Rusty Nail (Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels Series #3)by J. A. Konrath, Susie Breck, Dick Hill
"Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels of the Chicago Police Department is back, and once again she's up to her Armani in murder. Someone is sending Jack snuff videos. The victims are people she knows, and they share a common trait - each was involved in one of Jack's previous cases. With her stalwart partner, Herb, hospitalized and unable to help, Jack follows a trail of… See more details below
"Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels of the Chicago Police Department is back, and once again she's up to her Armani in murder. Someone is sending Jack snuff videos. The victims are people she knows, and they share a common trait - each was involved in one of Jack's previous cases. With her stalwart partner, Herb, hospitalized and unable to help, Jack follows a trail of death throughout the Midwest, on a collision course with the smartest and deadliest adversary she has ever known." During the chase, Jack jeopardizes her career, her love life, and the lives of her closest friends. She also comes to a startling realization - serial killers have families, and blood runs thick.
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By J. A. KONRATH
HYPERIONCopyright © 2006 Joe Konrath
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBusiness was slow, which made me extremely happy.
I sat in my office, the omnipresent paperwork mountain on my desk down to a few small mounds. I could actually see the wood through the files in some places. It was brown, as I'd always guessed it to be.
There hadn't been a homicide in Chicago for four days, which had to be some kind of record. We consistently ranked as one of the top murder cities in America, often hitting the number one spot. Whenever that happened, cops from my district would get We're #1 T-shirts printed up. I had seven, from previous years.
I whittled away the free time with busywork: filing, reviewing cold cases, cleaning out my desk drawers. I even entertained the notion of painting my nails-something I hadn't done since joining the force over twenty years ago.
All play and no work makes Jack a bit flighty.
My partner, Sergeant Herb Benedict, had been using the free time to catch up on his eating. He wandered into my office, lugging a gallon of chocolate milk. He set the jug on my desk.
"I didn't have anything to do, so I brought your mail."
"Someone mailed me dairy products?"
Herb scowled, his walrus mustache drooping. He had a few years on me, which put him past the fifty mark, buthis face was plump enough to retard wrinkles.
"This isn't dairy. It's GoLYTELY. I've got to drink this entire bottle to clear out my digestive tract for my colonoscopy tomorrow."
"Sounds like fun. Shall I come by, take some pictures?"
"Funny, Jack. Be happy you're not a man and don't have to deal with this stuff."
"I'm thankful for that every day."
Herb removed the bundle of mail he'd tucked under his armpit and dropped it on my desk.
Among the bills and junk was a small padded envelope. It had Lt. Jacqueline Daniels, Chicago Police Department, Violent Crimes Division typed on the label. No postmark, no return address.
"This was in the mail?"
"No. Someone dropped it off downstairs for you."
I frowned. Times being as they were, unknown packages were scary things. But hand delivery meant it must have gone through the metal detector and X-ray machine downstairs; standard delivery procedure. I teased open the flap and peeked inside.
Something thin and black.
I threw caution to the wind and shook it out onto my desk. A VHS videotape. No labels or markings.
My apprehension went up a notch.
"Did the desk sergeant get a look at the person who left this?"
"I didn't ask. You weren't expecting anything?"
I shook my head.
The VCR sat in the corner of my office, on a cart with a TV. I hit a few buttons and put the tape in.
Herb rested his butt against my desk and patted his expansive belly. He'd lost a lot of weight, but had found it again. His stomach growled, perhaps in response to his patting.
"You know what the worst part of a colonoscopy is?"
"You're going to tell me whether I want to know or not."
"I can't eat anything for twenty-four hours."
I considered it. "That's worse than having a long probe stuck up your unhappy place?"
"I'm under anesthetic for that." He took a swig of GoLYTELY and made a Mr. Yuck face.
"I'm guessing GoLYTELY isn't a taste sensation."
"They claim it's chocolate-flavored. More like chalk-flavored. I'd rather drink a gallon of paint."
I pressed Play. After some snow, the TV screen went black. In the upper right-hand corner the date flashed. Eight days ago.
The scene abruptly changed to a wide shot of a two-story house. Midday, the sun casting shadows straight down. The house was nondescript, a Realtor's sign stuck in the lawn. It could have been any house in Chicago. But it wasn't.
I knew this house.
I shushed Herb, nodding.
The cameraperson approached the front door at a brisk pace. A hand, wearing a large black leather glove, came into frame from the left of the screen and turned the doorknob.
The camera sailed through the foyer, the living room, and over to the basement door. The hand flipped on the light switch by the staircase and the descent began.
My heart accelerated, the scene before me playing out just as it had so many times in my memories. I held my breath, hoping this was just a prank, hoping the basement wouldn't contain what I feared.
The cameraperson reached the lower level and panned to the right. The auto-focus blurred, then sharpened, revealing a naked white female tied to a chair with twine, a burlap bag over her head. Her whimpering hit me like a blow.
"Jesus." Herb folded his arms across his chest.
I had to fight to keep my eyes open, watching as the camera approached her, watching as the gloved hand picked up a hunting knife from the floor, watching as the knife rose up to her throat ...
