They say the evidence never lies, but don’t tell that to Detective-Sergeant Moby Truax. He’ll tell you the evidence could be allowing a killer of women to roam the streets of Baltimore. The evidence is consistent—apparently random female victims, each killed the same way with an identical concentration of cyanide. But DS Truax, a financially strapped cop nearing the end of his career, notices that the profile of the recent victims doesn’t match that of earlier targets. He suspects a copycat killer, but his rejection of the lone murderer theory puts him on the wrong side of superiors. As beautiful young women continue to die, Truax is saddled with a partner: FBI Special Agent Frances Vecchio. To Truax she is little more than an attractive distraction, but his bosses see her as a possible savior, turning a blind eye when Vecchio launches her own investigation to catch the monster the newspapers have dubbed the Cyanide Killer. With his pride and his pension on the line, Truax follows the facts no one else sees, but will this chain of evidence lead him to multiple killers, or a murderous deception that is even deadlier?
|Publisher:||Intrigue Publishing LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
D.B. Corey spent twelve years with the USNR flying aircrew aboard a Navy P-3 Orion chasing down Russian subs. During his time there, he began a career in data processing. He has contributed to opinion columns, online periodicals, and has appeared on local talk radio all under the name of Bernie Thomas. He lives in Glen Bernie, Maryland.
Read an Excerpt
Chain of Evidence
By D. B. Corey
Intrigue Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Bernie Dlugokesski
All rights reserved.
Someone called her Stacy. A fitting name for one so alluring. Wanton desire in a tight red dress. A sure thing for the right man, but not for me. I didn't have a shot in hell.
I eased in beside her at the bar and she turned toward me. The music was loud, and I had to yell to say hello. She turned away without a word, sparing herself the pretense of a make-believe courtesy. With little more than a glimpse she deemed me unworthy, and that simple gesture allowed me to chart the evening's course.
Time slowed, and I waited. The perfect moment can present itself without warning and I may not get a second chance. The more minutes that passed, the more invisible I became, and soon Stacy and her gaggle of friends were in a world where I was not invited. They laughed and caroused and teased one another, and one or two of them went off to dance with men. Stacy drank white wine, and that was perfect for me. So I waited.
Then the moment was upon me. Stacy's wine sat unattended, unnoticed by anyone, except me. I reached for a napkin and passed over her glass. No one saw the cyanide drop. No one saw it dissolve in an instant, and as I turned from the bar they continued their boisterous antics ... as if I hadn't been there at all.
I made my way to the exit and listened for the sounds that I expected to hear. Frantic cries for help among a cacophony of confusion. And when I heard them, I turned to look as anyone might. I watched the bouncers push through the crowd, saw them knock people aside as they rushed to her. And among the music and the screaming, the dancing and the panic, I knew what the bouncers did not. I knew she was dead before she hit the floor.
Now I wait for her on a concrete sidewalk as a crescent moon arcs over the city — the Cheshire's grin, pasted on the night. My watch reads 3:36 and a thin layer forms on my skin. Humidity? Or sweat. Does it really matter? Baltimore is always humid in August, but more so tonight, and breathing is like sucking air through a wet sponge.
The sound of an approaching engine heralds her arrival. Headlamps bounce off the black surface of Pratt Street and a body transport turns the corner. Launching my cigarette into the night, I track its fiery path before turning toward the medical examiner's building. Stacy's image fills my thoughts as I pause beside a glass door that reflects my image.
My eyes sweep my length. I want to be presentable before stepping inside. Removing my glasses, I clean them with a section of my lab coat. Their circular rims portray me in a scholarly light and I like them, so I take extra care. Pressing my badge against the reader, I smile at the click of the electric lock.
Yes. She is desirable. Especially now, that she lacks a pulse.
I stroll past the main lobby information kiosk and nod to Officer Bowers. He is the night guard; a college kid in his third year working his way through. I point my travel toward the autopsy lab forty feet down and on the left. I hear the Latino janitorial crew jabbering in the Spanish I never learned in school. I doubt they're legal, but it doesn't matter. I don't really give a shit one way or the other.
