughed. "Nah just overworked and underpaid like the rest of us flatfoots. It just caught up with you, thats all. Feeling better?"

"A little." I took out a bandana I kept in my bag and wiped my forehead with it. "I guess it is hotter than I thought. And I think the motion of the boat might be getting to me too."

Muff looked out of one of the observation windows and said, "Looks like we are at the Tapenzee Bridge. We should be making our turn to head back in a few minutes. You gonna make it?"

"Do I have a choice?" I smiled a weak smile. "Don't worry about me, I'll be just fine."

Muff sat back down next to me and took the bandana from my hands. He poured some of his water on the cloth and then began to wipe my face with it. The coolness of the water soaked cloth felt good on my forehead, especially with his large strong, yet surprisingly gentle hands doing the caressing. For a moment I began to forget where I was and who I was with. The world started to spin again and I felt a strong arm helping me to lay down on something soft. I didn't fight it.

Next thing I knew, Muff was waking me. We were pulling into the pier. I looked up at my partner and asked, "Did I sleep the whole way back?"

"Yeah, you musta been tired."

"Damn, what a waste of a boat ride," I muttered.

"Well if it got you to get some well needed rest, then it wasn't a total waste," Muff observed as he helped me to a sitting and then a standing position. My knees buckled slightly and I noticed the air had gotten thick and harder to breathe.

"I always seem to notice how polluted the air around here is when I have been away from it for a while," I remarked.

"Yeah," Muff responded. "Are you sure youre going to be OK?"

I looked at my watch. It was after 8 and the sun was starting to go down. We had gotten to the boat around 12:30 and didn't eat lunch till almost 2:30. I figured it was too late to go to the movies. "Yeah, but I think I have had enough activity for one day. Would you just take me home, por favor? Sorry about the movies."

"Too late now," Muff said. "Sure I'll take you home, but don't you want some dinner first?"

"Probably, but maybe I can fix us both something at the apartment. I feel kinda cruddy right now and all I want to do is go home and shower."

Muff nodded as he helped me into his car. I felt so helpless, but I had a feeling I knew what might be behind my spell this afternoon. I needed to get home right away.

We sped through midtown traffic and made good time to my brownstone. I got upstairs with Muffs help and headed straight for the bathroom. Muff let me go. I wasn't really thinking about him while I was taking care of business. I discovered I was right about the cause of my sickness. While I was cleaning up, I heard Muff mutter through the bathroom door. "Hey, Jan, let me go out to the nearest store and get some things and I will be back and fix us some dinner while you take your shower."

"OK," I answered him. I was too weak to argue with him. I got up from the toilet, and stripped and got in the shower. This time the water was tepid and it helped to revive me. By the time I finished the shower and getting dressed, Muff came back from the store. Feeling a little better, I asked him if I could help with the dinner preparations. He did most of the work. I mostly just let him know where I kept things.

When the dinner was ready, which consisted of a couple of steaks, a green salad and two baked potatoes, we sat down to eat. Muff was characteristically quiet during the dinnertime preparations, only asking me for utensils. I was still too tired to talk anyway. But after we said a quick grace, he started the questions I knew would come.

"I am worried about you, partner. You gonna make it? You look better now that you have showered, but you still seem weak."

I took a bite of the steak, figuring the red meat might help me. "Yeah, I should have guessed what was wrong with the migraine. This is just a female thing, made worse by the heat and the stress. I haven't gotten this bad with it in a long time, so I guess it took me by surprise."

"You tellin' me this is all just your monthly?"

"Well that and the stress and the heat. I am not normally this sick every month, if that is what you are worried about." I was starting to get a little indignant, wondering where my partner was going with this. I had read about male cops resenting female cops who complain about PMS every month. I guess I could understand where they are coming from, they depend on their partners to be sharp on the job, it could be life or death if they aren't, and I know some women who are really paralyzed by their periods.

"Well, yes and no. This is not a normal occurrence. Normally I am fine, but this month I guess I let my body run down too much and it hit harder than it normally does. I should be alright." As I told Muff this, I was really trying to convince myself as well. I had gotten sick with periods before, but never this sick. The migraine and the exhaustion could be menstrual related; at least I hoped they were. I shuddered to think it could be something else.

Muff seemed satisfied by my answer and we ate in silence once more. After dinner, he helped me get the dishes in the sink. I told him I needed to rest some more. He asked me if I wanted to go to the movies tomorrow, and I put him off, telling him that Sundays were reserved for my mom. He said, "Another time, perhaps. The Marx Brothers are playing all month."

"OK, maybe. Thanks again for your understanding and the trip. I did enjoy it, in spite of getting sick."

"De nada, just rest tonight, OK? NO work, and that's an order."

"Si senor," I answered. "Good night Muff, see you Monday." I opened the door for him.

"I'll call you tomorrow sometime, to see how you are doing." He smiled at me from the hallway. "I mean it, Jan, please rest. You are no good to me if you are all run down. And you have the grand jury on Monday too. You need to rest."

"I know and I promise I will." Actually I was still too weak to do much else but rest. Muff reached over to my face and planted a kiss on my forehead. "I know that isn't very professional, but after letting you sleep in my lap this afternoon, I didn't think a handshake would be appropriate."

I smiled, thinking about lying in his soft lap. "It's ok, for now at least. Good night Muff."

"Buenas noches," Muff said as he turned, waved, and walked down the stairs. I closed my door and went straight to bed. I couldn't help but think of lying in Muff's lap, feeling him stroke my forehead with the cool cloth as I slowly drifted to sleep. Muff had succeeded in putting work the furthest thing from my mind. I would be grateful for that fact later on.

Chapter 4

Sunday would come and go as peacefully as my mother would let it. Sundays were always reserved for her, the one day out of my busy week that I allowed my family to intrude on my life. I will admit Sundays were a whole lot more pleasant when my dad was still alive. He and I would talk about baseball, fishing, the weather, or a host of other things. All my mother wanted to do was talk about my personal life and how she wasn’t getting any younger. She expected that I would give her grandchildren someday. It didn’t matter that my brother and his wife had given her two. She always answers that it isn’t the same thing since she sees them so infrequently. Every Sunday when I would get ready to travel out to her place in Queens I would wonder why I continued to subject myself to her barrage of questions about my supposed love life. But in spite of her prying, I did love my mom. She was the only family I had anymore, since my brother moved so far away.

Mom never got rid of my dad’s stuff in his den. After dinner, when she was watching her shows on TV, I would spend hours sitting in his old brown barker lounger in his den, reading one of his books or just looking through the old photo albums he kept there. It was my way of visiting him every week. I never felt his presence at the cemetery where we buried his remains, but I swore I could feel him in this room. It was a comfort to me. This Sunday, as I rode the subway out to the station near my old home, I was thinking of my weekly visit to my dad’s room and thinking how I wished he was really there in the flesh. With all that had happened to me in the past week, I really could have used his quiet wisdom.

I decided not to tell my mom too much about Muff, only that he was my new partner. I had spoken to my mom the day Jim was killed and she knew about my being reassigned to the one two seven. I had been out so much since the reassignment that I didn’t get a chance to speak to her about Muff. It was probably for the best. I knew the grilling I would get from her about him and I wanted to put that off as long as I could. She would always ask me about the single guys in my precinct, but when I told her that none of them were worth dating, that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to get involved in a relationship with another cop, she backed off. Jim was never an issue, since he was married, but when she found out that my new partner wasn’t married, I am sure that would be fodder for more inquiry on her part. I laughed to myself thinking about this, maybe I got my instincts for getting to the bottom of a problem from her after all. Mom would have made a great cop!

After getting off the subway at Jamaica station, I walked the ten blocks to my old home. Mom always hired a local group of handymen she knew to do the yearly repairs on the place. When my dad got sick and couldn’t keep up the place to his satisfaction, he hired these men and gave them very specific instructions about what needed to be done. When he died, my mom kept the same people, since they knew exactly how she wanted things done. Because of this attention to detail my house never looked like it changed at all.

My mother always cooked too much food. I usually allowed myself to eat more than I did most of the week, but my stomach hadn’t really recovered from being sick the day before. I knew my mother would be full of questions about not eating, so I tried to force myself and hoped she wouldn’t notice. She did. Like I said, she would make a good cop, because she notices everything. I told her that the heat got to me yesterday and I hadn’t fully recovered. She asked why I wasn’t in the air conditioning on such a hot day and I told her that I didn’t like being cooped up in an apartment all day, and I went out for awhile. I wound up admitting that I was out with my new partner and telling her more than I had planned on about him. She got that grandmotherly look in her eyes and I clammed up. I learned long ago that not saying anything was better than trying to dissuade her.

After dinner she settled in her lazy-boy in front of the TV with her crocheting. I headed back to Dad’s den. She knew I needed my time with my father, even if it was in spirit. She never expected that I would keep her company the whole day. I was extra grateful of this today. I even gave her an uncharacteristic kiss on the cheek on the way back, thanking her for dinner. She smiled at me and said she was glad I still wanted time to be with dad’s memory. I suspected she spent time back there too, when she was feeling lonely. Thinking about her being lonely made me feel a bit selfish about the way I ragged on her about her nosing into my personal life. After all, I was all she had close by. I promised myself I would be less critical of her inquiries in the future.

Opening the door to the den, I was greeted with the smell of cherry tobacco and old leather. My dad wasn’t a frequent smoker, but he did enjoy a pipe full of cherry tobacco when he was working on a project or just trying to unwind from a particularly stressful day. I always made sure he was well supplied with some, giving it to him every birthday, Christmas and Father’s day. I looked around, wondering what I wanted to get into first, when I decided I just needed to sit and close my eyes. I grabbed his favorite pipe from the rack on his desk, an elaborately carved barrel made out of oak with seagulls on the sides. I remembered back to the day we were in a small tobacco shop in one of the seaport towns out on the eastern end of Long Island. It had been on one of our frequent trips out to the eastern end. Dad’s eyes lit up when he saw the pipe, but then put it down when he saw how much it cost. He would spend a fortune on my mother or I if he knew it would have made us happy, but he hardly ever spent much on himself. I went back a week later on my own and bought the pipe and put it in the pipe rack the next time I visited home. He never said a word, it wasn’t his style, but it was the pipe he used from that moment on.

Taking the pipe I went to the lounger sitting in the corner of the den, next to the shelf of books. Sitting in the soft folds of the fragrant old leather chair, I allowed it to swallow me as my dad’s arms had done when I was little. I closed my eyes and put the tip of the pipe in my mouth, sucking on the end so I could breathe in the aroma of the tobacco oils that still coated the inside of the pipe. Smelling the presence of my dad all around me, I started to picture him in my minds eye. He looked like he did when I was about 16, still healthy, with a touch of gray around his temples. I found myself wordlessly telling him about my week and asking him for advice about one or two things. I dunno if I expected him to answer me, but seeing him smile at me, I knew a peace at that moment that my soul missed. A tear trickled from the corner of my right eye, and instead of brushing it aside; I allowed its warmth to linger on my cheek.

When I opened my eyes, night had fallen and I realized I had fallen asleep in my dad’s old chair. The pipe had fallen from my lips and landed in my lap. I lovingly removed it and slowly got up, turning on the lamp on the stand beside the lounger. I replaced the pipe in the rack on the desk and took one last look around the room. I wanted to spend more time there, but I knew I needed to get back to the city before it got too late. The subways weren’t safe, especially at night, for a single white female. I knew I would be ok, owing to my training as a Army MP and a NYC cop, but the perps didn’t know that and I wasn’t in the mood to fend off an attack that night. I said goodbye to my mom and took the obligatory care package of the leftovers from dinner. Walking the ten blocks back to the Jamaica subway station I reluctantly made my way home to my Greenwich Village apartment.


Muff was prompt as always picking me up on Monday morning. I never paid much attention to the way I looked except when I knew I would be appearing in court. My military training in the Army forced me to look my best when appearing in formal situations. I had forgotten Muff had not seen me in my court attire. On a policeperson’s salary one can’t go crazy buying expensive clothes, but I did have two really nice outfits I always wore to court. Both had to be dry-cleaned, so I didn’t wear them except for very special occasions. Normally Muff would just lean over and open the door for me, but when he saw me walk down the steps of my brownstone in my navy skirt set, he quickly got out of the car and came around to the passenger side opened the door for me. "Mami, you had better not come up to my neighborhood looking like that, I might lose you as a partner!" Then he let out a low wolf whistle.

I wrinkled up my nose at him, not knowing what to respond, as I carefully entered his car. The skirt on my suit wasn’t too short, but I wasn’t used to wearing dresses and skirts, opting for slack sets for most normal work days. I don’t dress slovenly, that would be against the detective’s dress code, but I definitely dress with comfort in mind. Maneuvering in a skirt was something I always found awkward, especially getting in and out of cars, and Muff’s reaction to my outfit had me feeling more than the usual amount of uneasiness. I caught him watching me as I struggled to get my skirt in a comfortable position. "You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?"

"You got it," he said with a smile that bordered on a leer.

I shook my head. "Well this is sure a side of you I never thought was there. What happened to my gallant partner who was all concerned about my health on Saturday?"

Muff sprinted around the back side of the car and slid into his seat with one smooth motion, almost accenting the struggle I had with my entrance. I frowned, wondering why he felt the need to make fun of me, especially on this, of all days, the day I felt so nervous about my appearance in front of the grand jury. I must have had my displeasure displayed on my face because as Muff started the car, he looked at me and said, "I am sorry if I insulted you. I know how nervous you must be. Testifying in court is my least favorite thing to do as a cop and I know how nervous it makes me feel. I suppose I just have this habit of joking around in order to diffuse some of the nervousness. Forgive me for being a cad."