Herb gagged. I turned away.
When I looked back, she was still alive, arterial blood squirting and splashing down her bare chest. There was a wet coughing sound, and it took me a moment to understand what I was hearing; the woman was struggling to scream through the large slash in her neck.
She didn't die right away. The writhing and twisting and coughing went on for almost a minute. When her body finally stopped moving, the camera faded to black.
I spent a few seconds trying to rally my thoughts.
"I need a Crime Scene Unit ready to go in three minutes, photos, vids, ALS, the works. I'll contact the EPD and clear it with them."
Herb headed for the door, his GoLYTELY forgotten. I hit Eject on the VCR and grabbed a latex glove from my desk. The tape went into one evidence bag, its envelope into another.
Then I called the Evanston Police Department and asked them to meet us at the address. It was one they knew well.
The morning was beautiful for April, sixty degrees, crisp and sunny. I wore a beige Anne Klein pantsuit that I paid too much money for because it slimmed my hips, and a new pair of black low-heeled Jimmy Choo boots. Herb had on an ancient gray suit, designed by Montgomery Ward, and a blue tie already stained with GoLYTELY.
As befitting the weather, the streets and sidewalks were packed with people of all races, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Panhandlers and executives, students and sightseers, all commingling in a giant diverse human stew. We worked out of the 26th District, in the heart of downtown, our building a speck among the skyscrapers. Parked on the sidewalk was a churros cart, which Benedict eyed. After viewing the video, the cinnamon smell repulsed me. We walked around back to the parking lot and climbed into his new Chrysler Sebring-both of us hated my 1986 Nova. Herb rolled down the windows and slowed as he passed the churros, sniffing the air.
"Why can't they make GoLYTELY in a churros flavor?"
"I'll make a few calls."
"Bacon flavor would be good too. Tell your people."
"I'll do that."
"And chili-cheese dog. I'd drink a gallon of chili-cheese dog in a heartbeat."
"I'm sure you would."
Evanston bordered Chicago on the west side, blending into it seamlessly. It was a fifteen-minute drive that we made in ten.
"Maybe the tape was one of Kork's old collection."
Herb referred to the homemade snuff films discovered in Charles Kork's house after his killing spree ended. A task force had been formed to match victims with missing persons, and they'd done a remarkable job, gaining enough accolades to get featured on a Law and Justice cable TV special. Having been the ones who tracked down the Gingerbread Man, which is what Kork called himself, Benedict and I were asked to head the task force.
After viewing one of Kork's videos, we declined.
"The date could have been faked." But I didn't buy it. "Did you notice the front door? It had a security plate on it. That's new."
I called Information and got the number of the Realtor whose sign sat in front of the house. After being put on hold for a few minutes, I talked to an agent who confirmed that the house was for sale.
"Can you meet us there?"
"I'm sorry, Officer. I'm in the middle of something."
"I understand. And I hope you understand that we'll have to break the door down."
"I'll see you in five."
I hung up and tried to prepare myself. Several deep breaths couldn't help me control my racing heart, my sweating palms.
The house looked exactly as it had in the video. We pulled alongside the driveway. The CSU had already arrived. I played conductor and set my people into motion.
One officer took samples of motor oil on the driveway near the garage. Another dusted the front door for prints. Two more walked the perimeter, going over every inch of property like a giant grid, bagging cigarette butts and old soda cans.
I cordoned off the route the cameraperson had taken over the lawn to the front door, but the grass didn't hold any footprints. There were several friction ridges lifted from the knob and steel security plate, but I didn't have much hope for them. The person with the camera wore gloves.
The real estate agent showed up, a plump woman with a hairspray helmet that looked like it could withstand a three-story fall. She was clearly flustered, and it took her three different keys before she could open the door.
I went in first, my .38 an extension of my hand. The shades were drawn and the house was dark, save for streaks of sunlight peeking through cracks.
All of the previous furniture had been removed, and our footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor. A pleasant lemon scent hung in the air, even more revolting than the churros smell. We had the Realtor wait outside, and Herb trailed me through the foyer, the hallway, and over to the basement door.
I experienced a serious feeling of déjà vu, except that it wasn't déjà vu; I actually had been here a few years prior, doing this exact same thing.
It was just as scary the second time.
The basement light had been left on. We took the stairs slowly, stopping every few steps to listen. When I finally reached the bottom I steeled myself, turned the corner, and stared over at the place where the woman's throat had been cut.
The basement was empty. No body, no chair, not a drop of blood on the floor. I gave the all-clear and the team came in, lugging gear.
I holstered my gun under my jacket and frowned, looking around the basement. It had been finished since my last visit, the bare concrete floor replaced with linoleum tile, the walls paneled in faux wood.
"I got blood."
Officer Scott Hajek, a short, stout guy with large glasses and a spray bottle of luminol on his belt, pointed a UV light at the ceiling, revealing several glowing droplets. Before I had a chance to postulate if it was left over from Kork's activities, more droplets were found on the newly tiled floor.
