Victims, p.30

Victims, page 30

 

Victims
 


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  The stand on the right was piled high with softcover books, four stacks, at least twenty per pile. Crosswords, anagrams, sudoku, sum doku, word search, brain-teasers, kakuro, anacrostics. Drawers below contained sweats, T-shirts, boxers, and tube socks, size XL.

  An adjoining room, smaller, colder, contained two chemical portatoilets, one clean, the other reeking. Gallon water bottles were lined up against a wall. A card table was piled with folded white towels. Bulk rolls of toilet paper still in cellophane sat nearby. Off to the side, two cardboard cartons of cookies, bread, cereal, beef jerky, canned spaghetti and chili shared space with three bags of generic dry dog food.

  “Keeping house,” said Petra. “Cozy.”

  I noticed something behind the tallest stack of provisions, pointed it out.

  Milo drew out a brown cardboard pizza delivery box. Pristine, unopened, printed with the image of a portly, gleeful mustachioed chef.

  Lotta taste.

  Ooh la la.

  Three identical cartons were pinioned against the wall by cans and cases.

  We returned to the tunnel, passed through a third hatch. The passageway ended at a final room. A Gothic sign said No Further Entry.

  Petra tapped the rear stone wall to which the message had been bolted. “Kind of redundant.”

  Milo said, “Some sign contractor probably greased palms.”

  “My Lieutenant,” she said, though he wasn’t, “sage but so cynical.”

  Milo stepped into the final room, approached the sole piece of furniture. Bare-topped desk, stickered like the end tables.

  Muttering, “Doing what they could for the Swedish economy,” he slid the top drawer open.

  Inside was paper. A detective’s treasure.

  Check stubs documented a variety of welfare and disabilities payments from the State of California, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, mailed regularly to a Malibu post office box near Carbon Beach and cashed promptly at a nearby Bank of America. Totals varied from twelve hundred to nearly twice that amount.

  The recipient: Lewisohn Clark.

  Petra said, “Some moniker. Sounds like the millionaire on Gilligan.”

  “Say it out loud,” I said.

  She did. “Oh.”

  Milo said, “Lewis and Clark.”

  I said, “Master explorers.”

  A separate collection of stubs revealed monthly payments of $3,800.14 sent to the same P.O.B. A recent letter from the state pension board announced that an automatic cost-of-living increase would add just under a hundred eighty bucks to next month’s installment.

  The recipient: Sven Galley.

  Milo checked his pad. “Harrie used his own damn Social Security number.”

  Petra said, “Guess not everyone’s curious.”

  She inspected a stub. “Svengali.” Her jawline sharpened. “I’m glad he’s dead.”

  A dark green simulated alligator box beneath the receipts told a new story.

  Faded Polaroids of women, young, trussed, terrified. The same terrible sequence for each: rope around neck, fear-frozen eyes, lifeless eyes, gaping mouth.

  Underneath the photos were articles printed off the Internet. Missing girls, eight of them, the cases arranged chronologically.

  The first victim, a college student at UC Santa Cruz, had vanished ten years ago during a Carmel vacation. The most recent, a sixteen-year-old runaway from New Hampshire, had been last seen five months ago, hitchhiking on Ocean Avenue not far from the Santa Monica Pier.

  It didn’t take long to match the photos.

  Milo opened the bottom drawer.

  Another case, this one larger and covered in soiled gray shagreen, sat atop yet more paper. The press of a button-latch revealed an array of surgical tools resting in green velvet, each instrument snuggled in form-fitted compartments. Tiny gold lettering on the inside of the lid spelled out Chiron, Tutlingen.

  The paper beneath the case was blank. Milo removed a sheet anyway. On the underside, centered perfectly, was the inevitable message.

  ?

  Milo said, “Not anymore, asshole. Let’s get out of here.”

  Petra said, “Good idea, I need a breather, too.”

  “It’s not that, kid.” He brandished his cell phone. “Not getting reception.”

  As we made our way out, I let Petra pass in front of me, advanced closer to Milo, and stared until he made eye contact.

  He nodded. Moved on.

  By the time the black Lab and the springer spaniel arrived, darkness had settled over the field and field lamps faciliated by Detective Arthur Ramos had been propped.

  The handler, a civilian from Oxnard named Judy Kantor who also bred and showed both breeds, said, “They love the dark, less distraction. What’s the area?”

  Milo said, “That clearance.”

  “That’s it?” said Kantor. “No trees or brush or water? Piece of cake, there’s something down there, they’ll find it.” She clapped her hands. “C’mon Hansel, c’mon Gretel, do your sniffy thing.”

  Judy Kantor led the dogs around the perimeter, then she let them explore. Within moments, each animal was sitting. Ten feet apart. Judy Kantor marked the spots, signaled for them to resume.