The metal double doors of the lab hiss closed behind me and it's too cold in here again. We keep it that way by design. It's better for the dead. The lab's construction is cinderblock, painted a flat sea-green; a horrid color to say the least. Too bad they didn't consult me before painting. I'd have suggested a color that didn't remind everyone of bile.
They made a good choice with the suspended ceiling, however. The ample lighting serves the space well, as does the classic L design of the room. All they omitted was music. I mean, how hard could it have been to pipe in a bit of opera? But since they didn't, it falls to me to bring a little culture to an otherwise provincialist environment.
I glance at the clock on the wall. The transport should be at the dock. I pick up my pace down a center aisle that runs the length of the lab, jogging between gatherings of gray metal desks, to another set of metal double doors.
On the right, just before the dock, is the staging area; a secondary 20 x 20 room separated into its own quarter. That's where we do the city's work. It has all the pathological amenities: stainless cabinets and counters bolted to the bile-colored walls, gurneys with equipment trays parked side by side, tools and safety apparel stacked and organized in the cabinets, all there in support of three autopsy stations with their centerpiece stainless-steel tables; units tricked out with electricity, plumbing, and powerful parabolic lamps, fixtures I always thought resembled space weapons straight from a science-fiction movie.
I hear the telltale beeping of the van, backing into the loading area as the rollup door creaks its way skyward; triggered by Security in the central control room. A driver I've never seen before makes his way to the back of the van; an odd little man in an Orioles cap and coveralls. I walk over and offer my hand.
"I'm Doctor Harvey Morral, third-shift medical examiner."
"Hi, Doc. Andy Bikke's the name."
"Nice to meet you," I say. "So where's Alfred? The regular driver."
"Personal time off. Somethin' with his family's all I know. I'm just fillin' in till he gets back. So listen, Doc, I'd love to chew the fat, but I got another pickup. Can we get me unloaded?"
"Of course," I say, not wanting to take any longer with this bumpkin than I have to.
Andy disengages the safety latch and slides the gurney from the van. The wheels drop and lock as they clear the vehicle, and I lead him to the staging area to shift the body to an in-house gurney. Andy hands me a clipboard.
"So where'd you get this one?" I ask, signing the chain of custody.
"Picked her up at a club off Shawan Road. Wurlitzer's. Ever been there?"
I smile with the recent memory. "Can't say that I have."
"This one just dropped dead, from what they say. The Homicide boys were talkin' like it's that cyanide killer that's been causin' all the trouble. Thinks she was murdered."
My eyes cut to his but I say nothing. I find it pleasing that those idiots in Homicide have already taken to making calls at the scene, pinning sudden unexplained deaths on the Cyanide Killer without the benefit of forensics; especially since I would be supporting their theory when I send Tox specimens that belong to one of CK's victims.
I hand Andy his clipboard with his copy of the documentation, keeping one for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and one for me.
Andy says his goodbyes and goes out the way he came in. Activated once again by Security, the overhead rattles its way down as the van pulls away. When it closes fully, I lock the interior dock doors and walk back to my desk.
In the lower drawer I keep my iPod speaker system, a compact little unit that packs a wallop. Aiming it toward the autopsy bay, I dial up my favorite piece. Rigoletto. After all, the Duke is much like me. As I return to the gurney, the peppy Questa o quella — this girl or that girl — saturates the lab.
Pulling back the forensic sheet, her beauty gives me pause. I gaze at her five-five corpse, her dark-brown hair splayed against the snowy white of the gurney's sheet, her translucent blue eyes still clear, fixed open, and even in death she maintains her allure.
"So, we meet again," I say, but then I remember. "Well, not 'again', per se. We never actually met to begin with, did we, Stacy?"
