Sacred Evil, by Graham, Heather
- ISBN: 9780778312420 | 0778312429
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 7/26/2011
And residents who behaved like tourists, every time he came to the scene of a murder.
Jude Crosby flashed his badge to the officers on duty and ducked beneath the yellow crime scene tape that was stretched across lower Broadway.
The murder site had acquired more onlookers than a movie premiere. Traffic downtown had grown to a snarl that was just about impassable even with the extra traffic cops manning the detour, and the sound of cursing drivers threatened to drown out the sound of their horns.
Fortunately, it was only just dawn; most finance workers weren't even on their way in yet.
He made his way to the circle of men around the body. He was glad to see that the medical examiner who had been on call was Wally Fullbright, a man in his late fifties with ruffled white hair and big–rimmed glasses; he looked like an aged Beaker, from the Mup–pets. He was, in Jude's mind, the finest in his profession. Yet, he never considered his own expertise as the zenith of knowledge, and was known to probe to the depths of any anatomical mystery.
"Crosby!" Fullbright said, acknowledging Jude without looking up. He knew he had a distinctive height, and in his off–hours he practiced at the ring. Pounding away at punching bags helped him release the tension that often bubbled up after dealing with some of the more bizarre crimes that plagued the city.
Even then, he had to make his way through more men; officers had formed a curtain of bodies, hiding the corpse from the view of the crowd that looked on.
He quickly saw why.
"Lord," he said quietly, hunkering down across the body from Fullbright.
He'd seen a lot as a homicide detective in New York City. Dead drunks, prostitutes, drug addicts, mob hits and victims of domestic abuse. He'd seen the derelicts who had died in Dumpsters, in alleys, atop mountains of trash and he'd seen the floaters who had popped up in the East River and the Hudson.
He'd never seen anything like this.
"Do we know who she is?" he asked.
"Sir!" one of the uniformed men—Smith, according to his badge—said. "She had her ID on her, in her bag. Found next to the body. Her name is Virginia Rock–ford, twenty–six years old. We believe that she was an actress working on location last night, but that fact still has to be verified. We formed ranks around her as fast as we could when we reached the scene. We called it in to Major Crimes because of…because of the way you see the body."
"You found her like this?" Jude asked.
The officer blushed and shook his head. "There were people coming around, staring. I threw the coat over her."
"And I carefully threw it off, again, in favor of the screen of blue," Fullbright said.
Jude nodded. He understood. The black trench coat now at the victim's side had apparently belonged to Officer Smith.
He doubted Officer Smith would ever wear the coat again.
Smith shouldn't have changed the crime scene in any way, but, under the circumstances, Jude knew why he had felt compelled to do so—even if the officer had known better.
He looked at Fullbright. "Tell me, please, that she wasn't—gutted—alive?"
Fullbright shook his head, indicating the thick pool of blood at the victim's throat, and the way it had poured down the front of her dress. "It's my belief that she was seized, her mouth muffled, though God knows who might have heard her scream down here at night, and that her throat was slit ear to ear immediately. I think, and it's my theory, but, logical, if you will forgive me, that she was nabbed on the corner, and quickly dragged into the street as she died. There are two slashes, but I believe the first would have caused her to bleed out. The mutilation of the body occurred after death."
"I've seen some bad ones in my day, but this seems exceptionally sick, don't you think, Detective Crosby?" one of the other uniformed men asked.
"They come in very, very, very sick sometimes," Jude said quietly.
He looked at the victim again, feeling his own stomach curdling. There was bruising on her face, which might have come from a blow, or from the force the killer used to hold her while slashing her throat. Her legs were bent at the knees slightly, and falling outward in a sexually implicit line. Her stomach appeared to have been sliced deeply several times, but there was now such a mass of congealed blood and ragged flesh, there was little he could tell about any precise injury that had been done to her.
"How long has she been here?" he asked Fullbright.
"I'm estimating time of death to be around eleven," the medical examiner told him. "Give or take an hour."