I managed a weak smile. "It’s ok; I guess you took me off guard, that’s all. I didn’t know you had a wicked sense of humor."

"The worst," he grinned and pulled out into traffic. "Actually you do look very nice today. You should wear skirts more often and show off those pretty legs of yours."

"And be a constant distraction for you? I don’t think so, my friend," slinging a little of my wicked humor back at him.

"Touché!" Muff exclaimed and we drove in silence for a few miles. At the first red light, Muff asked, "When do you have to be at the courthouse?"

"Not until 11. I am sure the Captain has a lot of work for you to do. I can take a cab."

"No, actually I talked to Capt. Jackson last night and he thought it would be a good idea to escort you to court and see what I could find out about our case as it relates to your other cases. He said that Dets. Jensen and Poole should be there and I have some things I want to discuss with them. Remember, I have two cases like this to investigate."

"Oh?" was all I could say. "I didn’t know that Mike and Larry were going to be there today?"

"Yes, seems they are testifying in another case. Capt. Jackson thought we might have some time to confer on these cases. He told me last night that he was taking us off of all other work, only cases that might be similar."

"Why?" All of this seemed highly irregular to me.

"Well… seems our crimes maybe part of a series of murders after all. I told the Captain last night that I got a couple of emails from other precincts about murders with the same M.O."

My face fell and I slumped down in my seat. Somehow I suspected that this would be the case, but I had hoped I was wrong. "Where?"

"One in Brooklyn and two in the Bronx, so Manhattan isn’t the only place this perv is doing his thing."

"I thought you were only emailing precincts in Manhattan?"

"Well I got to thinking and decided to cast a wider net." Muff got really serious. "Damn." He parked the car in front of the precinct and got out.

I managed to get out with more finesse than I did getting in, maybe because I was distracted from my appearance by the latest news. "What?" I asked, reacting to his exclamation.

"Nothing, just that I had hoped I would be wrong about more murders."

"Me too," noticing once more how he and I had been thinking the same thing.

As we entered the squad room Captain Jackson had his head out of his door, signaling us to come in. We headed straight for his office, only stopping to put our things on our desks. The look on his face told us it was urgent.

Capt. Jackson closed the door behind us and told us to sit down. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I anticipated what he could have called us in for.

"Look you two; there has been another of these mutilation murders last night, this time over on Staten Island. With the six at the three four, the two we have had here, and the three you told me about last night, Muff, this one makes it an even dozen. I just got a call from One Police Plaza and the Mayor is on the back of the chief of police to get these murders solved. Since Greig was the lead detective on the first of these murders, it looks like you two are on the hot seat to get them solved. Chief Mansfield has personally put the two of you in charge of all of the cases in the five boroughs. You have both been taken off of any other cases you might have open and are to concentrate all of your efforts on these alone. Every homicide cop in New York has been told to give you all the information they have and their full cooperation."

"I didn’t think we had jurisdiction over the other boroughs," I said.

Jackson shook his head. "No, normally we stay in our own back yard and if something turns out to be bigger than we are, we call in the feds. The thing of it is, since most of the murders have happened in Manhattan, Mansfield is feeling pressure from the Mayor to get these things solved by our own cops. I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect that there was a lot of heat on the phone lines last night setting up this special taskforce. If any arrests are made and it is determined that the perp or perps in these cases have crossed jurisdictional lines, we are to cooperate fully with each of the individual DA’s in the other boroughs to have them tried in the respective jurisdictions. So far, your friends in the three four," Jackson paused momentarily, shuffling some papers on his desk looking for information, "Jensen and Poole will be joining you on the taskforce. Since Manhattan has most of the cases, the precincts in the other boroughs are to be sending you all their information. If you need any help from them, you are to call and they are to provide additional manpower."

My head spun with this latest news. I don’t know if it was the heat of the outside coupled with the cold of Capt. Jackson’s office, but I started to shiver. Muff looked at me and suddenly said, "You OK Greig?" Captain Jackson got up and came over to me and asked the same thing.

I looked at both the men with a puzzled look. "Sure, fine, I.. I’m just a little cold, that’s all."

"And pale…," Muff added. He got up and went out of the office and a moment later brought a bottle of water back and handed it to me. I thanked him and opened it, taking a healthy swig. I smiled and thanked Muff. The Captain looked at the two of us suspiciously. "Is there something I should know about?"

I shook my head and sat up, trying to reassure the captain with a no nonsense stance. "No, I am fine. The heat has been getting to me lately, that and the shock of hearing what you just told us."

"Look, I know the two of you are still new to homicide, but I am betting your brains against anyone else’s on the Island. I know you will be able to wrap this up. I told Mansfield that last night when I convinced him that you two were the perfect people to put in charge of this taskforce. Frankly your inexperience was a factor against you, but as I told Mansfield…"

Muff cut in, "You mean we weren’t the first to be considered for the job?"

Jackson looked uncomfortable, sweating in the near artic conditions of his air conditioned office. "Well, no, actually, when I called him to update him on our cases, he told me about your inquiries. Seems some of the other precincts had been calling him asking about you Muff. Damnit, you should always check with me first before you start emailing other precincts asking about their cases. You know how territorial detectives can be about their cases. Anyway, when Mansfield heard how widespread these murders had become, he got all concerned and called the Mayor. The last thing either one of them wants is another Son of Sam incident. That’s when the Mayor ordered up the taskforce and Mansfield called me to find out what the two of you had been up to with your cases. After a lot of persuasion, I got him to see that the two of you were the logical choice to head this thing."

"Thanks," Muff said in a rather sarcastic tone of voice.

"Now, wait, Muff," I countered. "I know this is a lot of work and responsibility, but think about it, if some other detectives got the job, we wouldn’t be in on getting these perps. I don’t know about you, but after seeing 7 of the 12 bodies in person, I want to nail these bastards personally. I owe that much to Jim."

"You’re right, it’s just that Mansfield’s right too, I mean, how much experience do either of us have with serial killers?" asked Muff.

Jackson looked at the two of us with sincerity in his dark eyes. "I know the two of you are new to this, but between the two of you, you have amassed more information on possible suspects than anyone else has. I know you can do this."

"And it would make you look pretty good down at One Police Plaza," Muff said, with more sarcasm in his voice.

"Damnit Muff, I am not going to sit here and lie to you. A collar like this would make us all look good, but that isn’t why I did it. I really think the two of you can bust these guys. So, do I tell Mansfield he has his lead detectives for the taskforce?"

"You mean we aren’t official yet?" I asked, incredulously. "You made it sound like…"

"I know, I know," Jackson fired back. "But I was afraid you would say no if I asked you to head this taskforce up. I thought if I told you that you were doing it, you wouldn’t have room to turn us down."

I looked at Muff, deciding that I wanted in, but knowing that I wouldn’t really want to do it if he didn’t agree to go along with it. For me, this had become personal, since Jim’s murder was probably tied into it, but I wasn’t sure if Muff felt the same way I did. I tried not to look at him with pleading in my eyes, but that uncanny ability he had of reading my mind must have been at work once again, because he just sighed and said, "We’re in. What now?"

Jackson let out a large audible sigh of relief. "Nothing right this moment. The cops down at the Staten Island incident will be emailing you with all their info as soon as they complete their investigation. If there is anything in particular you would like them to look for, email them today. Here is their address." Jackson handed Muff a card, which he put in his pocket. "The next thing to do is meet up with Jensen and Poole at the court house. I suggest you spend the time between now and then going over what you do know and deciding on a plan of action, since you are now coordinating 12 cases in 5 different jurisdictions."

"Good idea," Muff said as we took our leave. I prepared myself for the blast of heat that always accompanies a departure from the air-conditioning of the captain’s office, but was surprised to feel cool wafting in the air outside the door. I looked at Muff and then back at the captain with astonishment on my face.

Jackson just smiled, "Oh, I see they finally got around to fixing the air-conditioning in the squad room. Guess some things do get a priority." And he winked at me as he closed the door to his office.

"Damn," Muff exclaimed. "What a way to get our air-conditioning fixed."

"Well at least it is," I said sitting down and unpacking my computer. "If we do have to do this unpleasant job, the least we can expect is to do it in relative comfort."

While we were putting together a plan of action, we were to discover that more perks were to come with the job of heading up the taskforce. Workmen arrived about an hour later to put up temporary walls for an office. Two more desks and four regular PCs were also brought up to be installed in the small makeshift office. It was a good thing we had to leave to go to court; it would give the workman time to assemble our new digs. As we left the squad room, we were given jealous glares from some of the other detectives working at their desks. At least everyone in the room was benefiting from the newly repaired air-conditioning. Muff shrugged it off when I mentioned the looks to him in the car. "They have no idea what kind of a hot seat the two of us are going to be in till this whole thing is over, just remember that when you are ignoring the hostile looks of our fellow employees."

"Truth," I said. He was right, as exciting as it would be to finally solve these cases and put the perps behind bars, I knew we would be drawing a lot of heat from the rest of the force, not to mention from the public. I tried to put all of that out of my mind on the way over to court, trying to concentrate instead on my up coming testimony.

We met Mike Poole outside one of the court rooms, pacing up and down. I asked him where Larry was and he said he was on the stand now. Mike apparently was waiting to be called in. I knew Mike pretty well; he didn’t take waiting very patiently. He looked more like a caged tiger pacing back and forth. "You’re going to wear a rut in the floor if you don’t sit down," I said.

"Like you are going to be able to sit, relaxed, waiting for your turn over at the grand jury?" Mike shot back. Then he immediately apologized. "Sorry, that was a low blow."

"But deserved. Forget it," I said, not getting angry with him. It was hard to get angry with Mike, with his boyish charm. I had a long standing crush on him, but knew that was a hopeless cause since he was married. His wife, Nancy, and I had become good friends over the past 15 months that I knew Mike. I always envied her, though. Guys like Mike were a rare breed.

Muff went over to Mike and started to tell him about their new assignment. I let Muff break the news, since I was trying to concentrate on my testimony. I sat down on a bench next to where the two men were talking in low tones. Thinking of my relationship with Mike and now my new relationship with Muff, I couldn’t help but compare the two of them in my mind. Mike was shorter than Muff by at least 4 inches, but he had broader shoulders. Mike was of Scotch/Irish decent with a little Brit thrown in for good measure, mostly from his father’s side. His looks were more from his mom’s side of the family tho, the sandy red hair and Scotch/Irish ruggedness. Muff’s darker, Hispanic complexion and hair really made the two of them look like an odd pair. The thing I was beginning to notice about the two of them though was they seemed to have the same kind of outgoing, playful nature. Muff was a bit more brooding at times, but I guess being an ex con can do that to a person. Larry Jensen, the missing detective in our newly formed team, was the quietest of the four of us. He was a bit more like me in regards to both nationality and nature. Larry wasn’t married either, but had a steady girlfriend in Jersey City where he lived. He was Danish and French, tall with blond hair, and very little sense of humor. I always wondered how Mike got along with him, but then again, maybe he did the same way Muff and I seemed to get along. Mike and Larry had been partners for about 4 years, long before I made detective. I was sure we would make a good foursome. They had the experience I lacked. I wasn’t sure about Muff’s experience, but I was guessing, from the way the captain talked, we were both a bit green when it came to this sort of case. I would be grateful for Mike and Larry being on our side.

I was interrupted from my introspection by a bailiff telling me I was wanted down the hall in the grand jury room. Larry hadn’t come out of his court room yet and Mike and Muff had found a seat on a near by bench, continuing their conversation. Muff and Mike both flashed me a good luck smile and Muff put his thumb in the air. I gave them a bit of a worried smile back and walked behind the bailiff, not wanting to keep the grand jury waiting.

I took my place on the stand and was sworn in. I knew that this part of the proceedings would be easier than testifying in the actual trial. The purpose of the grand jury is to ascertain whether or not there is enough evidence to call for a bill of indictment against a defendant. In this case, a grand jury shouldn’t have been necessary, but since the defendant was claiming it was self-defense, the DA was obligated to convene the grand jury. Fortunately, the DA is the only one who presents evidence in a grand jury hearing. The defendant may or opt not to take the stand in his own defense, usually the defense lawyers advise their clients against testifying. It is usually the only influence the defense lawyer has in the proceedings. They cannot object, but can appeal to the judge if they feel their client is getting an unfair shake. Basically it is the DA who must present their evidence to show there is enough to take the defendant to trial. The jurors are allowed to ask questions, but many rely solely on the evidence presented by the DA. I had a feeling that this grand jury might be a bit different, since the defendant was claiming self-defense. I wondered if Mr. Beckman would take the stand. Essentially, I was most of the DA’s case, since I was the only eye witness to the shooting. Mr. Beckman was fighting for his life, since the indictment would be Murder One if it was returned. That would carry the possibility of the death penalty in our state, since NY comes down hard on cop killers.

The ADA assigned to this case was Peter Franklin. I knew him from many of my other cases in the three four. He was a hard working ADA, usually on the side of the cops. You might think that all DAs and cops work together, but there has been animosity between these two branches of law over the years, owing to cops bending the rules of evidence gathering in order to collar a criminal, only to have their evidence thrown out of court on procedure technicalities. Peter was one of those rare ADAs who stuck his neck out on the line to preserve most of what the cops gathered. The cops I worked with respected him and always tried to follow the letter of the law when they knew Peter might be involved in taking their case to court. I was glad to see his face when I took the stand.

