The sultry sounds go out over the balmy California night, laced with subliminal messages that lured young women to deaths more grisly than anything the police have ever seen. And the smiles frozen on the victim's faces became nightmares haunting their dreams . . .
Homicide detectives Leo Franks and Lani Prejean have broken nearly every rule in the book hunting down the prolific killer . . . and they may be getting closer. But as the death toll mounts, the two burnt-out cops realize something even more chilling: this madman who flays his victims alive--and worse--may be more than one man . . .
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By William W. Johnstone
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 1994 William W. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
"If God created anything better than pussy," Windjammer said, "He damn sure kept it for Himself."
"Oh, my God!" Dick Hale said, glancing wildly around him, his eyes wide. "You fool! Is your mike closed?"
Windjammer stared at the station manager, open contempt in the gaze. After working in broadcasting for more than twenty years, from New Jersey to California, with stops both north and south of that famous Mason/Dixon line, Windjammer had reached at least one firm conclusion about most station managers; they all shared one thing in common: they were totally ignorant about control rooms.
Before Windjammer could tell Dick where to take his asinine question, and in what part of his anatomy he could shove it once he got it there — which would have been very uncomfortable for the man, not to mention unsightly — the chief engineer stepped in and once again Windjammer's job was secure; at least for another day.
"Dick," the engineer said patiently, in the tone one uses when attempting to converse with a very small child or a cocker spaniel. "As long as you can hear the music coming out of that speaker," he pointed, "the mike is closed."
"Oh!" Dick said. "Well. Good." He walked out of the control room.
"As if that puke-brain hasn't been told that at least twenty thousand times in the past," Windjammer said, shaking his head. His recording was winding down. Automatically, from years of experience, he put his brain into gear a split second before his mouth opened, and introed the original Charlie Barnett recording of "Cherokee," then turned back to the engineer.
The engineer cut him off short. "Don't start with me, Jammer. You got it made here, and you know it. You also know that Trickie-Dickie doesn't like you at all. But all you have to do to keep your job, is keep your mouth shut around him. Look, you got good pay, great hours, a gorgeous P.D. to work under —"
Windjammer grinned lewdly. "I'd like to work under her, and around her, and beside her, and —"
"All right, boys," Stacy Ryan announced her presence, as she pushed open the door to the control room. She knew DJs very well. "Knock off the locker-room talk." The program director of radio station KSIN stepped into the control room, the door automatically closing behind her. The scent of her perfume was an invisible fragrant touch.
Windjammer groaned and began panting.
The engineer shook his head, even though he knew Stacy did not take the slightest bit of offense at the Jammer's actions. "I'm leaving," he said, looking at Stacy and pointing at Windjammer. "If you feel safe around that animal, that is."
She laughed, a sexy, throaty laugh. "His bark is worse than his bite, Cal."
"I'll bite you anywhere you like, Stacy," Windjammer said. "And right now I can think of —"
"Shut up, Jammer!" she told him flatly. "Now you listen to me. You can get away with that kind of talk with me. But if you ever leave this station — and the odds of that are pretty damn good right now — there are a lot of women who would slap a sexual harassment suit on your butt in a heartbeat. And win it. So you just shut up and listen for a minute. See you, Cal."
The control-room door hissed silently open and closed as Windjammer took note of Stacy's serious expression. "All right, Stacy. Lay it on me."
She sat down on a stool. "This war between you and Dick has to stop, Jammer."
"There is no war, Tally." Stacy's on-air name was Tally-Ho. "The man is ignorant, obnoxious, overbearing, and a total jackass."
"I agree, Jammer. All that is true. But he is the boss." She paused. She did not have to tell him his recording was ending. Any DJ worth his or her salt had invisible monitors and clocks in their heads. She waited while Jammer ad-libbed right to the mark for thirty seconds, wondering aloud whether Dolly Parton had ever in her life been able to look down and see her feet. Jammer ID'd the station, then hit network news.
He swiveled in his chair to look at her.
"I mean it, Jammer. Try to avoid Dick as much as possible. When you have to be around him, be civil and not smart-assed. I'm not asking you to give him a great big, sloppy kiss. Just be civil to the man."
Jammer smiled ruefully. "Man? If that prissy bastard is a man, I'm an aardvark. Okay, okay, Tally. What you're saying is: I either kiss his ass, or I'm out on my ear, right?"
"It would be over some very loud objections from me; but that is the bottom line, buddy. High rating or no."
He nodded his head, all the while thinking some pretty bloody thoughts. He mentally shoved those away. They'd been occurring with alarming regularity of late. "Level with me, Tally: is Mister Prissy out to get me?"
Without hesitation, she said, "Yeah, Jammer. He sure is. Ever since those things you said about his kids got back to him."
Jammer laughed. "Hell, Tally. I wanted them to get back to him. I said his daughter was a spoiled brat and a snooty bitch, and his son a total nerd. Am I wrong in that assessment? Am I not entitled to a personal opinion?"