I brush her face with a feather-like touch, lambent wanderings across un-mottled skin. Removing her dress, I take my time. Red has always been my favorite color. Working my fingers through her long dark hair, my breathing changes and takes a rhythmic metre. My hands linger about her chest before moving on to their ultimate goal, and I register every inch as territory conquered. I want to slow down, bask in this the rarest of moments, but cupidity tightens its grip and I cannot stop myself. I shoot an uncertain glance at the double doors, but I know I engaged the bolt. I check the wall clock. There is plenty of time.
"I saw you several hours ago," I say to her. "At Wurlitzer's. You remember me. I am the reason you are here. I am pleased you did not keep me waiting."
I brush my face against hers and relish in the cool of her skin. Moving my lips to hers, I steal an empty kiss — hollow and unresponsive. The lust within me rises.
"You like this, don't you?" I whisper. And when the moment passes and she does not answer, I move to the foot of the gurney. Untying my scrubs I allow them to drop, and as the Duke sings of the flighty woman, I part her legs.CHAPTER 2
The big-faced clock on the wall read 5:15 in the morning, and Detective-Sergeant Moby Truax stood in a small kitchenette, tucked in a corner of the squad room.
With the aroma of brewing coffee in the air, he regarded the liquid in his mug — the remnants from the preceding pot — with trepidation. He folded in three packs of real sugar with a plastic spoon as an ancient memory found its way to him.
He recalled sitting in his 4 period English class when Mister Bater called on him. The memory of the crusty old educator pushed a smile onto Truax's face.
"Master Bater," he said, uttering the name the students used behind his back. "How did that guy ever make it through puberty?"
"Mister Tru-ax," Bater said, pronouncing his name as if it included a hyphen, "Please recite the next line to the class."
A single line of prose appeared in his mind. Standing in the middle of the kitchenette, Truax spoke the words aloud, stumbling over their order, but the words finally came.
"You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away. A man is not a piece of fruit."
It was a line from Act II of Death of a Salesman, the story of Willie Loman; a man who, late in life, realized himself a failure. Truax found it strange that he dredged up that particular memory. Maybe it came to him because he thought himself like Loman, and now, some forty years later, knew just how worthless Willie Loman must have felt. He tossed the plastic spoon in the trash and stared at the hours-old coffee in his cup.
A piece of fruit. Damn terrible way to regard a man's life.
The coffee brewing in the pot still had a ways to go, so he ambled back to his desk in the rear of the squad room.
"Your phone was ringing," Danny Collins said from two desks over.
Collins was one of the few senior detectives left in Maryland State's Special Investigations Unit who hadn't retired, although it was no secret that he'd be making his move before long.
"I heard it," Truax said.
Collins shrugged and went back to what he was doing.
Truax dropped into his chair and scooted forward, pulling himself more than anything else, and logged a mental note. He should try to get back to the gym. "Try" being the operative word. He slid on his glasses and cursed as the broken left temple dug into his skin. He knew it was broken, and chastised himself for letting it slip his mind yet again. He wiped a fingertip across the scratch. There was little blood, so he sealed the wound with a dab of spit.
Returning to his task, he rolled the mouse. The Starfield screensaver disappeared and his report on the night's homicide filled the monitor. A white female. The latest in a string of five dead women.
Stacy Culver: Thirty-one years old, five-foot five-inches tall, one-hundred-eighteen pounds. Dark brown hair. Blue eyes. Preliminary COD: Poisoning.
He elected not to add his personal observation of 'gorgeous' to the report, despite it being a fact. Saying so, officially, would not be wise, especially considering the climate of the division lately.
She smelled of almonds, Truax thought. Same as the others. He noticed it while crouching over her body next to the semi-circular bar where she dropped. He questioned the bouncers at Wurlitzer's and each gave similar versions: Rushing to her when they heard screams, afraid to touch her for the pink foam around her mouth, and when an off-duty EMT finally reached her, she found no pulse.
Truax held that thought as he double-clicked on the icon of the homicide he investigated prior to this, the one that occurred two weeks earlier.
Rosa Neunyo. Female. Age seventy-one. Five-nine, one-hundred-ninety-three pounds.
Unmarried. Lived alone in a rundown two-bedroom house in Middle River.