Peter had me present my eye witness testimony as to what had transpired the night Jim was shot. I basically repeated the account I had told the police review board and Captain Jackson the day I reported to the one twenty seven. Peter asked me why Det. O’Riley and I were in pursuit of Mr. Beckman. I knew this question would come up, since this went to the motivation about the shooting. Recounting what had happened was easy. Finding the right words to answer the why was the part I loathed. I had thought long and hard about this very question. I took a drink of water from the glass provided in the box and said, "Mr. Beckman was under investigation for a series of crimes that we are currently working on. Since these investigations are still open, I am not at liberty to discuss them here. We were staking out his apartment, trying to ascertain his movements in connection with these crimes when it appeared that the defendant had spotted us from his apartment window. My partner, Det. O’Riley had witnessed Mr. Beckman looking out of the window and then moving away from it in a suspicious manner. Det. O’Riley told me about this suspicious action and said he was going out to confront the suspect. I stayed in the car long enough to call for back up and then went in pursuit of my partner. When I got to the roof, the two men had their guns trained on each other and the rest is as I have already stated."

"It has been suggested by the defendant that he fired in self-defense, owing to the fact that he was shot by you as he fired at Det. O’Riley," countered Mr. Franklin.

"I did shoot the defendant in the hand in an attempt to disarm him. Jim--I mean Det. O’Riley was momentarily distracted when I came on the scene. He never even fired his weapon. I don’t think he would have fired unless the defendant had fired on him first. I did hear him tell the suspect to drop his weapon before I was able to see the two of them. Because he was distracted, he was unable to dodge the path of the defendant’s bullet. Police are instructed to use deadly force in clear cut cases of danger, but most of us avoid it if we think we can talk a suspect out of using their weapon. For the record, Jim O’Riley had never killed a suspect in his 25 years on the force. He always believed a live suspect was worth more to an investigation than a dead one."

"Do you agree with his view?"

"Yes I do. Like I stated, I fired at Mr. Beckman’s hand only, in order to disarm him. Unfortunately for Jim—I mean Det. O’Riley, I fired too late."

One of the jurors raised his hand and Peter acknowledged him. He stood up and asked, "Det. Greig, why didn’t your partner wait until the two of you could be together when you confronted the suspect?"

"I believe my partner thought time was of the essence. I didn’t see the look on the suspect’s face, but Det. O’Riley did. I trusted his judgment when he told me the suspect looked like he was going to get away. I knew we had to have backup, so when Det. O’Riley went in pursuit, I took the time needed to call for the backup and then followed him as soon as I could."

The juror didn’t seem satisfied. "Could the defendant think his life was in danger if there was only one police officer on the scene pointing a gun at him?"

"I can’t say…" I fidgeted in my seat. I knew Jim’s rash action to go in pursuit of Mr. Beckman on his own would be the fly in the ointment. I didn’t know if anyone would pick up on it at this phase of the game. I knew this is what the defense lawyer would use as the crux of his self-defense theory. When it is only the word of the shooter against a cop it is in the suspect’s best interest to see that the cop can’t testify against him. On the other hand, cops have been known to turn it the other way around if they are the only ones left alive in such a confrontation. I thought if I could answer this juror with just the right words, it might make the defense’s case weaker when it went to trial. "All I can say for sure is the defendant didn’t fire at my partner till he saw that I had come on the scene. I am certain that he knew I was there before he pulled the trigger."

The juror thanked me and sat down. Peter asked the jury pool if anyone else had any questions for me and when none had, I was dismissed.

When I exited the court room I found Muff and Larry sitting side by side on the same bench that Mike had occupied with my partner when I went in. Muff got up when I approached them and asked how it went. I guess the let down of the adrenalin from the stress I was under kicked in at that moment, because I started to get weak in the knees as I said, "It was ok." Muff grabbed a hold of me and helped me to sit down on the bench next to Larry. "I really think you should see a doctor about these fainting spells."

Larry looked at me hard and I waved my hand, trying not to look as sick as I was feeling at that moment. "I’m ok, it is probably just nerve let down." I looked at my watch hoping for another excuse to fend off the concern. "And it is after lunch too, so my blood sugar is probably low." In another attempt to take the concern off of me, I asked, "How long has Mike been in there?"

"About 45 minutes," answered Larry. Muff went to the vending machines and got me a bottle of water.

"Well they should be breaking for lunch soon, I would think. You think you two would be free to go to lunch with us when Mike gets out?"

Larry looked at his watch, "You’re right, and sure. This was our last duty to an old case. According to your partner, we are working for you two now."

I wrinkled up my nose. Larry was the oldest person on the force, as far as years of service. I am sure it didn’t set too well with him that a couple of relative rookies were in charge. He would never let on that it bothered him, but I knew it had to. "Look, maybe our name is on the top of the paperwork, but we are a team, OK? I am depending on your expertise and experience to help us."

"Sure, Greig. You know we are team players."

I gave Jensen my warmest smile. "I know, Larry, and I must say if I wanted anyone on my side it would be you and Mike. To be honest, I only agreed to do this because I knew you two would be working with us and the fact that I am doing this for Jim."

Larry gave me an uncharacteristic smile back. "Hell, Janice, you aren’t fooling me. I know you and Jim didn’t get along that well. But I know what you mean. A partner is a partner and it is part of the job to want to avenge your partner’s death, no matter how you got along with them."

"Thanks for understanding." I looked up at the courtroom doors as they opened and saw Mike enter the hallway and make his way over to the bench. He saw Muff and Larry hovering over me like a couple of mother hens and asked, "Everything alright here?"

"Why does everyone always ask me that? Do I look that pathetic?"

Mike jumped back a bit. "Geez, sorry I asked."

Muff said, "Jan has just been a bit under the weather the past few days, probably a combination of the stress and the heat. She’ll be ok," and he looked at me and added, "right?"

"Yes, Dr. Kovack. Thanks for the diagnosis. I will be just fine." I got up and started to walk toward the doors. "I think it is time for lunch, if you gentlemen will concur. We have too much work ahead of us to be concerned with my health. All I need right now is something to eat and I will be fine."

I was able to catch a glimpse of Muff sneering at my sarcasm. Mike slapped him on the shoulder as the three guys followed me out the door. "Get used to it, my friend. She can be a bear when people get too close." I didn’t dignify that remark with an answer. Mike was essentially right. I didn’t like people prying into my private affairs. It was probably better if Muff got to know that side of me as soon as he could. Besides, I had to work with these three on the biggest case of my life and I needed them all to be on my good side. No sense antagonizing them. I just quietly wished men wouldn’t treat females like they were weak and needed their help all the time.


Since Muff’s Impala was bigger than Larry’s little Honda Civic, we all decided to take the Impala out to lunch. We would drop by the courthouse to pick up Larry’s car on the way back to the precinct. Parking is a nightmare in the city, so anytime you could use one person’s car, the better. Mike made a comment about the age of the Impala, but was impressed when he got in and felt how smoothly it rode. That got Muff and Mike talking about cars. Larry and I pretty much stayed silent on our way over to Harry’s Bar and Grill.

Lunch seemed to revive me, as I thought it would. We spent much of our lunch break talking about our respective day in court. I told Mike and Larry it looked like Peter Franklin might be able to get the grand jury to return the indictment for murder one. They were both glad to hear that Peter was on Jim’s case. As I said before, Peter is well respected among the cops I knew. I didn’t discuss the particulars, since that is taboo, but I was able to tell them that Peter would probably be giving me a call when the grand jury was over. He usually did on cases I was involved with. I suspected Peter would like to have a more than professional relationship with me, but I don’t date DAs for the same reason I avoid relationships with other cops, too much conflict of interest involved.

After a quick lunch, Muff drove back to the court house and Larry and Mike picked up Larry’s car. As we drove back to the precinct, Muff brought me up to speed about the conversations he had with Mike and Larry at the court house. I was glad the focus was back on the investigation.

At the precinct, we met Larry and Mike in the lobby signing in. Muff agreed to take the two upstairs to our new office while I went to the ladies room. I had taken a change of clothing with me, since I knew it might be a long day and the last thing I wanted to do was work in a skirt. When I entered the squad room, I could see the workman had wasted no time setting up the walls of the office we would be working out of. I opened the door that was installed on one of the temporary walls and saw Muff under one of the desks plugging in a PC. Larry was re arranging things on his desk and Mike was just standing there, helping Muff by feeding him wires. He looked up and said, "Damn, the scenery is gone."

"Like I told Muff this morning, you don’t need the distraction." I could have resented this, but I decided that if the guys were going to be guys, I would have to get used to it. I sat down at my desk and turned on the PC. Muff must have already hooked up ours, since it booted right up. I took a cable out of my laptop case and hooked my laptop to the PC to download all the files I had stored on there. Muff crawled out from under the desk and went over to Larry’s desk to hook up his computer. "It would have been nice of the workman to hook these things up before they left."

"Yeah, well leave it to maintenance to do the least it can do. Besides, they probably would have wired things up backwards," I answered. Muff looked at me as if to question me about the change in my outfit, but shrugged his shoulders instead and went back to work.

Muff repeated the hookup procedures for the fourth time, by my estimation. By the time he was finished I was printing out pictures of the victims in the eight cases we had so far. I knew we would be adding four more to the board later. The workmen had installed a large magnetic whiteboard on the one permanent wall of the office. I posted the pictures I was printing out in the order of the crimes. Mike saw what I was doing and took the marker and wrote the names of the victims, the date and place where they were found and the precinct number in charge of the case, as Larry read them out to him from my computer screen. He was only able to put in blank spaces on the four we still needed to check into. Muff finished the hookup of the computers by networking them together to save time sharing data. When Mike had the pictorial time line finished, I picked up another marker and wrote in the date of Jim’s death in the appropriate place on the time line. By the time this was completed, Muff was done with the hookups and we were ready to begin.

I wasn’t sure if I would be the one to lead this investigation, the captain had not indicated who would actually be in charge, but since I had coordinated the preliminary data on the board, I felt I should start. Muff and Mike were leaning on the edges of desks and Larry was still sitting at my desk. I was at the board when I began, "This is the investigation so far. I know our guy, Beckman, could not have been involved in the deaths of the last five vics since he was cooling his heals at Rikers at the time. So we are left with three scenarios as I see it. One, Beckman is our perp and the other five are copycats; two, Beckman and an unknown person are in cahoots; or three, Beckman is a red herring. And I would like to state for the record, I hope to hell it isn’t the third one, because that might make our case against him for Jim’s shooting a lot weaker."

Muff joined in, "Well there is a fourth possibility too, that Beckman and another person or persons unknown are following the orders of an organization, but are not working in concert with one another."

I shuddered, "Truth, and that would be the most frightening of all the possibilities." No one said anything for a few minutes. Then Mike chimed in. "Well what is the next step then?"

I looked to Larry, as the senior member of our group, with Mike’s question echoing in my eyes. Larry took my silent cue and said in his quiet tone, "Well I know we have all the information we have gathered on the 8 cases in Manhattan." He turned to Muff, "Do you have much on the other three you found out about this weekend?"

"Not too much. Since we have been given authority to oversee all the investigations on these cases, I guess the next step would be to get the info on the new victims."

"Good idea," I answered. "And we still have to check about the latest victim in Staten Island. I guess that is where we should go next then. Why don’t Mike and Larry check about the vics in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and Muff and I will go up to the Bronx and check out those two vics. When we have all the info, we can look at everything and decide what to do next. Let’s pray there are no more incidents in the meantime."

Everyone nodded and grabbed their cases. On the way out, we all agreed to meet back at the station, no matter how late we were. I think all of us were realizing we would be putting in a lot of overtime in on this one.


Muff and I headed up to the Bronx to check out the two cases he received emailed about on Sunday. One was in an area in the South Bronx known for its violence. The other was in a more respectable part of the Bronx on the Hudson River called Riverdale. We decided to check out the one in the South Bronx first, since it was closer. The eleventh Bronx precinct wasn’t far from Yankee Stadium. We found the detectives there very helpful. They drove us down to the scene of the crime, or to be more specific, where the victim was found. He was a black male, 21 years of age. The body had been dumped in the lower end of Franz Sigel Park, near some overhead subway tracks. Looking at the crime scene photos and sharing information about their investigation, we found similar threads to our cases. The mutilations and the fact that the murder had taken place in another location were similar features. The detectives gave us files containing copies of everything they had collected to date. We thanked them for their cooperation and headed over to Riverdale.

The detectives at the Riverdale police department told us that the body had been found a few miles away from the actual town of Riverdale. The victim lived in Riverdale, the son of a prominent Hispanic businessman. The Riverdale police were cooperating with the detectives in the precinct over by Yonkers Raceway. The body had been found near the Hillview Reservoir, which was in their jurisdiction. The victim was only 15 years old. I saw that talking about this vic really bothered my partner, since he was of the same nationality. One of the detectives was also Hispanic, and there were times when the conversation between Muff and this man would be in Spanish, especially when we went over to the reservoir to get a better look at the crime scene. Again, the reports and the photos suggested this was related to our other murders. The detectives were cooperative here as well, and we started back to the one two seven loaded with files waiting to be collated with the others. I looked at the pile of paperwork on my lap and let out an audible sigh.

"Overwhelmed?" Muff asked as he put the car in park outside the precinct.