Smith offered, "I was on duty down here, Detective Crosby. I had just come on duty. I came running when I heard a woman screaming." He pulled out a pad and read from his notes, nodding toward a woman who was on the sidewalk, surrounded by officers. "She's Miss Dorothy Hannigan, and she runs the bakery on the corner. She came walking from the subway exit—" he pointed down the street "—and started screaming when she saw the body. I called in dispatch for help and they called you." He swallowed hard. "It was barely light… I thought she was a mannequin, a movie prop, at first."
Jude Crosby studied the body a moment longer; he wasn't sure it was necessary. The details seemed to be etched into his mind.
He was sure that Fullbright was right—she had been nabbed while walking on the sidewalk, and dragged out to the road to die. He wondered how long, even with the light traffic at night, it had taken the bakery worker to discover the body. Time of death wasn't exact, and a number of cars had to have driven by at sometime.
He started to rise.
"The Ripper," Fullbright said.
"Pardon?" Jude looked over at the man he sincerely respected.
Fullbright looked at him and spoke dryly. "Jack the Ripper. London murderer of the late eighteen hundreds. Come on, Jude, you were sent to study criminal history and crime–fighting methods across the pond. The Ripper. Jack the Ripper. His first victim—well, the first victim agreed upon by most criminal experts and Ripperolo–gists—was Polly Nichols. Found on August 31, 1888. She was found… just as we've found this girl."
Officer Smith made a sound at the back of his throat. "That was well over a hundred years ago, Doctor. I doubt the same man could have killed this girl. And, hell, that was London, not New York."
"One theory regarding the cessation of the murders after the Mary Kelly grand finale was that the bastard came to the United States," Fullbright said, looking at Jude.
Jude asked Fullbright, "You think we might have a whacked–out murderer who is also a Ripperologist— one dedicated to the point of re–creating the crimes himself?"
"I hope not," Fullbright said. "They just got worse," he added softly. "The murders just became more and more vicious. Until Mary Kelly, and then…"
Of course, no one knew what would happen next. Jude was far from a Ripperologist, but he'd attended a lecture at a British forum on "Historical Crimes, Modern–day Solutions: Crimes That Would Have Been Solved in the Twenty–first Century." He knew that theories abounded. One was indeed the idea that the Ripper had come to the United States. But, of course, wherever he had gone—to America, Africa, South America—or hell itself—that had been over a hundred years ago. And Jude didn't believe that he was a Freddy Krueger–type monster who had returned to roam the streets.
And still, he felt a deep unease sweeping over him. Last week, they'd found the remains of a girl in the Hudson; she was still a Jane Doe, but her throat had been slashed. A pleasure boater had reported the remains; police divers had brought her in. Two weeks before, there had been a victim who had died en route to the hospital without ever being able to speak or point a finger even vaguely in the direction of her attacker; she'd been cut—slashed and stabbed.
But not like this.
Not like this poor girl.
Probably a once pretty girl, who had been alive just last night. Filled with hopes and dreams. She might have been nice; she might have been a scrapper, one of the thousands of hopefuls who came to the big city each year to strike it rich in the Big Apple. The open chart of her life was closed, and it didn't matter if she'd helped old ladies cross the street or snubbed the geeks who had stared at her when she had walked by, oblivious. No one deserved this kind of end.
He noted the position of her body, and that she had certainly been positioned and displayed; he was sure the killer had worn gloves, and been careful not to let his victim catch any skin cells in her fingernails. Still, there was always hope.
Jude stood up and started going through the initial motions. He ordered that his victim's hands be bagged in hopes she'd gotten her nails into the bastard that had killed her somehow or somewhere, but he knew he didn't even have to say the words. Fullbright was on the case.
Photographs were taken of the body. He watched that procedure, making certain that the techs took every angle he might need.
He spoke to the uniformed officers on the street. Buildings were to be canvassed in hopes that someone had been somewhere doing something. The crime scene unit was called in to search the area for any possible minuscule clues.
Fullbright stood, giving additional orders to the officers and his assistant. He looked at Jude while the gurney and body bag were brought over, everyone there moving quickly and efficiently.