  Two more tells. This time, the dogs stayed seated.

  She said, “That’s it, Lieutenant.”

  Milo said, “We suspect as many as eight victims.”

  “If there was another grave nearby, they’d tell you,” she said. “Unless it’s super-deep—hey, maybe you’ve got stacked bodies.”

  Milo thanked her, she gave the dogs treats, the three of them departed with obvious joy.

  No stacking.

  A quartet of intact skeletons, interred barely three feet below the surface.

  Petra said, “They’re all pretty petite. Don’t need to be an anthropologist to know they’re girls.”

  CHAPTER

  44

  It did take an anthropologist to make sense of the bones. Moe Reed’s girlfriend, Dr. Liz Wilkinson, had the report on Milo’s desk nine days later. The skeletons were consistent with the four most recent victims depicted in James Harrie’s photo stash. Dental records for two victims solidified the I.D.’s and the remaining two girls were differentiated using femur length.

  Wilkinson opined that two of the victims had probably given birth, a fact that didn’t emerge during interviews with their parents.

  No reason to bring that up. Milo helped facilitate delivery of the bones and has attended every funeral.

  A wider, deeper excavation of the field has produced no other bodies, no evidence of any kind.

  The burial sites of Dr. Louis Wainright and Nurse Joanne Morton remain unknown.

  The eyes left behind in “Bern Shacker’s” Beverly Hills office were too degraded by formaldehyde for DNA analysis. Dr. Clarice Jernigan has opined that they may not belong to any victim, could very well be anatomy specimens sold commercially to optometrists and ophthalmologists.

  She’s a tough-minded expert pathologist with a wealth of experience.

  Then again, everyone engages in wishful thinking.

  The pizza boxes found in the tunnel match those used by only one restaurant between Santa Barbara and Malibu, a stand in Oxnard just off Highway 1, catering to the motor trade. No one working there is aware of any pilferage. A teenage girl on-site during weekend evenings is almost certain a pleasant man resembling James Harrie was an occasional customer.

  An A-student taking a full load of advanced placement courses, she’s nearly as confident about his order.

  Same thing each time: small plain cheese pie, large pepperoni and mushrooms.

  Grant Huggler awaits trial at Starkweather State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He is a model patient and has defied easy diagnosis. His public defender and deputy D.A. John Nguyen have separately indicated their intention to call me as an expert witness should the case go to trial. I’ve communicated my reluctance to both of them. They haven’t pushed. But they’re lawyers, haven’t backed off, e
ither.

  I can live with the uncertainty.

  Milo has never mentioned what happened in the field. He has asked me—twice, because he’s been more absentminded than usual—if I think Huggler will ever make it into a courtroom or remain stashed in his isolation room.

  “Or even shipped off to another loony bin. Maybe Kansas, huh? We owe them.”

  Both times I told him I wasn’t feeling like a gambling man.

  I’ve been a little edgy, though I think I’ve been handling it pretty well with Robin and Blanche, saying and doing the right things, playacting a normal life.

  For the most part, the dreams have stopped. I do think about the eyes, the four girls whose bodies haven’t been found. Louis Wainright, Joanne Morton.

  Belle Quigg was offered Louie but she demurred, telling Milo it was all she could do to make it through each day.

  Louie and Ned were adopted by a family from Ojai, a Mormon clan with twelve kids and a long, honorable history of caring for old, ill castaway pets. I hear that both dogs have fattened up and once in a while, Ned’s got the energy to play.

  I’ve turned down several patient referrals, have increased my running time, spend more time listening to music, everything from Steve Vai to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6.

  Every day I go into my office, close the door, pretend to work. Mostly I sit at my desk thinking, then trying not to.

  I’ve contemplated recapturing my self-hypnosis chops. Or learning some new form of meditation that might succeed at emptying my head.

  I think about meeting the parents of the four girls whose bodies haven’t been found. Saying something to Dr. Louis Wainright’s two adult kids.

  No one has inquired about Wainright’s nurse, Joanne Morton, and that bothers me more than it should.

  I wonder about what created Grant Huggler. James Harrie.

  At this point, I’m not sure I want answers.

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  JONATHAN KELLERMAN is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty bestselling crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, The Butcher’s Theater, Billy Straight, The Conspiracy Club, Twisted, and True Detectives. With his wife, bestselling novelist Faye Kellerman, he co-authored Double Homicide and Capital Crimes. He is also the author of two children’s books and numerous nonfiction works, including Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children and With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars. He has won the Goldwyn, Edgar, and Anthony awards and has been nominated for a Shamus Award. Jonathan and Faye Kellerman live in California, New Mexico, and New York.

  jonathankellerman.com

  Table of Contents

  Cover

  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  About the Author

 


 

  Jonathan Kellerman, Victims

 


 

 
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