"Gee, you think?" I said, trying not to be too sarcastic. I knew the both of us were still reeling from the latest murder cases. And both of us knew we wouldn’t have the luxury of heading up to the Cloisters for a breather, not for a while at least.

Muff didn’t answer as we headed up to our office. Mike and Larry had not gotten back yet, but there was a message telling us that they had finished over in Brooklyn and were heading to Staten Island. We had all decided this should be their last stop, since all the clues would still be fresh. It was hoped that they would be able to accompany the detectives on their search for clues. Captain Jackson had been in agreement with Muff and I that each respective jurisdiction should maintain some control over its own investigations, that our role was more to coordinate the information into a unified effort. We didn’t want to risk alienating anyone. We actually welcomed the leg work these men and women put into each individual piece. It would have been more than our little team would have been able to handle. We knew that most of the Staten Island Police were centralize in the north-eastern part of the Island. We didn’t know yet where the body had been discovered or any particulars as to age or nationality.

While we waited, Muff and I started to enter all the data from the last two cases into our computers and started to come up with a more organized table of connecting threads. It is one thing to know you have more than one case fitting an M.O.; it is another to get all of the information organized in a way that makes it useful to see the whole picture. While we were busy at this, my cell phone rang.

"Detective Greig here," I answered.

"Jan, this is Pete. You busy?" I saw Muff look over at me with an inquisitive look on his face. I mouthed to him that it was Peter Franklin. He just nodded in acknowledgment and continued working on his files, but with one ear open to my end of the phone conversation.

"Yes, very, but you’re not interrupting anything. What’s the news?" I knew he was calling about the grand jury.

"They returned the indictment, just like we hope they would. Jan, I can’t thank you enough. I am convinced it was your testimony that put us in. Mr. Beckman should be arraigned on the charges tomorrow."

"We got murder one?"

"Yup, isn’t that great! You wouldn’t feel like celebrating tonight, would you?" The tone of his voice was less than professional, and I was really glad I had a legitimate excuse to turn him down.

"Gee, I can’t Peter. I don’t know if you have been following the papers or not, but you know that rash of mutilation murders that have occurred in the past three weeks?"

"Yeah, I have heard something about that; some were down at your old digs, weren’t they?"

"Yup, and more up here… in fact, and keep this one under wraps, there have been a total of twelve in the five boroughs alone that we know of. My new partner and I have been placed on a taskforce investigating them. Poole and Jensen are with us. We are going to be up to our collective necks in the work until we catch the pervs who are doing them." Muff gave me a look that suggested I was talking out of turn, but I whispered to him that I had something in mind and that Peter was cool about keeping things under his hat.

"Something wrong over there," Peter asked when he heard the muffled voices as I tried to explain to Muff what I was up to.

"No, things are ok, but I have a favor to ask of you," I began in my sweetest, most persuasive voice.

"Sure, what can I do to help?"

"Well you know that we had been looking at Mr. Beckman as a possible suspect, but some of these murders have occurred after he was booked. I haven’t ruled him out as being somehow tied into the first of the murders. The thing of it is; it has to be more than one person if he was out of commission for some of them. I can show you some of the evidence we have possibly connecting Beckman to the murders in the three four if you need convincing, but I was wondering if you could make a deal with Beckman to take the death penalty off the table if he is willing to give us information we need on these murders."

Even Muff looked up in horror as I suggested to the ADA to keep Beckman from the needle for my partner’s death. Peter manifested his horror in words.

"Are you out of your pretty but insane little mind? We have Beckman dead to rights here. New York hasn’t been able to make a death penalty conviction stick since 1963! I know we can get this one to stick. Jim was your partner, for Crissake!" I pulled the phone away from my ear. Peter was yelling so loud I was sure Muff heard every word. I waited for silence and then I continued.

"I know, and I want to nail this guy as much as you do, but there is a bigger picture here. Beckman might be able to give us valuable information to lead to the arrest of the person or persons who are doing these murders. Pete, I don’t want another young person to die because we didn’t pursue every lead. Jim worked on the six murders in the Bowery with me, remember. I know he would want this guy’s testimony anyway we can get it. Besides," I paused for effect, "just because we are taking the death penalty off the table for Jim’s murder doesn’t mean it might not be on if it turns out that he is directly connected to these murders."

"Yeah, but you know his lawyer isn’t going to let him get himself into that kind of jeopardy if the information he has to tell us would lead us in that direction. His lawyer is no fool."

"I know," I said with resign in my voice. In a softer tone I added, "Look Peter, I guess I am getting a bit desperate here. I have been looking at pictures of victims all afternoon and I have personally looked at seven of the bodies. I’m sorry if it is getting to me."

"Hell, Jan, I know. I’m sorry to beat you up like that. You know us ADAs; we hate to lose sure things."

"I know, and believe me; I wouldn’t even ask if I didn’t think there could be a remote chance we could get something useful out of the deal."

"Well you might have something there," he answered. I looked puzzled and Muff was beginning to wonder what was going on.

"Whad’da mean?" I asked.

"Well I will tell Beckman and his lawyer that the deal is only good if we can get a conviction on the persons who are committing your murders. I mean, it will give the man an incentive to talk without giving him a free pass."

"You think his lawyer would go for that?"

Pete now paused. "I dunno, but it is worth a shot. Tell you what; let me get Beckman arraigned in court tomorrow on the murder one charge and then I will set up a meeting with you and your partner in attendance. Good enough?"

"Good enough, thanks Pete, I owe you, bigtime!"

"Oh, if only you meant that, pretty lady." I blushed. Muff shook his head.

"Well, OK then, call me and let me know what happens. And thanks for the good news," I said, hoping to end the conversation before I showed any more embarrassment.

"Sure thing. Good luck with your investigation. Don’t work too hard."

"I won’t. Bye," I said and hung up.

Muff looked at me hard, as if to say, ‘you’d better spill, NOW!’

"Peter is going to set up a meeting with Beckman and his lawyer after he is arraigned tomorrow. You and I are invited to sit in."

"I still don’t know if this is a good idea," answered Muff.


"Letting this guy walk on your partner’s murder."

"He wouldn’t be walking, just avoiding the death penalty. The only other choice is life without parole. Plus, Peter has a plan that would keep the death penalty on the table if we don’t get a conviction out of the information he gives us."

"His lawyer will never go for that."

"Well, we are going to try. Let’s not worry about that till tomorrow. We have enough work staring us in the face tonight."

"Truth. I was just thinking that it might be a good time to take a break tho and get something to eat," Muff remarked.

I looked at the clock and saw that it had gotten to be after eight. "Sure, what did you have in mind?"

"Well we can order out, or we could go back to that restaurant I took you to the first night you were here."

I stared at the clock and the computers and pictures on the board and said, "Let’s get out of here for a little while. We can leave word with Larry and Mike that we went to dinner. Better yet, I’ll call Mike on his cell and tell him that we are getting a bite to eat, this way they can do the same and we will have that out of the way when they get back."

Muff shut down his computer and said, "I was hoping you would say that, my brain is fried right now. I need a break and I bet you could use one too."

I nodded as I shut my computer down and followed him out the door.

At the restaurant, I let Muff order for the both of us again. He asked me if I was feeling any better. I took him to mean my earlier bout with weakness at the courthouse. I knew he was sincerely concerned, since he had witnessed all three moments. I didn’t rebuff him, as I usually did, but told him I would be OK. "I’m not sure why I got like that; I swear I am usually in perfect control of myself. I guess it might be because I haven’t been getting very good rest lately. I have never been involved in something of this magnitude before. I suppose being put in charge of the whole thing won’t do my sleep patterns any good."

"Probably not. Maybe you should up your vitamins or something."

"Might be a good idea. You mind if I ask you a personal question?"

"Have I ever minded?" Muff asked with a smile on his handsome face. His mustache curled up on the ends and the dimples on his face deepened.

I couldn’t help smiling back. "No, I guess not. Have you ever been involved in something this--- this---," at the moment I was at a loss for words.

"Heinous?" he asked trying to help me out. I nodded. It wasn’t exactly the word I would have used, but it seemed to fit the situation. "Not really. I have been involved in a series of crimes committed by the same felons, but not homicides and certainly nothing with these kinds of sick overtones."

"I have never been in on an investigation like this before, but I was personally acquainted with a person who was raped and murdered back when I went to Hofstra," I shared. "She was a friend of mine. The police had the guy who did it in custody for 4 similar rape/homicides before my friend was killed, and they let him go on lack of evidence. My friend’s murder gave them the evidence they needed to put him away for a long time, but I always was sickened by the knowledge that she would be around today if someone had done something more."

Muff looked me straight in the eye, "Jan, you know as well as I do it doesn’t always work that way. Don’t you think I want to see this guy or group get what’s coming to them for these monstrous things? But we have to remember that getting the information the proper way is as important as getting it in the first place. Shortcuts only lead to sloppy detective work."

I hung my head, "I know, Muff. I guess I am feeling the responsibility greater now that these have been laid at my feet. Damnit, I don’t want another young boy to die like this, not if I can catch the killer or killers."

"WE will, WE will," Muff said, emphasizing the word WE. "This is a team effort, remember? Don’t take all the responsibility of worrying about it on you alone."

"Yeah, I know, but it is hard not to take this personally." I added.

"Yeah, I gotcha. Just remember, some of these kids are my people too."

I remembered. The 15 year old boy in the Bronx’s face came into my mind. Muff had told me that the victim in Brooklyn was Hispanic as well. I wondered who would have that much hate in them to randomly pick out 12 young men of other races and slaughter them like this. I shuddered.

"You cold?" Muff asked me.

"No, just unnerved. Let’s just eat and get back to work."

"Sounds like a plan," Muff said as our meals arrived. The concoction that Muff had ordered was haddock baked in an olive oil and cabbage mixture. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I found it was delicious. Muff told me it was another of his mother’s favorite recipes, one that she would serve either hot as a main dish or cold as a salad. We talked about things other than the cases for the rest of dinner. I think both of us needed the break from them. Little did we suspect it would turn out to be our last real rest for some time.

Chapter 5

Upon entering the office, Muff and I could see that Larry and Mike had not only gotten back from their little trip over to Staten Island, but were hard at work entering the information they gathered into our computer data base. We greeted them and decided our time would be best served finishing up the work we had started earlier. Larry took the Staten Island case, Mike had the Brooklyn case, Muff decided to do the South Bronx case and I was left with the Riverdale case. I knew why Muff didn’t want to deal with that one, since the boy was Hispanic and one of the youngest victims in our investigation.

After working in relative silence, I asked the men to print out pictures of the last four victims so I could update our board. With all 12 faces now staring at us, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. These weren’t just nameless bodies found in alleys and parks, but peoples’ sons. Each of us filled in the statistics on these last four, making the board as complete as possible. When that was done, I called our first official tactical meeting to order. Muff agreed to take minutes, since he seemed to type the fastest out of the team.

"I think we should begin by reviewing what we know about each of the cases. Maybe in doing this some other common factors might become evident. After that, we should look at profiling the person or persons doing these crimes and see if we can narrow down our search."

I pointed to the first picture on the board. "Victim number one is Sergiu Cosmescu, 19, a naturalized citizen from Romania. He was attending New York University at their Washington Square campus. His family moved here from Romania 5 years ago. Sergi graduated from Stuyvesant HS. He was single, no girlfriend that the family knew about. He was found near Washington Square Park in an alley on July 6th. Jim O’Riley and I were the investigating officers.

"Victim number two is Alexis Terzin, 20. He lived on 9th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. His family emigrated from Greece, but he was born in this country. He was helping run his family restaurant business. Alexis was single and wasn’t dating either. His father said he was planning a trip back to the old country to visit his relatives for the first time. It was his father’s hope that he would meet some nice Greek girl. Alexis was found in an alley not far from his parents’ restaurant on Broadway, again near the vicinity of Washington Square Park on July 10th. Jim and I were the investigating officers.

"Victim three is Albert Lazami, age 17. He attended St. Anthony Prep on 4th Avenue. He was going to be a senior and had already been accepted to Harvard Law School. His parents are not immigrants but are both of Armenian decent. He worked at a local market as a cashier. He was single and seeing a girl from school, but not seriously. He was found in an alley near the store on July 12th. Jim and I investigated this one as well."

Muff cut in at this point. "All of the victims so far had been of Eastern European decent. Had you considered that in your investigation?"

"Yes," I answered. The first line of inquiry was to see if there wasn’t some sort of organized crime connection with this community, but the next day we dropped that line of inquiry when the fourth victim was found. He is Huang Xiu. Huang was 23, the oldest of our victims. He and his family are immigrants, but Huang was naturalized a year ago and was working on his GED through some neighborhood program. He was a trainer at a local health club, teaching martial arts classes. We aren’t sure why, maybe his age and training, but he is the only victim to show signs of a struggle. There were some defensive wounds to the arms and fibers under the nails. Forensics weren’t able to make any matches to the material, but they did seem to be standard carpet fibers. He was single, no one seemed to know who he was dating, but one of the girls at the health club seemed to show more than the usual amount of grief over his death. He was found on July 13th in a culvert on one end of Columbus Park, not far from the health club where he worked. Finding someone of a totally different nationality but with the same kinds of mutilations seemed to throw a monkey wrench into our previous investigations. That is when I started to think of an Aryan connection. The vics might not have all been Eastern European, but they were all non-Aryan. Jim and I investigated this one as well.