The program director of KSIN FM sighed. Jammer was right about Dick's kids; both of them were insufferable brats, for a fact. And Stacy despised Dick Hale just as much as anybody. And that was very nearly everybody that ever came in contact with the bastard. "Jammer ... you just chill out with the remarks. Free speech ends at the employer's door. Sad, but true." She stood up and walked out of the control room.
Not even the sight of Tally-Ho's marvelously shaped derriere could overcome the sudden realization that his time with KSIN was coming to a close. DJs have a sixth sense about that, too. Windjammer leaned back in his chair, wondering how long he had left. Did he have enough time to accomplish what he'd set out to do? He hoped so. He'd worked long and hard at setting it up. God, he hated Dick Hale.
* * *
La Barca, California sat almost exactly between San Francisco and Los Angeles. A bay town, the bay named Puno Bay because it was shaped like a fist, the city built around the knuckles. La Barca was a factory and tourist city of almost half a million. The number one radio station in the area was, of course, thanks to the kids, a rock-and-roll station. But number two was KSIN; a very comfortable and very profitable number two.
During the day, from six in the morning until six in the evening, KSIN played adult music for mature people. Not the department store/elevator, saccharine type of music that has been known to drive listeners mad, but original recordings from the Ink Spots to any contemporary music the PD felt would flow with the sound she wanted. A little Ronstadt, Manilow, Milsap type of sound; some very soft rock. Programming was the only area in which Dick kept his mouth out of matters, and that was due in no small part to the fact that a Mrs. Carla Upton owned fifty-five percent of KSIN AM, FM, and TV, to Dick Hale's forty-five percent. And Mrs. Upton and Tally-Ho were good friends. Very close. Intimate, one might say.
Carla Upton was on the long list of people who positively loathed Dick Hale. She also was a very smart businesswoman who knew that Tally-Ho was a fine program director who worked well with people and kept KSIN FM solidly in the black, despite the excesses of Dick Hale.
While KSIN held a good share of listeners during the day, it was at night that the station showed its stuff. At night, KSIN played night music for night people. Music to tune into if you're having a cocktail party for adults; music to work and relax and make love to. Sexy saxes and smooth trumpets, the classic beat of Brubeck and Davis. The pipes of Sinatra and Bennett. KSIN grabbed the adult audience of La Barca and surrounding areas in a velvet fist and held it.
"SIN radio," was the call. "It's nighttime in the city."
William "Bill" Jarry, known on the air as BJ, shoved off at six in the evenings and stroked it until ten at night. Ah ... but at ten. That was when Jennifer Lomax, known to a quarter of a million people as Jenny Caesar (just like the salad, good to eat), took the mike at SIN and no less than a thousand males on any given night ejaculated to her voice. Jenny was the top DJ at KSIN. She allowed only twelve minutes of commercial time per hour, and the sponsors paid dearly and willingly for that time. Jenny's voice was a soft, wet kiss in the night, with lots of tongue action and foreplay.
At two o'clock in the morning, Jimmy Turcotte, known as The Turk, took over and carried it until six in the morning. Hal Fortier, known as Frenchy, grabbed the mike for wake-up time in La Barca. He ran the board until ten, when Tally-Ho took over. From two until six in the evenings — known as drive time — Windjammer ran the ship.
The part-timers, while not as good as the regulars, were very nearly as professional, with no change in format, ever.
Of course, the regulars had their voices heard seven days and nights a week, on tape, on TV, and on KSIN AM, as well as on FM. Some of the music heard over KSIN was on tape. Since much of the music played on FM was not available on CD, putting it on cart was a smart move. A very smart move on one person's part.
That person understood overdubbing and tracking. That person had spent years studying the subtleties of subliminal perception and suggestion. That person was a genius. And that person had the patience to wait while the subject's subconscious mind absorbed the subliminal messages cleverly hidden behind the music.
That person had worked hard to cover any back trail that might expose the real identity. Had worked very hard to conceal all the years spent in locked rooms in private mental institutions, while the most skilled doctors available tried to heal the brilliantly tortured mind.
The doctors had failed.
Of course, what was being done at KSIN was all in fun.
Fun being relative to that individual's state of mind.CHAPTER 2
"It's gonna be a gorgeous day in Fist City," Frenchy said, knowing how the term Fist City irritated the elected and appointed hierarchy of La Barca. "We've got a current temp of fifty-nine and a high today of sixty-nine. And sixty-nine is a good high ... in more ways than one."
"Don't take it any further, Frenchy," Tally-Ho muttered, as she stretched and yawned and kicked the covers from her five-foot seven-inch frame. She lay naked on the satin sheets. As far as she was concerned, clothes were a necessary encumbrance during the day, but she'd be damned if she'd wear them to bed.
Frenchy introed Frankie Laine's "River Saint Marie" and let the matter of sixty-nine remain only a thought in the minds of the listeners.
As Tally had known he would.
She had a staff of solid professionals at KSIN. Everybody knew their jobs and knew to keep their noses out of other people's departments.
Everybody except Dick Hale.
God! how she hated that bastard. When the time was right, he would get his. She promised herself that every day. Several times a day. When the time was right. She ached for the day when she could hear Dick Hale scream ...