"You're working alone on this?" Fullbright asked him.
"I don't have a new partner yet. I haven't had anyone assigned to me since… since Monty took a bullet," Jude told him.
"How's he doing?"
"He's having another surgery on Friday. They're hoping he'll walk again," Jude said.
He tried to keep his voice even, and free from the resentment he couldn t help but feel. Niles Monty had been doing the right thing—he had been the perfect officer, trying to talk down the drugged–out vet who had just shot and killed his wife. His partner had been doing all the right things, and the soldier, in tears, was ready to hand his weapon over to Monty. Instead, a frightened vigilante neighbor who'd snuck up the fire escape had taken a shot and missed; the frightened vet had fired at Monty, before turning the gun on himself.
Jude had been waiting quietly next to Monty who had been doing a damn good job talking the man down. He felt the bullet whistle by, but too late to stop the lethal action that had all taken place in less than ten seconds. He'd managed to stanch the flow of blood emitting from his partner while praying for the medics to hurry.
The vigilante was walking the streets, his case having been dismissed, portraying himself to the press as a hero. How he was managing that, since his actions had caused the crippling of a veteran cop with twenty years' experience and a slew of medals, Jude didn't know.
God, he hated the press.
And the press was going to have a field day with this.
He looked through the crowd of television vans and camera crews setting up near the scene. He noticed Melissa Banks, who tended to be a responsible newspaper journalist in a world where sensationalism had become everything.
He strode straight for her. "Ms. Banks," he said, acknowledging her. "We have found the body of a woman on Broadway, and look, I suppose that's evident, but it's all I can give you at the moment. Headquarters will make a statement later. Pending notification of next of kin, I can't release her name."
"They're saying that her throat was slashed and that she was—ripped to shreds. Do we have our own Jack the Ripper in the city now, Detective Crosby? A Jack the Slasher, as it were?" Melissa asked him. He winced. His killer had a name now.
"We don't know if this was an isolated incident or not, Ms. Banks. As soon as we have information, we will certainly bring it to you in the best interest of the public. Now, if you'll excuse me…?"
The officers who had been first on the scene had done their best to keep the details hidden, but it was New York. People had seen. They'd seen beyond the crime scene tape and the wall of bodies, and they had seen the amount of blood around the victim. People were going to talk; speculation would run high, and if his killer was a sensationalist trying to prove a point, he would be savoring the attention he was getting this very minute. He would be somewhere, watching, and gloating over his victory.
"Should women in this vicinity be worried to walk about at night?" Melissa Banks asked him.
He stared at her; she tended to be an intelligent woman. "Women should always be careful walking about at night. However, since the financial district is relatively quiet at night, yes, I would definitely take extra care."
One of the other reporters had heard his words and moved in. "Did you just say that it's not safe to walk the streets at night?"
Jude stepped toward her. "What I just said was that any single woman should take care at any time—anywhere. Sadly, there is evil in this world, and there are those who will hurt others. I'm suggesting women not be alone late at night on quiet streets. Period. I'm also suggesting that journalists be responsible and not create panic where panic will avail no one. I'm promoting common sense, and if you'll really excuse me now, I have work to do."
Jude walked back to the body, and looked at the corner. He paused, and motioned to a crime scene tech, who hurried over. "Blood, I'm pretty sure," Jude told him, and the fellow nodded gravely and went to work. On the sidewalk, he found more drops of blood, and motioned as well.
A photographer followed the techs, taking pictures as they took samples of the substances on the ground.
He was certain that Fullbright had been right; his victim had been walking uptown, as if she was trying to find a busier spot on Broadway, perhaps to hail a cab. The assailant had waited for her on the corner behind the building. Jude didn't like his audience, though the uniforms were doing the best they could to control the scene. He was still downtown on a busy Monday morning, and blocking off an entire street in the vicinity of the stock market, city hall, Trinity, St. Paul's and the Woolworth Building was not easy. Still, he called one of the young officers over, took a position behind the first building and had the officer walk toward him.