Victim number five confirmed this for me. He is Yakir Dayan, 17. His parents are Hassidic and Yakir attended the local rabbinical school for boys. He lived at home and was a very strict observer of the Torah. His parents told me that a marriage would have been arranged for their son at the proper time. Something about this one told me that the parents might not have known everything in their son’s life. There were other children in the household, all younger. Yakir’s next sibling in age was a sister and she alluded to me that Yakir had recently started seeing a girl that wasn’t of the faith. She never got to tell me more. That family swore it was the Arabs. Since the body was mutilated like the others, I knew it wasn’t, but I didn’t share that with the parents. He was found in an alley between his home and the school on July 16th. Jim and I were the investigating officers.

After this I was really convinced that there was some Aryan group involved with the killings. That is when I stumbled upon the website for the People for a Free America. I was trying to find more information about their membership in the Manhattan area when the seventh victim was found. His is Haddad al Dossari, 20, a native of Kuwait. He was over here on a two year work visa. His death confirmed that Yakir wasn’t killed by the Arabs, even though I never really suspected that connection. He was single, and the hardest victim to find any information about. His employers said that he kept to himself most of the time. He worked for a limousine company over on 10th Avenue. He was found on July 18th behind a mosque. The Muslims at this mosque said that Haddad had been attending services at their mosque, but again, didn’t know much about him, since he seemed to keep to himself. The Kuwaiti consul has been trying to contact his family in Kuwait, but with little luck. His case was the last one that Jim and I investigated together. The next day I had gotten information on Albert Beckman and we started our stake out of his place. That was the night Jim was killed, July 19th.

Muff started to speak, but I interjected, "I know, Muff, I skipped our sixth victim. I guess since I wasn’t in on that one, it was logical for me to follow the line of investigation I was personally involved in. On July 17th, in Harlem, the actual sixth victim was found. Montel Sims, 17, African- American. I wasn’t in on that investigation, but Muff and his partner at the time were, so I am going to turn this one over to him."

Muff got up and took my place at the board. "Montel was found in an alley near his home on East 124th Street near Marcus Garvey Park. His mother told me that he had been playing basketball with some of his friend from school in the park till late. The friends said that Marcus started home when the game broke up about 10. He never made it home, but the friends said he was the only one who lived near the park in the opposite direction of the others, so no one walked him home. He didn’t have a girlfriend that anyone knew about, but he had been dating several of the girls from his school. It was the first case where the body had been mutilated that my partner and I had ever witnessed. I think that was the straw that broke it for my partner, because he went on medical leave shortly after that. He had some health problems, but the sight of the victim was enough to turn anyone’s stomach."

"It is possible that our suspect could have been involved with this victim as well, but after July 19th, he was in custody," I observed. "After that I was reassigned to the 127th and partnered with Muff. I wasn’t in that assignment for 30 minutes when we were called to the scene of our eighth victim. Jesse Morgan, 16, African-American high school kid who had a job at a local grocery store. He went missing after he got off work, found in an alley near 145th and Lexington Ave., on July 27th. Jesse had a girlfriend, but the relationship was one that they were trying to hide from the parents, although I think they knew." I was beginning to lose steam at this point, so Mike took over.

"Victim number nine is Tito Garza, 19. He is Puerto Rican but born in Brooklyn. He is a high school dropout and was working on his GED at night and working at his uncle’s auto body shop in the daytime. The investigating detectives didn’t know too much about him, except that he was a ladies man, but no steady girlfriend. He lived in his own apartment, but his family lives in the area. He was also found on July 27th, but the coroner says that he could have been dead for as long as two days. He was found in a culvert pipe in Prospect Park."

Muff took over at this point. "Victim number ten is Vincent Alfonse, 21, African-American. He was a drifter, in and out of rehab. A friend of his, according to the investigating officers, told them that he only moved here from the Chicago area about a year ago and had just been released from rehab. He had just gotten a job in a junkyard as a night watchman. He was single with no family in the area. He was found in the lower end of Franz Sigel Park near the subway lines on July 29th."

I knew talking about the next victim would be hard on Muff so I took over. "Victim eleven is our youngest victim. Tomas Garcia, 15. He lived in Riverdale with his family; his father owns a Chrysler dealership in Riverdale. Very upscale family, a little unusual compared to the rest of the victims so far. He was found the furthest from his residence of any of the victims as well, near the Hillview Reservoir by Yonkers Raceway, on July 30th. There is some confusion as to the time of death in this one. The coroner is still trying to determine that. We are not sure if he would be considered the tenth or eleventh victim."

Larry saw that I had run out of information. There was little to go on with these last cases. I had hoped that Mike and Larry would contribute some fresh perspective with the latest victim. I gladly conceded the floor to them as Larry he nodded to his partner and took the pointer from my hand. "The last and latest victim is Nabil Padmish, 21 It looks like our perp is deciding to branch out in the nationality department. He is our only Indian, an immigrant from Calcutta. He has been in this country for three years, since graduating from his country’s equivalent of high school. He has been working in housekeeping at St. Vincent’s Medical Center. According to his fiancée, a Miss Eileen Brooks, he was taking night classes in premed at the CUNY on Staten Island. His green card was going to expire in another year, and the couple decided to get married so he could stay in the county. They had been dating for about a year, but were going to wait to get married till he had graduated. When the green card became an issue, they moved up their plans. They had just announced their engagement a week ago. The thing that seems different about this victim was that his fiancée had been given a suspicious note two days before Nabil was found dead. She said she showed it to him, but he didn’t think it was anything to worry about." Larry handed Muff the note in question and after he had read it he handed it to me. It was a simple piece of plain copy paper, with letters cut from a local paper pasted on it. It read ‘White girls have no business messing with inferior races’. I shuddered and handed the note back to Larry.

"The body was found in Willowbrook Park, near the University this morning, August 1st. Markings were the same one found on all our other victims. Everything was taken over to the forensics lab, and the results won’t be back till tomorrow, but just looking at the body, I would say the mutilations were made post mortem, like all the others. Mike and I were there when the lead detectives questioned the fiancée, hospital staff and people in the pre med department at CUNY. There was nothing much except the letter to go on there. We should get more information in the next day or two."

Larry sat down and we all entertained a few moments of silence, staring at the board with the scanty amount of information gathered there. Twelve senseless killings, that all seemed to be linked by the horror of the mutilations done to the corpses after death. Twelve non-Aryan males between the ages of 15 and 23; all of them single; with little else in common. Something about the last victim struck me as strange. "That note---," I started to say aloud.

"What about it?" Muff asked.

"Well there is something kinda strange about that. I mean, all of our victims were single, but Mr. Padmish was engaged to be married--- to a white girl. I wonder if…."

"What do you have in mind?" Mike inquired. I could see all of them were looking intently at me. I sat at my desk and quickly ran my fingers over the keys and clicked the mouse to open up the website of the People for a Free America.

"Well you know my interest in this Aryan online group. I was reading one of their linking articles," I said as I clicked through the pages. "Here it is. I dunno if this means anything, but after seeing that letter…."

I turned the screen so everyone could read where I indicated. The article was by a member who only gave the name A.V. Enger. The gist of the article spoke of white women who are preyed upon by the polluting forces of the inferior races and wooed into relationships which produce the worst of progeny. "It is bad enough," the article stated, "that these races are allowed to breed amongst themselves unchecked, but it is unnatural for these subhuman men to steal superior breeding stock from deserving Aryan males." Something that was new to this page was a link at the bottom. I had not remembered seeing it the last time I came to the page. The link said was labeled ‘An example of the blasphemy of mixing of the races’. After I made sure my colleagues had read the page, I clicked on the link and froze in horror as a picture of Sergiu Cosmescu, our first victim, and an unknown white woman come on the screen. I gasped and Muff grabbed my hand. Not only was I in shock at seeing one of our victims posted on the website, but the woman with him, except for her facial features, could have been my mirror image, tall and blond with long legs. I couldn’t tell from the picture what the relationship was between this woman and Cosmescu, but the setting was in a library, probably on the campus of NYU at Washington Square. I guessed they were studying. All I knew was that I was face to face with one of my victims and my doppelganger. I don’t know what possessed me to ask, but I turned to Larry and enquired, "What did Eileen Brooks look like?"

Not missing a beat Larry answered in his most professional manner, "She was a white female, twenty five years of age, approximately five foot eight, one hundred and forty pounds with blond hair and steel blue eyes."

I went pale, I could feel it. Muff looked at me with concern, "What does that have to do with anything, Jan. I know what you are thinking. There are hundreds of females in the five borough area that have similar characteristics. And it makes sense that these guys would be targeting men that might have something going on with women that fit the Aryan notion of perfection; blond hair, blue eyes and probably tall."

I could see his point. Coincidence was all it was. "I guess so," I answered unconvinced. Something about the picture still haunted me.

"You know who the woman might be," Mike asked looking at me.

"No," I answered knowing that since I had been one of the detectives on that case I would have been the logical one to ask. "We did interview the college officials, but not too much was known about Sergiu Cosmescu except that he was in his first year of pre-law. He had a place off campus, we got the address, but nothing of importance was found." I right clicked on the picture and hit the print option. Soon a copy of the photograph that had been posted online emerged from the printer. I picked it up and gave it to Muff. "We should go over to NYU tomorrow and ask around. Maybe someone knows who this girl could be. If we could find her, she could give us more information on Sergi."

"Good idea," Muff said as he folded the paper and put it in his wallet. And I think we need to see if we can make contact with the webmaster of this site. Whoever posted this picture has to be a direct link to our crimes. We need to check with Peter Franklin about the meeting first though."

Mike and Larry looked at us when Muff mentioned Peter’s name. I told them about the phone conversation I had with Peter earlier that evening. Both men were visibly dismayed when I told them about our proposal, but both agreed that it might be the only way to get more information from Mr. Beckman. Larry told me that Mike and he would be with the Staten Island detectives most of the day tomorrow. I asked Larry if he would mind getting a picture of Eileen Brooks. I knew that Muff thought it was just a coincidence, but I still had some reservations. If the type of women that were associating with some of our victims turned out to be a clue, I wanted pictures of them as well.

Looking at the clock and noticing it was going on midnight, I took a deep breath and said, "We have gotten a lot of the preliminary stuff out of the way tonight. We know what our assignments are for tomorrow. We will think better if we get some rest." All were in agreement and we said our goodbyes and left. I was willing to take a cab home, but Muff insisted on being gallant as usual. I was too tired to argue with him; even though I had the energy left to point out that taking me home would put him at his house even later, getting less sleep.

"Well I could spend the night at your place," he ventured to offer.

I got in the car and said as matter of factly as I possibly could, "That’s not necessary. I will be fine."

"I know and that wasn’t what I meant," Muff answered. He shook his head and added, "Never mind." I decided to let the whole idea drop, since I wasn’t in the mood to even consider the other meanings his offer might allude to. He took me home and I went straight to bed, not even stopping to pick up my mail from my box on the way up. It wouldn’t be until the next day that I found the strange manila envelope that had been stuffed in the small box.


Light pierced through the crack in the shade as I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock. "Shit," I exclaimed to the waning darkness. The red liquid crystals on the digital face read 7:45. Muff would be there in fifteen minutes and I knew I wouldn’t be ready in time. I figured I forgot to set my alarm for 6 like I always do. I jumped out of bed and ran into the shower.

Muff must have gotten tired of waiting for me and after the lecture I had given him about not honking for me, the only alternative he had was to come up. He was knocking on my door as I was throwing on some clothes, my hair still dripping from the shower.

"You oversleep?" asked Muff, stating the obvious.

"Yes," I answered him, huffing and puffing as I ran around trying to finish my morning routine in a fourth of my normal time allotment.

"Well I guess it was a good thing I stopped and got us both some coffee on the way over here," Muff said. He reached over to my desk and grabbed my laptop case and service revolver. "You shouldn’t just leave this laying around like that."

I grabbed my keys and hurried him out the door as I locked it behind me. "I know, usually I don’t. I have a safe in my bedroom where I keep it, but last night I was so exhausted, I guess I forgot to put it away."

"And forgot to set your alarm!" Muff added.

I crinkled up my nose as we passed by the wall of mailboxes by the main entrance to my building. "And forgot to get my mail…. hold on a sec." I fumbled my keys on the large ring I keep them on and found the one that opened my box. It was crammed with a manila envelope. I had a hard time removing it from the tiny box. "I wish the postman wouldn’t try to shove things into these boxes that won’t fit." I tried hard not to rip the envelope, but I was unsuccessful. One side started to tear and a shower of negatives began to pour from the partially opened side. Muff instinctively put down my bag and grabbed for the negatives. I finally removed the large envelope from my box and opened the side that ripped a little further so Muff could put the negatives back in. "You must be taking a lot of pictures lately," he remarked as he grabbed my bag and headed out to the car.

"No, these can’t be mine….," I looked at the envelope as I got into the car. There was no return address, but it was clearly my name and address on the envelope. I looked closely at the postmark, but all it told me was that it was mailed from a downtown post office, probably the main branch. I reached inside and pulled out a negative strip at random. I held it up to the sunlight coming in the passenger side window. It appeared to be four pictures of people sitting and walking, couples all of them. One by one, as Muff drove us to work, I took each of the strips out, held them up, and looked at them, puzzled as to what they meant and why they had been sent to me. All of a sudden I came across what appeared to be the picture I had seen on the website last night. I could feel the color drain from my face as it began to dawn on me what these negatives were and why I might have been the one they were sent to. Muff stopped for a red light, looked over at me and asked, "What’s wrong?"