She shook that thought away and headed for her bath.
* * *
Frenchy loved the shift he worked. Like most good DJs, it had not taken him long to find where he worked best in any on-air schedule. He was a morning man, and a damned good one. Frenchy could get out of bed announcing, and in a good mood — at least once he hit the air. Until Dick Hale came into the control room. Even if he kept his mouth shut, Dick still screwed things up just by standing there.
God! Frenchy hated that bastard. He'd do anything to get Hale's license jerked by the FCC. Anything!
Hecalmed himself and opened his mike. "Goodmornin', folks. We're gonna have traffic for you shortly, and while I get the whirly bird on the horn, here's Brubeck and 'Blue Rondo A La Turk.'"
Dick Hale would not leave his mind. Frenchy hated him more than any person he could name. Hated him even more than he'd hated his father. And that rotten, abusive obscenity had been the absolute scum of the earth.
Until Frenchy had taken matters into his own hands and ...
Brubeck was hitting the last notes. "Hey, folks!" Frenchy leaped back into his morning-man role. "Gonna be warm today out from Fist City and away from the coast. Look for a high of about 88 in the outlying communities. Yep. Just like a politician: out lying."
Seconds later, Frenchy's phone light began flashing. He looked at it, knowing in all probability who it was. With a sigh, he picked it up. "KSIN."
Dick Hale. "Goddamnit, Frenchy!" Dick's grating voice ground into Frenchy's ear. "I am sick and tired of your off-color remarks, and your constant use of Fist City on the air. Either shape up and do what I tell you to do, or draw your check and get the hell out! Do you understand all that, you childish fool?"
And Frenchy's show went flat.
* * *
Tally picked it up immediately. She was just stepping out of the shower when she heard Frenchy introing Sarah Vaughan. He had about as much enthusiasm in his voice as a person waiting for a double root canal.
She called the station, knowing full well what had just happened. "What's wrong, Frenchy?"
"Pricky-Dickie, what else? Tally, I don't mind being chewed on, but not on the air. Can't that stupid bastard understand it's hard enough to stay up on a good day. But after a lecture from that —" He bit back the words.
Tally knew a DJ could not stay up after a chewing. Just like a singer or actor or anyone else in the performing arts. She'd personally been there too many times. "I'll take care of it, Frenchy. You go get yourself a cup of coffee and try to work it back up. Okay?"
"All right, Tally. I'll do it. You know I will. But I hate that son of a bitch. I really do." He hung up.
Tally-Ho called Carla Upton.
* * *
"I guess, by god, I told him who's boss around here," Dick said to his wife, June, and his kids, all seated at the breakfast table.
"Uh-huh," his wife said sweetly. She knew who ran the show, and it wasn't her husband.
His kids gushed all over their father.
Like father, like son, and daughter. Sort of.
"Those on-air people are like children," Dick launched into dime-store psychology, which was the only type of psychology he knew anything about ... and little enough of that. "They have to be disciplined periodically."
"Oh, Daddy, you're so smart," daughter Sue said, nibbling on a piece of toast.
"Well," Dick's ego ballooned. "I have been in broadcasting a number of years."
True. But never behind a mike. Dick, like so many others in his position, could never hope to understand that professional DJs and announcers — and there is a difference — are as much actor and actress as those who appear on the stage or in front of a camera, with just as much temperament.
There were a great many things that Dick Hale seemed not to understand; including the members of his loving family.
He seemed unaware that his son was having a homosexual affair with his suite-mate at collage. He seemed unaware that his daughter was single-handedly — or single-mouthedly — attempting to blow the entire male student body of La Barca Central High School.
He seemed unaware that his wife was involved in some rather bizarre affairs that took place several times a month in the hills above La Barca.
And he did not know that his mistress was taperecording everything that went on when Dick visited her — in and out of bed.
In short, Dick Hale appeared to be a classic space cadet.
* * *
Tuesday morning began as usual for Jessica Kress. Nothing out of the ordinary during her bath, drying her hair, putting on her makeup, drinking her coffee, and eating a bowl of cereal. With lots of fiber. All this was done while listening to her favorite radio station: KSIN. There was that funny commercial that made her laugh. She reached across the breakfast bar and turned up the volume. Then, without consciously realizing she was doing it, she picked up the phone and called KSIN, requesting "September Song" — the version popular years ago, not the latest nasal congestion.
She had no conscious memory of doing that.
She heard the song, heard something slightly different this time, smiled, and said, "All right." Then she locked up the house and went to work.
* * *
"Dick," Tally-Ho sat down in his office. "I thought we had cleared the air as to who runs what in this station?"
"Didn't take long for that prima donna to call you," Dick replied, leaning back in his expensive chair; where he kept his butt most of the day. That is, when he wasn't going home to take naps or visiting his mistress.
"Frenchy isn't a prima donna, and he didn't call me. I called him after I heard his show go flat. Dick, if you had the common sense to know horseshit from peanut butter, you'd have understood long ago that there is a time and a place to chew on DJs."
Excerpted from Night Mask by William W. Johnstone. Copyright © 1994 William W. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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