Iced Malice, page 16
Kendall, who had forgotten about it, accepted the papers. “Did he offer to call and ask them?”
Courtney smiled, obviously happy to have Kendall ask the question. “I didn’t give him a chance to offer; I asked him if he would. I hope that was okay.”
“Of course. You’ll have to let me know what he finds out.”
“I already know. He called them right after I talked to him. The parents of the first couple told him they were going to set a date depending on where they decided to get married. They had the church picked out, but they were looking for a place to have their reception. So maybe what Daniel Holmes said about venues could mean something, don’t you think?”
“It could. We’ll have to go to these places, show their photos and talk to people in case they might have said something about where they were going next.”
“But if they looked at places right before they disappeared, wouldn’t people have reported it?” Courtney asked.
“That depends,” Kendall said. “People are funny that way. Sometimes they don’t call because they feel it isn’t important, and sometimes they just don’t want to bother getting involved, even in a small way.”
Courtney sighed. “Hard to imagine.”
“I appreciate your help, Courtney. I’ll definitely look into these.”
“Can I go with you?”
“I’m afraid not. We’re not allowed to involve a civilian.”
“But . . . just looking at venues wouldn’t be dangerous.”
Kendall, amused at her eagerness, answered, “If it’s feasible I’ll call you. But I’m not promising anything.”
After the girl left, Kendall wondered if this was something she should have been pursuing. Was she so concerned with Nash that she had neglected her duties? She had talked to Ross about the wedding venue angle, and he hadn’t picked up on it either. She put the folder under her keys so she wouldn’t forget to take it with her the next morning. For now, all she could think about was finally getting an entire night’s sleep.
The next morning there was no avoiding Schoenfuss’s demand to come to his office.
He greeted her with, “You look like something the cat dragged in.”
Kendall hadn’t bothered with makeup today, even when Alverson saw her and grimaced.
Schoenfuss studied her and pointed his pseudo-cigarette in her direction. “I heard about Nashlund. He’s a good guy and a good cop. I’m sorry.”
“You must not have heard the latest—now they think he’ll make it, and he may have a full recovery.” She felt a thickening in her throat just thinking about Nash being nursed back to health by his wife while Kendall had to remain on the sidelines. She kept telling herself his recovery was all that mattered and that she was being selfish resenting Shari.
“I’m glad to hear that,” he said. “You and I haven’t touched base in a while.”
“I know. I’m sorry about that, but I’ve been busy with the case and I’ve had to make a couple trips to Kenosha.”
“Have you talked to your computer researcher? She was here yesterday.”
“I haven’t talked to her, but she left me a message. She wasn’t able to find any crimes with the same pattern as the Foley-Kolterjohn murders. Or the Fiancé Murders.”
“Too bad. I understand you still haven’t closed the Wetzel case. What’s going on with that? Has something new turned up?”
Kendall wasn’t sure how much to tell him, but he seemed to be in a good mood. “Brynn did find something on that one, sir. I thought I’d leave it open while she concluded her research.”
“I think right now our priority has to be the Geror girl, don’t you?”
“Of course. Brynn has been doing the Wetzel research for me on her own time.”
That seemed to satisfy him and he changed tacks. “Why are you pushing for a search warrant for the Dalton’s house? I thought you’d already linked the Foley-Kolterjohn case to Holmes.”
“Yes,” Kendall said. “Although we’ll need the DNA for confirmation. We have Holmes for that one, but Rachel Geror disappeared after Holmes’ death. If there is a connection between Geror and Foley, that puts Dalton back on our radar.” Kendall suspected that Schoenfuss knew all this already but was testing her, testing her alertness to what was going on with her cases.
Schoenfuss chewed on his cigarette, then manipulated it to the side of his mouth. “All right. That’ll be all for now.”
Kendall returned to her desk just in time to take a call from Shari.
“Hi, Kendall. I just heard from Adam’s doctor. Nash will be transported here to Luther Hospital by ambulance on Monday. He’ll probably be hospitalized for at least two more weeks.”
Shari hadn’t told Kendall what she really wanted to know. Had Nash remembered her yet? “Has he regained any of his memory?”
“I’m sorry, Kendall, he hasn’t. The doctors are still saying it’s best to let him get it back on his own, at least for now. I have the names of doctors here that will be taking his case, so it will be up to them to decide how to proceed once they evaluate his condition.”
After she hung up, Kendall hurried to the ladies room; she was about to lose her lunch.
The following morning, much to Ross and Kendall’s shock, the search warrant went through for the Dalton house. When Kendall read it through, her face registered her disappointment.
“What? You look like you’re going to puke,” Ross said.
“This only covers the murder weapons; the knife that killed Karla and a gun that matches the one used to kill Kolterjohn.”
“That sucks. We already know Holmes is responsible for those.”