"Lieutenant! We got something upstairs!"
I followed the voice, relieved to be out of the claustrophobic confines of the basement. Benedict kept on my heels, huffing as I took the stairs two at a time.
"In the kitchen!"
Sitting on the kitchen counter, next to a mason jar full of peanuts, was a gingerbread man cookie.
I got a closer look. It was different from the ones Kork had left with his victims, taunting the CPD in notes that he'd never be caught. This one was larger, with eyes made out of raisins and peppermint candy buttons.
Under the cookie was a handwritten note.
Its good to Be Back
The crime scene photographer snapped some shots.
"Why a jar of peanuts?" I asked Herb.
Benedict squinted at the jar. "Those aren't peanuts, Jack."
My breath caught in my throat when I realized what the mason jar contained.
It was filled, to the brim, with dozens of severed human toes.
Chapter TwoTechnically, no crime has been committed in our district."
Herb and I exchanged a glance.
"We realize that, Captain."
Captain Bains sat behind his desk, rubbing his thumb and index finger over his gray mustache-a mustache that didn't match the deep black of his hairpiece.
"There's not even a body."
"The Kork case is ours," I said.
"This isn't the Kork case. Charles Kork isn't going to commit any more crimes. This could all be a prank or a hoax."
I folded my arms, then unfolded them so I didn't look defensive. "The jar of toes isn't a hoax."
Bains leaned forward. "That's for the Evanston PD to pursue, not us."
"They asked us to come in on this. And we've got nothing else going on."
The captain indicated some paper on his desk. "There was a body discovered in a transient motel an hour ago, on Webster. Stabbing death of a homeless guy named Steve Jensen."
"I'll put Check and Mason on it. I want this one, Captain."
Herb's stomach made an unpleasant noise. Bains stood up and gave us his back. He stared out of his window, which offered a lovely view of the garbage in the alley.
"You've got forty-eight hours. If you can't turn up any evidence by then, I'm pulling you."
More strange sounds from Herb's stomach. Bains glanced over his shoulder and eyed him.
"That's not my stomach. I think the GoLYTELY is kicking in."
"Go attend to that."
Benedict about-faced and waddled to the door, knees pressed together.
After Herb left, I locked eyes with my boss.
"What's going on, Captain? I usually enjoy some leeway when it comes to picking cases."
Chicago had five Detective Areas, and I worked as a floater. My reputation allowed it.
Bains didn't seem swayed by my reputation. He pursed his lips. Not a good sign.
"What aren't you telling me, Captain?"
"The superintendent has been getting some flack lately about that TV show."
"That series with the PI and that fat woman who plays you."
I mentally groaned. The show, called Fatal Autonomy, featured a supporting character based on me. I never watched it, but from what I heard, the series didn't display the CPD in a good light. Or me either.
"I explained this before, I let them use my name because one of the show's producers helped out with the Kork case."
Which had been a mistake. Anything to do with Harry McGlade wound up being a mistake.
"The super doesn't care. Chicago is buried in crime, and that show makes us look like a bunch of idiots."
"So what are you saying? The super is pissed at me, so he's gunning for my job?"
"I'm saying I don't want you on anything that might make you look foolish, or anything high-profile. This will all go away, but laying low won't hurt."
I leaned closer to Bains and dropped my voice an octave.
"How angry is he?"
"If you see him on the street, turn around and run."
"You have two days to come up with something solid, Jack. And keep the media out of it."
Bains dismissed me, dispersing the wind I'd had in my sails. Having to worry about job security at my age was a stressor I just didn't need.
I looked for Herb, heard scary sounds coming from the bathroom, and chose to leave him alone for a while.
Evidence was located on the first floor. I took the elevator. The day guy, Bill, greeted me with a grin. He was old enough to have milked Mrs. O'Leary's cow. Bill rescued a previous mayor's family member decades ago, and was allowed to stay on without being forced into retirement. It was a good thing too, because he was the only person who could find anything in the cluttered, unorganized Evidence Room.
"You're like a shot of Viagra, Miss Jack Daniels. I love the boots. Can I lick your heel?"
"No. I thought men lost interest in sex after turning a hundred."
Bill winked. "I'm only ninety-eight. But I make love like a man of seventy-five. What are your plans for later?"
"I'm visiting my mother."
"How is she doing?"
I thought of Mom, the tube in her throat.
"How about afterward? Maybe a little midnight rendezvous? You look like you could use a little TLC."
Bill hit the nail on the head with that one. It had been months since I'd been with a man. But even though I'd passed my prime, I wasn't desperate enough to date someone so old he farted dust. Not yet, anyway. Give me another few months and I might consider it.
"I appreciate the offer, Bill, but right now I'm interested in a closed case-333871-5."
Bill nodded, tapping his pointy chin. "The Gingerbread Man. Eleven boxes. Anything in particular?"
"I need everything. Sorry. You want some help?"
"Nope. I keep in shape."
Excerpted from Rusty Nail by J. A. KONRATH Copyright © 2006 by Joe Konrath. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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