I saw that we were almost to the precinct, so I decided to wait for the explanation. All I answered him was, "You are not going to believe this. For some reason the killer has decided to dump a clue into our laps."

We turned a corner and Muff parked the car. I stuffed the negatives back in the envelope and put it in my briefcase. I realized that in handling the negatives, I had put my fingerprints all over them, and possibly destroyed valuable clues in the process. I was mentally kicking myself about this as we signed in and went upstairs.

Mike and Larry had already gotten in and were sitting at their desks going over the notes on the Staten Island case. I removed the envelope from my bag and put it on my desk. Muff sat at the end of Mike’s desk and said, "Well, will you share with the rest of us your mystery package?"

Mike and Larry looked at me. Mike’s eyebrow went up on one side, just like Spock’s use to do on the old Star Trek show. Larry didn’t show much expression on his face. I filled in the two others about how I found the envelope in my mailbox this morning. "I guess it came yesterday, but I was too tired to check my box last night." I took out a pair of forensic gloves and put them on and held up a negative. "I know that I probably should have done this earlier, but I had no idea these were clues. I found one of these negatives to be of the picture we found on the website last night. The rest are of couples as well, but being negatives, I can’t make out too many of the details." I shuddered as I continued. "I am wondering if our other victims might show up in here," pointing to the pile of negatives on my desk.

"Well let’s get them down to CSU and have them printed up and dusted for fingerprints. Maybe they can tell us something about where they came from too," Muff said. I nodded, but doubted our killer would be that careless. Mike asked, "Why would our perp send you these negatives?"

I shook my head and said in response, "I dunno for sure, and we can’t be sure they are from our perp, but I have a theory."

Muff looked at me, "Holding out? Spill!"

"I’d rather not. It sounds too far fetched. I promise if I get any more solid evidence to support my suspicions, you will be the first to know." I grabbed my laptop and said, "Maybe we should go down to NYU and see if someone can identify the woman in the picture from the website. We can drop off this package to CSU on the way. I will call Peter and ask him to call my cell if he gets a meeting set up with Mr. Beckman and his lawyer."

"Good idea," Muff answered.

Larry and Mike got up as well. "We have to head over to Staten Island ourselves," Mike said. "I guess we will meet you back here when we have finished.

"Sure," I answered. "I am sure we will be putting in another long day. Hopefully we will have more leads to go on by then."

The guys nodded and we headed down the stairs and to our prospective cars.

Muff and I headed over to the Washington Square campus of NYU. We both had copies of the picture we printed off of the People for a Free America site. We had decided that it might be better to split up so as to cover more ground. We kept in touch via cell phone. I went back to the pre law department and talked to Sergiu’s teachers and fellow pre law students. Muff decided to take the library and see if anyone recognized our couple, since the picture seemed to be of a library facility. From the secretary in the law school, I was able to get a name for the female in the picture. She was Beth Wilson, a third year law student. The secretary thought she might have been tutoring Sergiu, since a lot of upper classmen supplement their meager finances with some tutoring. The secretary also mentioned that a lot of foreign born students have trouble with legal jargon and are in need of tutors. I made note of all of this and headed over to the library.

When I met up with Muff, he was interviewing a pretty coed who was manning the desk. The girl didn’t seem to know much more about Beth and Sergiu, except that they had a regular tutoring date every Tuesday and Thursday. The secretary at the college of law was reluctant to give me an address for Beth Wilson without a subpoena, but this girl felt no qualms about giving us the needed address. It turned out that the librarian and Beth were sorority sisters. We thanked her and headed over to Beth’s apartment. On the way over, my cell phone rang.

"Greig here," I responded automatically.

"Hi, Jan, its Pete."

I put my hand over the phone and said in a subdued voice, "It’s Peter Franklin," to Muff. Muff nodded in acknowledgement. Putting the phone back to my ear I said, "Yeah, Peter, what’s up?"

"I was able to set up a meeting with Beckman and his lawyer for 2. Can you and your partner make that?"

I subconsciously nodded. "Sure Peter, two would be fine. We’ll be there. Thanks."

"No problem. See you both then. Bye." He hung up abruptly. I guessed he was very busy. I didn’t know an ADA who wasn’t. Turning back to Muff I told him about the brief phone conversation. Muff looked at his watch and said, "Well that might give us some time for a quick bite to eat after we interview this Beth Wilson, provided we can find her soon.

We went to the apartment building where Beth lived and found she was attending a class. Her roommate told us that Beth would be finished her class at noon and after a quick bite to eat at the student union, had a full afternoon of tutoring at the library. I asked the roommate, Mary Leung, if Beth did a lot of tutoring.

"Yeah, she needs the money. I do too, that is why we both tutor."

Muff asked her, "Has Beth ever mentioned anyone following her around campus?"

Mary slowly shook her head, "No, but you know these city campuses. There are always a lot of people around. You could be stalked by someone and not even know it. Why? Is Beth OK?" She started to become worried.

"No," I tried to reassure her. "We think maybe one of her tutoring students might have been the target of a stalker."

Mary got a knowing look on her face. "This is about Sergi, isn’t it? I should have known. Beth was really freaked about his death. She never said much about him or any of her other students for that matter, but when the story came out in the paper, she wondered why he would be a victim. She said he was a nice guy, kinda quiet and shy really." She stopped and thought a moment. "You think Beth was mixed up in his death? Cause I can assure you, Beth isn’t the kind of girl……"

Muff and I both shook our heads and he said, "No, no, we know she isn’t involved, except that we found this picture on an internet site and wondered how well she knew Sergi." Muff showed Mary the picture we printed off the People for a Free America site.

"Well it doesn’t look too suspicious, except for the fact that someone was going around and taking pictures without Beth and Sergi knowing it." Mary gave the picture back to Muff. "That is kinda creepy if you think about it, but I guess people are free to take pictures in public places."

I handed Mary one of my business cards. "If you think of anything else, call us."

"Sure," Mary said as she put my card on her desk. "I hope you catch this creep."

"We will," Muff assured her as we headed out the door and over to the student union.



The student union was a combination of a bookstore, a bowling alley and a small café where students could go and get a bite to eat. On the far wall was a small bar, deserted in the middle of the day. I figured it served legal beer in the evenings. There was a large screen TV with a music video playing and a couple of pool tables with students playing. We found Beth sitting at one of the round tables, alone, pouring over some notes as she took a sip of her drink. A half eaten sandwich lay on a paper plate by her elbow. She was so absorbed in what she was reading she didn’t hear us until Muff cleared his throat and said, "Are you Beth Wilson?"

"Yes, who wants to know," she shot back, in a rather curt voice.

Muff held out his badge, "NYPD, ma’am. We are here to ask you a couple of questions about one of your tutoring students. Your roommate told us you would be here." She looked at his badge and waved us to the other seats at the table. "Whatever."

I sat down and asked, "How well did you know Sergiu Cosmescu?"

"I figured that was what you were here to grill me about," she answered with a snarl. "I hope you don’t think I had anything to do with his death?"

Muff looked at me with a sigh written on his face. Nothing makes this job harder than an uncooperative witness. Beth Wilson seemed to be to be the typical ‘I don’t want to get involved’ sort of person. I decided to try my hand at cracking the shell of indifference. "No, we know you didn’t, it is just that we found this picture on the internet and we wondered if you might have any knowledge about him that would help us catch his killer." I handed her the picture we had shown Mary. She took it and looked hard at it.

"This was taken at the library. It was one of our tutoring sessions. I only met Sergi when we were tutoring. I mean, I never saw him socially or anything. I suppose you could think that about us if you saw this picture. It almost looks like we were close. I must have said something funny, because it looks like we are sharing a joke. He would laugh at the way I said things sometimes." It seemed to me that the hard shell was starting to show some cracks. Maybe Beth wasn’t so heartless after all.

"Do you know who might have taken this picture?" I ventured.

She shook her head. "No, people are always taking pictures on campus. I think some of them are photography majors, some are from the campus newspaper and some are just nuts." She looked at the picture again. "Where didja get this picture?"

"Off the internet," Muff answered.

That sent a visible shiver down Beth’s spine. "Damn, nothing is sacred. I thought you had to have permission from the people in a picture in order to post it on the net."

"In a perfect world…." I stated.

"I know, anyone can do anything on there and get away with it, it seems. You mind telling me which site it was posted on?"

Muff and I looked at each other with hesitation. I knew he wanted to keep as much knowledge close to the vest as possible, but if we could get any indication from this witness that she knew of the site, maybe it would help. Muff saw that I wanted to go on a fishing expedition with what we suspected, so he nodded and let me answer.

"It was on a site called ‘People for a Free America.’ Ever heard of it?"

Beth shook her head. "I don’t have time to surf the net these days. Can’t say that I have. Sounds like an interesting site though. What’s it about?"

"Racial purity, the master race, things like that." I answered as nonchalantly as possible.

"Well that isn’t something I would want to get interested in. I am all for live and let live," Beth said.

"You ever date guys that weren’t…em…" Muff started.

"White?" Beth finished. "Sure, sometimes, but why would anyone care about that. You think that Sergi got killed because he was with me?" She looked genuinely frightened at the thought. I didn’t want to tip our hand further so I said, "Not necessarily. We are just exploring some leads, that’s all." I got up and handed her my card. "We know you are busy, so we won’t keep you. If you think of anything useful, please call us."

Beth got up and gathered her books. "Yeah, I have to meet another tutoring job over at the library in five minutes. If I think of anything, I’ll let you know. Creeps me out just thinking about it though."

"Well, like I said, it is just a theory, and might not even pan out, so try not to worry about it, OK?" I added.

"Sure, OK. Hey, I gotta split." And she ran down the stairs and across the campus. I looked at Muff and said, "Well that didn’t get us very far, did it?"

"Nope, seems that anyone can go around taking pictures on this campus and not be spotted or given much attention. I agree with those girls, it is creepy."

I smiled and shook my head. "I suppose, but I try not to let stuff like that get to me. If you do, it will only make you paranoid."


We grabbed a bite to eat at a local hamburger place and headed over to Riker’s to meet with our one and only lead. I was getting antsy wanting to talk to Beckman. I hadn’t seen him since the shooting, since he wasn’t present for the grand jury hearing. His lawyer, Sal Leiberman, had been at the hearing and I remembered how weasel-y he looked to me. I never liked lawyers much, except for Peter, and I think I only got along with him out of necessity.

As soon as we entered the caged in conference room, Beckman stood up and yelled, "I’m not talking to her. She’s the one who did this to me." He held up his hand. "I have NOTHING to say to her."

"Pete," Leiberman said, "you told me the cops wanted to ask my client some questions. You never said she was going to be one of the cops."

"Why should that matter," Peter responded.

"I said I am NOT talking to that trigger happy cop," Beckman yelled. His lawyer got him calmed down and seated. "I don’t think this is a good idea, Peter. You can see how agitated my client is with her in the room."

Peter looked at me and I looked at Muff. Muff leaned over and whispered, "You want me to handle it?"

I thought about it. There were so many questions I wanted to ask him and I wasn’t sure if either Peter or Muff would ask the right ones. Still, I knew that Mr. Beckman was too agitated to have me around. I just decided it wasn’t worth giving Jim’s killer a walk on the death penalty if I couldn’t be the one to ask the questions. I know that was kinda selfish of me, but something in my gut was telling me that it would be giving up too much. I leaned over and whispered my concerns to Peter, who looked back at me with shock on his face. He shook his head and stood. "I guess the deal is off, Sal. Either your client agrees to talk to any cop who wants to question him, or he takes his chances at trial."

"I don’t want a deal if I have to talk to HER!" Beckman answered, scowling.

Leiberman rose from the table. "Well I guess he takes his chances at trial. See you in court."

We all got up and left the room. Beckman was escorted back to his cell by an armed guard and the four of us walked out the front gate. Leiberman turned to Peter and said, "Call me if you have a deal that doesn’t include the cop who maliciously wounded my client."

I was about to protest and Muff grabbed my arm to stop me. Sal Leiberman grabbed the next cab and as he drove off, Peter turned to me and said with anger in his voice, "Look, Jan, I don’t like being made to look like a fool. I stuck my neck out when I went to the DA asking to make this deal. You know Brian Winters wants all cop killers to get the needle. He didn’t look too kindly on this deal to begin with, but when I told him Jim’s partner asked for the deal, he reluctantly agreed. Now what am I going to tell him, you nixed it? He will have my HIDE for dinner."

I knew Peter, and I knew he was in the right getting upset at me. Still I knew I was right asking for no deal. "Peter, if I thought you all could get the information that would make the deal worth it, I would have let you proceed. But …."

"So now we aren’t competent to do our jobs?"

Muff saw I was digging myself into a hole I might not get out of. I also knew his male ego might have been bruised by my feelings on this subject. Still, to his credit, he must have put his feeling on hold to help me out. "Look, Mr. ADA, my partner might not think much of us lowly male investigators, but she knows what she is doing. Remember, it was her partner that bought it, and I don’t think anyone around here wants to see this guy walk for it if we can’t get something really solid for the exchange. She knows what went on; she has been with this investigation longer than any of us. If she feels it wouldn’t work, then it wouldn’t."

Peter glared at Muff and said, "Well if your superior brain can figure her out, then you deserve each other. Just don’t ask me to make any more deals for you, capish?"