“Right, but we haven’t found the weapons. The knife he used when he attacked Courtney had no blood residue from Karla. I wanted to be able to look for anything related to Rachel Geror, but I guess that gave us too wide a scope. I only threw in the weapons because, since they’re more tangible, we’d be more likely to get access to Dalton’s house.”
“It’ll still give us free rein to look in every nook and cranny, right?” He peered over her shoulder at the document. “At least it lets us check out his car and garage, too.”
“We’re only supposed to be looking in places that could feasibly hold one of those weapons. And if we find anything at all suspicious other than the weapons, something that could link him to Holmes or the Fiancé case, we won’t even be able to use it.”
Ross wasn’t discouraged. “Maybe not in court, but if we do find anything, it’ll give us a pointer on where to look so we can nail the guy.”
“What about the Dalton’s financials?” she asked.
“Burnham ran those. No help.”
Kendall sighed. “Then let’s go look for a weapon.”
When they arrived at the Dalton house, they were met by the Daltons, looking pinch-faced and nervous, a normal look for people finding out their home was going to be legally ransacked. Their attorney, a golden-ager who Kendall knew did nothing more complicated than divorces and wills, stood at their side and looked over the warrant. “Everything is in order,” he explained to the couple. “They’re only looking for the weapons used in the killings of those two teens last month. So don’t worry, those are the only things they’ll be able to look for or remove from your home.”
He advised Kendall they would be back in a few hours, and cautioned them to leave the house as they had found it.
Burnham and another detective arrived a few minutes later, ready to help search. The house, a brick and frame bungalow, thankfully wasn’t one of the largest in the area, but it did have a basement. They all gloved up and began the hunt, Kendall and Ross sending the other two upstairs while they worked on the main floor. They were still rifling through the drawers of a desk in a small office off the living room when Paula and her partner came downstairs and announced they’d found nothing. Kendall sent them outside to look through the car and the garage.
Two hours later, they’d found nothing that connected D
“Freakin’ waste of time,” Ross griped when their paths crossed in the hallway. “We aren’t gonna find shit. At least we can quit spending time on this pair.”
“I’m not sure,” Kendall said. “Just because we haven’t found anything doesn’t necessarily mean that Dalton has nothing to hide.”
“How about their address book?”
“Nothing. Nothing on his calendar either.”
“Makes sense, though. If Dalton is involved in any of this, he won’t have anything around that would tip off his wife.”
“Not unless she’s part of it,” Kendall said. “Shit, we screwed up. We should have talked to the Daltons before we did the warrant and gotten a feel for if they’re hiding something.”
“We talked to them twice, the uniforms at least a couple times, and so did Paula and her partner. Let it go.”
“Yeah, no one mentioned getting a bad vibe. I don’t remember either of them hitting me that way, but one of them must have or I wouldn’t feel like we had to keep working them.”
Ross heaved a frustrated sigh. “All right, let’s go back to square one. What exactly do we think they did? They wouldn’t have killed Karla and left her there in their own driveway like that—it doesn’t play. Besides, Teed said today that Holmes is a preliminary DNA match with the tissue he found under her nails. Could Dalton have shot the Kolterjohn kid? That seems like a stretch to me, unless he was working with Holmes. And we don’t have a damn thing to show he ever met Holmes.”
Kendall hadn’t heard about the DNA. “How about the neighbors? Anything there?”
“Nope. Everyone reported back on that—nada.”
“Now what? Maybe we should put surveillance on him. What do you think?”
Ross laughed. “You kidding me? The boss will be pissed enough about this wild goose chase; no way he’ll approve that. Besides, if Dalton had something to do with Geror, we’ve tipped our hand. He’s going to be on the lookout.”
“She’s been gone nearly three days; we have to do something. I’ll watch him myself. I can’t sleep anyway.”
“I’m not doing anything special tonight,” Ross said. “I can sleep anywhere, anytime, so if you want I’ll start watching their house at about seven, and then you can take over at 1 a.m. But I think we should at least try for approval. I’ll ask, make the boss think it was my idea.”
“Sounds good.” It was at times like this Kendall was grateful for Ross as a partner. His misogyny, thankfully, didn’t carry over into the workplace; they worked well together.
Kendall spent the rest of the day visiting hotels and church halls, showing pictures of the first couple that went missing in the Fiancé case. Twelve years had passed, so she hadn’t expected much, thinking there would be little chance any of the same employees would still be around. The case had been big, though, national news even, so the few she did talk to remembered it, although none of them remembered the couple being in to look at their facilities.
Next on her list were four golf courses. The ones with halls would also have backdrops for wedding photos. She knew they wouldn’t be open for golf yet, but if they had halls, they would have bars and be open for business. It wasn’t until she got to the last one on her list that she lucked out. The course was located just east of the city, right off Hwy 53.