Preliminary COD: Poisoning.
Poisoning, Truax thought. As were the three that came before her: Dorothy French and Harriett Brennermann, women in their late sixties. But then there was Emma Baumgartner — a woman in her early thirties. She didn't fit the profile. She was too young. And now there was Stacy Culver. She was too young as well.
The killer left nothing, and killers always leave something. Some physical evidence: hair, fibers, DNA if he was lucky — the Holy Grail of investigative work. But all the Cyanide Killer left was the weapon and the bodies. The victims weren't robbed or molested, assaulted or raped. They were just dead.
He saw just two commonalities: cyanide was the weapon, and all the victims were women; three in their sixties, the other two, half that age. Young Stacy Culver paired better with Emma Baumgartner, young women poisoned, found dead in or near a bar. He'd have to wait for the forensics and autopsy reports on Culver to confirm his suspicions of poisoning, but as far as he was concerned, he was dealing with two killers.
But that was only as far as he was concerned. His new captain had a different theory entirely.
Closing the files, Truax leaned his head back and peeled off his glasses. He rubbed his eyes hard and enjoyed the pressure. It felt good, but his mother always said it would make him go cross-eyed.
A lie parents tell their kids, he thought. Ranks right up there with "jerking off makes you go blind."
Dropping his head, he closed his eyes and placed his index fingers on his temples. He began moving them in a circular motion. It would stimulate blood flow, or maybe even wind up his brain. He didn't care which. This he performed daily and then tested his memory to see if any of it had miraculously returned when he wasn't looking. After all, that's when it disappeared.
He struggled to recall details from the first victim, Dorothy French. Details he just read. He remembered some, not all, and of late he caught himself referring to notes and reports and forensic documents to recall the minuscule leads he did have: the so-called eyewitness reports collected at the murder scenes, heavy on imagination but light on fact. Now here he was, four months later at a dead end. There were no new developments on the Cyanide Killer — CK, the papers dubbed him, a tacky tabloid name created to sell newspapers in an age of internet news.
He replaced his glasses, taking care not to scratch himself as before, and congratulated himself for remembering. He rolled the mouse pointer over the case file icon of the French woman, but before he could open it, a fresh-faced Detective Nichols arrived at his desk. The expression he wore could only be interpreted as bemusement.
Truax skimmed his scalp with his fingertips, enjoying the feel of day-old nubs; a new habit acquired after abandoning the barber shop and its fifteen dollar haircuts. They were a waste of money; money he didn't have. So he began shaving his head. Oddly, the sandpaper-like stubble reminded him that he should mow his lawn.
He peered over the top of his glasses at Nichols, a lanky high-school-looking kid in his early thirties, with a full head of wiry red hair.
"Whadda ya want, Rookie?" Truax bristled.
"Whatcha doin', Pops?" Nichols returned, a snarky grin stretched across his face. "Still working the cyanide case?"
Truax didn't answer. Instead, he waited for the next volley. It would come, he knew. Captain Atkins had handpicked Nichols from Vice, and because of his golden boy status, he never missed a chance to screw with the old man of the squad.
"So it's been what?" Nichols continued. "Six months? Seven?"
Truax suppressed the thought of reaching for his service weapon and putting a round between Nichols's eyes. "Ya know, Nichols, I'da thought they'd have taught you to add in college. Four. Four months. What of it?"
"Ah! So you do remember! A couple of us had a pool going as to what you'd say. I was waaaay off. I guessed you'd say nine. I think Bradley won. He said four-and-a-half. His guess was closest."
"I'm busy. Whadda ya want?"
"Oh ... nothing. Thought I'd come over and let you know that the coffee you made is ready. Figured you forgot."
Truax felt the heat in his face. "Yeah. Thanks. Now if you don't mind, run along and join your little playmates. You don't want to miss milk and cookies."
Excerpted from Chain of Evidence by D. B. Corey. Copyright © 2013 Bernie Dlugokesski. Excerpted by permission of Intrigue Publishing, LLC.
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