All I could do was hang my head and nod as he hailed his cab and drove away. Muff and I silently walked to his car and got in. He didn’t say anything to me till he pulled into traffic and we were well on our way.

"I don’t understand you, superior brain not withstanding," Muff stated in a muted voice. "Why, Jan? Don’t you trust me?"

"I do, Muff, and you have every right to be as upset as Peter is at me. I don’t know how to explain this. I know we all would ask good questions, but since I was there at the first scene, I was hoping something Beckman would say would trigger my memory of that night. There is something about this whole thing that is nagging at my brain. I was hoping that reliving the night of the shooting would help me to remember it."

Muff drove for a few more blocks in silence. All I wanted to do was wash my hands of this whole thing. It was driving me nuts. Nothing was making much sense, yet something inside of me knew I had all the pieces to the puzzle if I could only figure out how they went. I discovered that Muff was deep in thought, so I used the time to catch a short nap on our way back to the station.

Muff’s radio squawked and I opened my sleepy eyes and grabbed for the mic before Muff could get it. I don’t like him driving and trying to talk on that thing. "Detective Greig. Over," I said, identifying myself.

"Greig? This is Mike. CSU just called and wants one of us to go and pick up the pictures you sent over there. I thought since you were in transit, you and Muff could do it. Over."

"Wow, that was fast! Over," I said. Muff nodded.

"Well the mayor has put a priority one on anything related to these murders. Enjoy the priority status while it lasts, because we will be back to waiting weeks for stuff after this is over, Over," Mike commented.

"I know, and it won’t be soon enough for me. Over," I added.

"Amen," said Muff.

"Truth my friend," Mike said. "See you both back at the station in a bit. Larry and I are in the process of typing up our notes from this morning’s investigation. How did the interview with Beckman go? Over."

"It didn’t and we shouldn’t be talking on this open channel about it, you know that. We will fill you in when we get back. Over and out."

I put the mic back on the holder. The radio in Muff’s car was a portable job and I had a bit of a hard time getting it to stay in the clip. Muff took it from my hands and put it back with ease. "It takes practice," he said.

Muff made a quick turn to detour over to CSU. When we got there, the clerk handed us a thick envelope with the pictures, the original envelope with the negatives, and a report about the fingerprint evidence they tested for and found. I signed the register and we headed back to the station. I was tempted to look in the envelope, but I knew the guys would want to be in on what it contained, so I curbed my enthusiasm. The day, so far, had been a wash, but I knew I held in my hand something that might break this case wide open.

As soon as we entered our little makeshift command center I sat at my desk and took out the report and read it to three eager detectives. "The fingerprints on the negatives besides the ones belonging to Muff and me, all belong to various people. The only prints they could find on CODUS were our suspect’s, Mr. Beckman, and they were only on some of the negatives. The envelope the negatives came in was clean. Apparently the person who sent it to me wore gloves. All the handwriting analysts could tell about the person who addressed it was he was careful and is probably a person who is meticulous with details. Because it was printed, there wasn’t much else they could tell."

"Hum, so Beckman does figure in this," said Muff.

"Yes, but his prints were only on some of the negatives, which doesn’t make sense," said Larry.

"I know," I answered. "Every time we seem to have a clue, more questions pop up. Let’s move on to the prints." I carefully opened the packet of pictures and noticed CSU was thorough. They had paper clipped together the pictures corresponding to the same strip of negatives. I first looked for the packet with the picture we were all familiar with, the one from the internet of Beth Wilson and Sergiu Cosmescu. As I discarded the other packets looking for the one I sought, Muff started to sort the rest according to the types of fingerprints found on the corresponding negatives, according to the report. It was tedious work, and what I should have done to begin with. My zeal to find what I knew was in the packet blinded me from good detective work. When I found the packet with the picture I sought I commended Muff for his insight.

"Well here is Sergiu Cosmescu. I looked at the other pictures in the packet, four in all and noticed another familiar face. "Oh my God, here is one with Albert Lazami and another blond, Caucasian female. It looks like it was taken outside a local movie theater. This might be the girl he was dating." I held it up for the others to see. Then something dawned on me. "By the way, which set of prints were found on these negatives?"

Mike, who was assisting Muff in his attempt to sort the rest of the photographs, had the list, asked, "Which lot number is that packet?"

"12," I answered.

He looked down the list, "Those were the ones identified as set #4, our man Beckman."

"How many other sets have his prints on the negatives?" I asked.

Mike looked at the list again, calling out the numbers to Larry, who hunted for the corresponding packets. "7, 12, 13, 15, 19, and 25, looks like six in all."

I did some quick calculations. "Six packets of pictures, corresponding to four pictures on a negative strip, which means a roll of twenty-four pictures."

"Then why aren’t the numbers in order?" asked Muff.

I knew the answer to that one. I hung my head and said, "Well if I had been more careful, I bet CSU would have processed them in a more scientific order. I had those negatives all jumbled up. Part of the reason was how the postman jammed the package into my box. Remember, Muff, it tore when I tried to free it."

"Yeah, and some of the negatives came out, which would explain the fact that both yours and my prints are on a good deal of the negatives too.

"Don’t remind me…," I said remorsefully.

"Hey, don’t beat yourselves up," said Mike. "You didn’t know they were evidence when you got them."

"Yeah, but still…," I added.

Muff put his hand on my shoulder. "A cop isn’t infallible; don’t beat yourself up about it. At least CSU was able to get good information off the negatives and we can do the sorting. It looks like there were at least five people involved in the picture taking, four unknowns and our Mr. Beckman. There are thirty packets of pictures, which makes for five roles of film, one for each of our contributors." Muff sat back and started to go through the sorted packets of pictures. I took the packets that were identified with Mr. Beckman’s prints. In the packets were all of the victims at the three-four. Mike and Larry each took sets of pictures to look through. When we had finished perusing all the pictures, we found all our victims plus many more people who must have been targeted by the photographers and maybe our killer or killers. The fact that five distinct people must have taken the pictures led us to believe that there was a group behind the killings. Each of the separate photographers seemed to have worked in one of the areas in our city. The victims pictures from the Bronx were in the same group, the one in Brooklyn was in a separate group, the ones at the one-two-seven were in a third and the one from Staten Island was in the fourth. I held the fifth group in my hands, the pictures with the victims from the three- four.

Mike scratched his head. "I’ll be damned. You think there are more victims out there, undiscovered?" he asked as he pointed to pictures that had other unidentified people on them.

"Anything is possible," said Muff. "All I know is if we have to identify every person in these photographs to find out, we will need a hell of a lot more manpower. Two hundred forty people and we only know who fourteen of them are, twelve victims and two women, Ms. Wilson and Ms. Brooks.

"We can at least start to profile this person or group of people who are behind this," said Larry. "We know that this person or group has targeted minorities who are seen in the presence of blond Caucasian woman."

Larry hit on something there. I suspected that women who fit my racial profile might be involved somehow. All the pictures before us seemed to confirm that idea. Every one of the young, ethnic males in the pictures were with blond, Caucasian woman. Most of them were tall and young as well. The men’s races were mostly Eastern European, African American, Asian, Hispanic and Indian. There were no Caucasians or Native Americans in the group. I supposed the perps weren’t too interested in the very small Native American population in our city, and the fact that there were no Caucasian men in the group strengthened the case for a group of white supremacists as the perps.

I let the guys talk about the case while I went back to the file I had secured from the three-four, the one with the pictures of Mr. Beckman’s apartment. Something about that scene still haunted me, and now that I knew Mr. Beckman was involved with the pictures, I wanted to look at his apartment again. I sat quietly at my desk as the lively debate swirled around me. I studied each picture the photographers from CSU took; looking for something that my subconscious knew had to be there, and something I wondered might be missing. We were so intent on finding a weapon that night that I was sure something else was there that we missed. All of a sudden something jumped out at me, laying on the nightstand next to the bed. It was a small Nikon camera just laying there. I wondered if it was picked up when CSU gathered Mr. Beckman’s belongings that night as evidence. In all the pictures of his place, there wasn’t something I did expect to see. The other detectives were so busy with what they were doing, that they didn’t seem to notice when I left the room. I had a hunch and I didn’t want anyone to know about it just yet. I went outside and placed a call to CSU on my cell phone.

"CSU, Myers here."

"Hey, Fran, this is Jan Grieg," I said. Fran Myers and I had been friends for many years, long before we both went into law enforcement. I was glad she had answered the phone.

"Hi, Jan. How’d’ja like those pictures I sent you?"

"That is what I wanted to talk to you about. You remember the stuff from Mr. Beckman’s apartment, the stuff CSU gathered the night Jim died?"

"Yeah, we processed it and it is sitting in our evidence warehouse."

I said a little prayer, hoping I would be right. "Was there a camera among the things your team brought in?"

"I think so, let me check," Fran said. I gathered she put her phone down on her desk, because I could hear the clicking of the keys on her computer. Finally she got back on and said, "Yeah, there was a Nikon 2600 in the lot."

"Did you find anything in the camera?"

"Yes, an unexposed roll of film. Looks like he was getting ready to take more pictures. Some of those we printed had his prints on the negatives."

"Yeah, I saw. One more thing; was there a computer in the place? I don’t remember seeing one, but things were a little blurry that night. There wasn’t one in any of the pictures you took of his place."

"Let me look at the inventory…. No, no computer; PC, Mac, or laptop."

"Hum…" Now I was puzzled.

"What’s wrong?’

"Nothing, just a hunch. Thanks for the info and if you would, keep this little inquiry to yourself for the moment. I hate for everyone to know that one of my hunches didn’t pan out. Egotistical of me, I know, but you know how the guys I work with can be about female hunches."

Fran chucked, "No problem. I have the same problem here. It is hard to work in a man’s world."

"Don’t I know it. Thanks, Fran," I said.

"Bye now."

"Bye." I pressed the end button and stood staring out at the trees in the small park across the street from the precinct house. I knew I needed to get back in before the guys started missing me. I figured they would think I ducked out to the ladies room, but I doubt I could make that excuse stick if I stayed away too long. I had one more call to make, but I wasn’t sure how well I would be received. I needed a phone book to look up the number of Mr. Leiberman, Beckman’s lawyer. I knew it was a long shot, but I had to try to convince them to let me talk to him.

Going to a payphone, I found a NYC phone book. I was surprised there was still one in the booth. Most of the phonebooks seem to disappear from the phone booths in the city. I was able to find the law office of Mr. Leiberman. I called on my cell and his secretary put me through. I said a big prayer this time.

"Hello, Mr. Leiberman? This is Jan Greig."

"Detective, I am surprised to hear your voice after the scene at Rikers this afternoon."

"I know, and I want to apologize for that. Peter Franklin should have told you I would be there. I dunno why he didn’t. I am sure he should have known that Mr. Beckman would react that way if he saw me, not knowing I would be there. But that isn’t really why I called. There was a reason I asked Mr. Franklin to set up that meeting in the first place and I wanted to explain."

"You mean you were behind that deal?"

"Yes, I am guessing Peter didn’t tell you that either. Well that explains a few things. Are you willing to hear me out?"

"I guess. I have a free spot in my schedule right now. Can you be here in 30 minutes?"

I looked at my watch. It was already four o’clock and I knew rush hour would be starting soon. "I can try. I will have to catch a cab. If you don’t mind, I would like to meet with you without the knowledge of either the DA or my partner. I would like it if you didn’t tell your client either, till I can explain. I know this isn’t exactly procedure but I guess you could think of this as two people talking to each other, and not a cop and a lawyer, for now at least."

"Well this is highly irregular and a bit mysterious, but you have my attention. I will be waiting on you. See you in a half hour." And he hung up.

I was grateful that Mr. Leiberman was at least willing to listen to what I had to say. Now I knew the hard part would be to make up an excuse to get away from the guys, especially Muff, for a little while. I couldn’t just leave, that would make them too suspicious and worried. I thought of what I could say as I got onto the elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. No one was in the car with me, so I wasn’t distracted from my thoughts, coming up with a plausible maceration. These guys weren’t easy to fool, especially Muff, who had that uncanny ability to know what I was thinking.

I entered our little cubical and Muff immediately asked me where I was all this time. I lied and told them I had to go to the ladies room and that I would need to go home for a little bit to take care of a female problem. Most men wouldn’t think of questioning a woman when she brings up the curse in a conversation. Most men avoid that topic like the plague. I know that most women hate when men use our cycle to excuse our behavior in their minds, but sometimes women need to use that to their advantage, and I wasn’t above stooping to it from time to time. And it seemed the only plausible untruth I could think of on such short notice. What I forgot was the incident on the cruise and how concerned Muff had been about my health that day.

"You OK?" Muff asked, taking my hand. The gesture of genuine affection and concern didn’t go unnoticed by Mike and Larry.

"Something wrong?" asked Mike, thinking Muff knew something he didn’t.

"No, it isn’t anything too serious, but I need to be away from you all for a little while. I promise to be back as soon as possible," I tried to reassure them.

"Let me drive you home at least. Rush hour can be hell trying to get a bus or a cab," offered Muff.

I knew that I couldn’t let him do that, so I thought quickly of a response. "No, I will be fine on my own. You are needed here more. I need you to look at all this evidence and come up with some ideas before I get back. I know we are getting close, I can feel it."

"Ok, partner, if you think you will be ok?"

"I will be fine. See you all soon." I grabbed my purse and left before anymore male concern was thrown my way and I would blow my cover under the scrutiny. I didn’t take my laptop, because I figured it would throw more suspicion on my excuse. I only wished I could have taken it, as I discovered much later.