The man who was tending bar offered her a drink when she showed him her ID, but she turned him down. The view from the room, filled with tables set for the supper hour, was panoramic but stark, offering a vista of fields covered with aging snow.
“I’m here to ask you about your hall,” Kendall said.
The hall, she was told, was not real big, but there were many lovely locations on the grounds for photos. The hall held about a hundred people, and the price for a wedding buffet was reasonable. When he asked when she was getting married, she realized she hadn’t given him enough information.
“I’m here in a professional capacity. I’m investigating a series of disappearances of young couples that happened about twelve years ago. I need to talk to someone who would have been here at that time, someone who would have been the one to talk to about renting your hall.”
“That would be me. I’m the owner here. Guess it could have been my wife; she helps out sometimes. But I remember what you’re talking about—those Fiancé Murders, right? Back then that was all anyone talked about for a long time.”
Kendall pulled out the photos of the couples, hoping to pique his memory. “Do you recall if any of these couples were here to look at your hall?”
“He pointed to the first couple, the ones who’d been going to school in Menomonie but were from Eau Claire. “Sure. Those two. They were here about a week or so before they went missing.”
“Did you report it?”
“Not at first, because I didn’t have anything to report. All the papers talked about them wanting to get married, so it didn’t seem important. Then after a year or two, when the other ones went missing, you guys started a tip line, said anything might be helpful.”
Kendall knew what was coming. “You called it in and no one ever got back to you.”
Tip lines had their limitations. Often it was up to the people taking the calls whether or not to take down information on any particular one. Their judgment always entered the equation. And of the tips they did take down, then it was up to the officer sifting through them to make the call on whether they warranted checking out. There were always too many calls to respond to each one individually.
“Do you remember anything about them? If they said anything about their plans?”
“Well, they didn’t have a date set, I remember that. They said they wanted to find the perfect place for their reception and set the date at a time when it would be available. They seemed real interested in having it here. They liked that they could have the wedding photos taken outside here without having to make another stop somewhere.”
“Anything else?” Kendall asked.
“They had a little squabble. Nothing serious, but the boy wanted to have the whole shebang outdoors and not even rent a hall. The girl didn’t agree and they had words about it for a bit, like I wasn’t even in the room.”
“And that’s all you remember?”
“Yeah. But before they left, the girl did ask about availability and said she’d call me back after they decided.”
“Did they resolve the issue of having it outdoors?”
“From what I heard, it sounded like she agreed to consider it, look at a few places.”
Kendall checked her list. “Do you know any places that do outdoor weddings?
“I think Fanny Hill does them. Or used to, anyway. A lot of parks have nice facilities, but then the couple has to hire a caterer who works that way. You might want to check with one of those wedding planners. I think there’s a couple of ‘em in town.”
Kendall left and drove to Fanny Hill, a lovely restaurant and theater facility that also had a hall and rooms for overnight stays. When she arrived, she quickly found out that it had recently come under new management. She got the name of the previous owner and left for home. Maybe she could at least get in a nap before heading to the Dalton house for her turn on stakeout.
Rachel Geror awoke and blinked a few times before awareness returned, forcing her to absorb the horror of her surroundings. Her memory of the previous days came flooding back, reminding her it was her own stubbornness that put her here. After being repeatedly raped, beaten, and forced to tolerate every disgusting sexual act she’d ever heard of—and some she hadn’t—her captor left her alone, lying on a urine-soaked, foul-smelling mattress with her wrists in metal cuffs chained to the wall next to the bed.
She told herself things could be worse. She was still alive. And each time he left her in this cold building by herself with only a tiny space heater for warmth, he had covered her naked body with a heavy quilt that smelled as disgusting as the mattress. At least it
Rachel would have given anything to be back in the Wagon Wheel, waiting for Mickey to return to their table. Why hadn’t she simply demanded he take her home? Or gotten in the car with him when he stopped her on the highway, before her supposed rescuer had come along?
She chastened herself for thinking about what she should have done differently. Thoughts like that were nonproductive; she couldn’t go back and change what happened. What she needed to do was assess her situation, try to find a way out of here. She was in an outbuilding, like a big garage. Everything about the place was gray and dingy, the walls colorless, the two tiny windows clouded with grime. The sun was out, but it was barely noticeable through the buildup on the only panes that were visible from where she sat.
She could break a window—if she could get out of the chains that held her wrists bolted to the wall. Like that was even remotely possible; they were all made of heavy metal.
Her stomach, void of food since the previous afternoon when he’d fed her a fast-food sandwich, rumbled with need in spite of the nausea that made her want to heave until her body had nothing left to eject.
No, the bolts were secure and the metal bonds on her wrists, immovable. She had no way to escape as long as they were in place. Her only chance was to fight him the next time he released her from her bonds long enough to do what he wanted to her.