Grabbing a cab wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Soon I was whizzing downtown to the law office of Bergman and Leiberman. It was a small firm on the lower east side. I figured they dealt with a lot of people like Beckman, lower middle class who couldn’t afford high priced lawyers. The office was clean and spacious for such a small firm. I was shown into Mr. Lieberman’s office by his secretary, who told her boss she was on her way home for the day. I looked at my watch and saw that it was almost 5. I apologized for being late, but Mr. Leiberman seemed to brush my tardiness aside. I sat down and started to explain to him the reason for my mysterious visit.

"Mr. Leiberman, I know this is highly irregular, but I have reason to believe that your client might not be as involved in the string of murders in our city as I first expected. I wanted you to know that this is only a hunch, but I have some important questions to ask your client to see if I can confirm my suspicions. I know he won’t really want to talk to me, I was hoping taking the death penalty off the table would make him more conducive to answering some questions, but that didn’t seem to pan out so well."

"Can you blame him, Det. Greig?"

"No I guess not. Maybe if I tell you some of what I suspect, you would be able to convince him to let me speak with him."

"Perhaps," said Mr. Leiberman, with doubt in his voice.

"I am sure you are aware that my partner and I, I mean my former partner and I, had suspected your client of some part in the current wave of murders of young ethnic minority men in our area. As you probably know, there have been more murders since your client has been arrested for his part in the death of my partner. This could only mean that he wasn’t responsible, or that he only had some part in the first of the murders." Mr. Leiberman put his hand up, like he was going to object, but I continued before he could speak. "I know, he might be innocent, but we have just gotten new evidence, fingerprint evidence, that ties him indirectly to some of the murder cases. I believe Mr. Beckman might not have murdered these young men, but I firmly believe he knows something about who did. It might help his case with my partner’s death if he can fill in some of the blanks on these murder cases. I know the mayor is anxious to solve these cases and put this crime spree to an end. If your client is cooperative to that end, I know the mayor will put pressure on the DA to offer your client a decent deal. I am in no position to bargain on that point, but I know what kind of pressure is being put on me and the other detectives on the taskforce to solve this. Do you think he might be agreeable to talk to me, if you put this information in his hands?"

"What fingerprint evidence do you have?"

I hesitated. Now I was really stepping out of protocol. All I had told the lawyer so far was things that were known by the public or at least by people in the know. This latest information would eventually have to be given to Mr. Leiberman, but only when it came to the trial. Handing it over to him prematurely would get me in a lot of trouble, but I was desperate. Plus, I was sure my hunch would pay off in the end. I could live with whatever sanctions the NYPD would put on me if I could end this nightmare before anyone else was killed.

"You have to understand, this evidence only just came to light since I spoke to you this afternoon, and it isn’t proper procedure to let this be made public till we have fully investigated all the ramifications." I knew I was dancing around the issue, and he would see that, but I couldn’t get up the nerve to come out and say it. The cop in me was that strong.

Mr. Leiberman coughed and said, "Look, I might be able to convince Mr. Beckman to talk to you if I knew how he was involved. He is my client, and what I am asking of you isn’t unreasonable."

I sighed. "I know, Mr. Leiberman. You have to understand. This isn’t easy for me. By rights, I shouldn’t be here." I took another deep breath and chose my words carefully. "I was sent a package by someone unknown, and some of the material in that package had your client’s fingerprints on them."

"Weapons?" ventured Mr. Leiberman.

"No, photographic negatives of some of the victims and other people." I took a deep breath and let that information sink into the lawyer’s gray matter. "Well your ass is in a sling now," I thought to myself in the ensuing moments of silence.

He only hesitated for a few moments when he said, "Let me call Rikers." He picked up the phone and after several connections, he had Beckman on the other line. I could hear that he wasn’t too happy I was in his lawyer’s office, but when Leiberman mentioned the words fingerprints and negatives, he got quiet. The lawyer nodded a few times and said, "OK, we will be there shortly," and hung up.

"Well, Detective, I think you got his attention. He is willing to talk if you think it will help his case."

"I am not the DA, but you know I will put in a good word for him. I think it might count for something coming from the partner of the dead cop."

"Just remember, it might not, seeing that you shot and wounded my client," commented Leiberman.

"Maybe." I was just grateful that I had gotten through.

Mr. Leiberman and I drove over to Rikers in his sedan. It was a little after five and the traffic was a nightmare. We didn’t say anything on the way over, I sensed that I had said enough as it was and the lawyer knew that any more revelations might actually hurt his client’s case. He was patiently biding his time, waiting to see what the interview would bring. I only hoped it would confirm some of my suspicions.

We were shown into a caged interrogation/conference room and Mr. Beckman was brought in by an armed guard, who left and stood outside the door. Unlike this afternoon’s interview, Mr. Beckman was calm, owing to the fact that he was expecting me this time. It made me wonder what Peter thought he was doing keeping Beckman and his lawyer in the dark about my presence earlier. I could never figure out lawyers, and I wasn’t about to try now.

"Mr. Beckman, I want to thank you very much for agreeing to see me today. I want to apologize for the miscommunication earlier today. I was unaware of the fact that you didn’t know I was going to be there." This was an unusual tactic to take with a suspect, but I figured antagonizing the man wouldn’t be in either of our best interests.

"Whatever," Beckman said gruffly as he sat down.

"As your lawyer told you on the phone, we found some negatives with your fingerprints on them, pictures of some of the victims of a murder spree that has been plaguing the city over the past three weeks."

"Yeah, so?" I could tell Beckman wasn’t going to give me anything without a struggle.

"I just need you to help me find the person who is doing these terrible crimes. I know it isn’t you. But I suspect you know who it might be."

"I dunno nuthin’ and that is the God’s honest truth," Beckman protested.

"We found a camera in your apartment the night we searched it after the… ah… incident with my partner."

"Yeah," said Beckman.

"Did you take the pictures that were sent to me?"

"I take pictures all the time, it’s a hobby," he said.

"Did someone ask you to take specific pictures lately?" This was part of my hunch. If Beckman didn’t do the murders, maybe someone asked him to take pictures of perspective victims.

"Paid me is more like it. Twenty-five bucks a pop. Can’t turn down good money like that," he bragged.

"Who?" I ventured.

"I dunno, I said. Someone I met on the internet," he replied.

"The internet? We didn’t find a computer in your apartment."

He shrugged and pointed to himself, "Lady, do I look like I can afford a computer? I go to the library. It’s free."

I had not considered this possibility. Owning my own PC and having use of a department laptop for so long I forgot that most people use the computers at the library since owning one is expensive, not only for the equipment, but the monthly fees for the internet connection. Now what I suspected was starting to make more sense.

"How did you meet this person who wanted you to take pictures for them?"

He thought a moment, not to try to remember, for I knew he knew exactly where he met the person, but whether or not to let me in on his secret. "Some website’s chat room," he said non-descriptively.

"What website?" I wasn’t going to let him get off that easy. He fidgeted in his seat and looked at his hands and answered, "It’s called People for a Free America. I was surfing the net one day and thought it was some political group. I got to reading some of the articles and thought that it might be an interesting group to join. Membership lets you into their chat room."

I wasn’t even going to challenge him on his beliefs about ethnic purity and cleansing, things the site advocated. I figured it was better just to stick to the facts. "Is that where you met the person who paid you to take the pictures?"

"Yeah, he was on a few times when I was on and we kinda hit it off. After talking to him on and off for about a week, he told me he was doing this scientific research project and wondered if I would help him out by taking some pictures for him. He knew I was a shutterbug from earlier conversations and I said sure, but film cost money. He said money wasn’t a problem and that he would be willing to pay me $25 a picture if I wanted the work. I was like, hell, that’s good money for just taking pictures."

"I know he probably only used a screen name, but what was it?"

"A.V. Enger," he answered. The same person who wrote that article with the link to one of Mr. Beckman’s pictures, I thought to myself.

"Did A.V. Enger tell you what kinds of pictures he needed?" I knew the answer to this question would be important to my theory on motive.

"Yeah, he said he wanted examples of young inferior men hitting up on our womenfolk. You know types like yourself, blond and white."

I tried not to blush. "He said he needed pictures of young non Aryan men with white women?"

"Something like that," Beckman responded. His body leaned back into the chair like he was putting on superior airs talking about inferior races.

"How did you get the pictures to him?"

"Didn’t have to. Only had to send him the negatives. He said he would print the pictures himself. I know a place that will only process your film onto negatives if you ask them to. They know some photographers like to print their own stuff."

"But the only fingerprints on the negatives were your own," I puzzled.

"Well when I mentioned to him that I would have to get the film processed, he asked me if I knew a place that only did negatives. I said I did, and he asked if they would let me do the actual processing. Turns out I do know a guy who works in there and if I slip him a few bucks, he lets me on the equipment. I took courses in photography at City College once, so I know how to use the stuff. This A.V. Enger was really paranoid that people would see the pictures, but I didn’t think it was that big a deal, I mean, they were only of couples. But since the guy was paying me big bucks, I wasn’t going to argue with him. Takes all kinds in this world. Anyway, he thought like me and I liked him. I didn’t mind helping him out. I was getting ready to go back out and get more when I landed in stir." He growled that last statement out. I didn’t respond.

"How did you get the negatives to him?"

"He asked me to put them in a manila envelope and leave them in a book in the library, one of those history books on World War II. I was to email him when I put it in the book. I guess he knew pretty quickly it was there, because when I went back in about an hour to check to see if it was still there, it was gone. I mean, I was wondering about him, but I didn’t see who got them. I figured the next time I would stake out the place, to see who I was dealing with, but there was no next time. I got sick so I couldn’t get out for a while to take more pictures, and when I finally got better, you nabbed me."

"How did he send you the money?" I was hoping there might be a clue in that.

"Just left six $100 bills in an envelope with my name on it in the library where I left the negatives. He emailed me to let me know it was there."

"Where did he put it?"

"That was the strange thing; he said he left it with one of the librarians working the desk. When I asked them what the man looked like who left it, none of them could tell me who left it. None of them remember anyone giving them the envelope, but it was on the desk behind the counter, sitting there like someone was expecting to pick it up."

"Which branch of the library was this?"

"The big one with the lions on the front steps," he answered.

The main branch of the New York City Library is probably one of the largest branches in the country. I am sure anyone could have slipped that envelope on the desk without someone noticing it, if the desk was busy. I knew that would be a dead end. This person did his homework.

"Did you have any more contact with this person after you got paid?"

"Only once, a week after the delivery. He found me in the chat room and asked me if I would do some more work for him. I asked him if the ones he got were OK and he said they were very good. That was the last I heard from him."

I knew I had all the information Mr. Beckman knew. Some of this information started to make some sense in my addled brain. I thanked Mr. Beckman and Mr. Leiberman for their time. They both asked me again if I would put in a good word with the DA and I assured them both that I would. I decided that I needed to go home after all and freshen up before going back to the precinct. I would call Muff from my house and let him know that I was doing ok and would be back after dinner. I felt grubby and needed to think things over. I hailed a cab and directed the driver to my address.

I was so preoccupied with the case that I passed right by the mailboxes on my way up to my apartment. I opened my door and put my purse on the table. I went over to my PC and sat down to write up my report on the interview with Mr. Beckman while it was still fresh in my head. I put a floppy disk in the hard drive and made a copy to put on my laptop when I got back to work. I placed this in my purse and went into the bathroom to shower and change.

Refreshed, I then dressed and remembered I had forgotten my mail. I went down and there was another envelope in my box with no return address on it. It wasn’t as thick as the one I had gotten this morning, but I knew this might be from our killer. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I made earlier. I grasped the envelope by the edges and carried it up to my apartment. Putting on gloves, I carefully opened it. In it was a picture of Muff and I taken on the cruise ship a week ago. With the picture was a note, similar to the one Eileen Brooks received. It too was a simple piece of plain copy paper, with letters cut from a local paper pasted on it. But this one was definitely more personal. It read ‘White girls have no business messing with inferior races and you should know better being a cop. Stay away from that spic’. I knew exactly who the ‘spic’ was, my new partner, Muff. I wanted to tear it up in a million pieces, but the cop in me helped to put my womanly feelings in check. I carefully put the picture and the note back in their original envelope and then got a plastic baggie out of my cabinet and placed the whole thing in it, sealing up the bag. I stuck this down in my purse as well, figuring I should take it back to show Muff, but not knowing how I was going to explain part of it to Mike and Larry.

I decided to fix myself a bite to eat before going back to the station. As I was cooking, I felt a presence behind me. Not turning around soon enough and before I could react, a man had his hands around my mouth and body, pinning my arms to my sides. I couldn’t see his face, but the scent of his cologne was familiar to me. He said, in a soft voice, trying to disguise it, "Don’t talk. I tried to keep you out of this, but you aren’t easy to manipulate. Now I have to do something about that. I am going to free one of your arms a little bit. I want you to shut off your stove and then you are coming with me." He was able to keep me tightly pinned so I couldn’t turn around. I attempted to grab the pan I was using to hit him with, but he didn’t leave me that much maneuvering space. I was only able, with his strong lead, to turn the knob of the stove to the off position. I was distracted for just a moment while doing this, and in that moment he took advantage of that fact and let my mouth go free. I didn’t have enough time to scream, though, because he replaced his hand over my mouth and nose quickly, this time with a rag soaked in ether cupped in it. It didn’t take long for the chemical to take effect, and then everything went black.