By kmccabe08 All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Thriller

Chapter 15

Brandon’s phone woke him from the first peaceful night of sleep he’d had in a while. He cursed whoever was on the other end. He glanced at the clock; it was four in the morning. His large hands fumbled around the nightstand until he reached his phone. “Hughes,” he mumbled.

“Brandon, sorry to wake you, but it’s important,” Chief Holmes said.

“It’s okay, Chief. Is something wrong?” “Is Katie with you?”

“Yes, she’s sleeping. Why? Did something happen?” Brandon was wide awake now.

“There’s been another murder,” the Chief replied.

“Well, it’s not her. I can vouch for that,” he stated. “What makes you think she’s in danger?”

“There was a message left at the crime scene.”

“Where is it? I’ll be right over,” he said as he rushed out of bed.

“Brandon, I think it’s best if you stay away.”

“Chief Holmes, this is my case. Now, where are you?”

Brandon heard the Chief’s sigh. “We’re at Hatch Hall, at the edge of campus.”

“Thank you. I’m getting dressed now. I’ll be right over,” he said as he pulled on his jeans. He was about to pull on his socks and tennis shoes when he looked over at Katie. He thought about the message. He didn’t yet know what it said, but the Chief said it was directed towards her. As much as he wanted to let her sleep, he did not want her to find out about the message alone. He had no idea how long he would be at the crime scene and knew news of the message and the message itself would leak out very quickly. In the age of smartphones and social media it was next to impossible to keep information quiet. Add to that the fact that the crime scene was right outside of a college dormitory, well, he was surprised the news hadn’t already leaked. “I’m bringing Katie with me.”

The Chief sighed. “Brandon…”

“Chief, the news about the message will leak out soon enough. I don’t want her to be alone when she finds out about it. I promise to keep her away from the scene until I can speak to her, but I’m not leaving her alone. Besides, this could be exactly what the killer wants, for her to be isolated. It’s just not safe for her.”

“Okay Brandon. I understand. Now hurry up and get here.

We have a lot to do.”

“Okay. We’ll be there soon.” Brandon hung up the phone and dropped it in his pocket. He gently nudged Katie’s shoulder. “Katie honey, you need to wake up. We need to go.”

Katie mumbled something in her sleep then rolled over. “I know you’re tired, but we have to go. Please wake up.”

Brandon nudged harder this time. Finally, her eyes opened a bit. “What time is it?” she mumbled.

“A little after four.”

“Ugh. What could possibly be so important for you to wake me up this early?”

“Right now I need you to get dressed. I’ll explain later.” “Okay. I’ll get dressed if you make me coffee,” Katie sighed and swung her feet to the ground.

“You got it,” Brandon replied then headed to the kitchen.

He brewed the coffee quickly then filled a cup for Katie. He poured the remainder in a thermos. Katie emerged from the bathroom just as he finished the task. Moments later they were his Jeep, heading towards Hatch Hall.

Katie’s stomach clenched when they turned from College Ave to Rollins Street. It clenched even tighter when Brandon stopped at the edge of the driveway of her old dorm. A phalanx of police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances lined the road next to Hatch Hall.

“Stay here,” Brandon commanded before he got out of the car.

She watched as he flagged down a young patrolman. They had a quick conversation, after which the patrolman came to the car and knocked on the window.

“Yes?” Katie answered as she stepped out of the car. She was immediately assailed by the scent of burned grass and something far more putrid.

“Ms. Quinn, I’m Officer Wertz. Detective Hughes asked me to stay here with you,” the young patrolman said.

She looked him over. He looked no older than twenty. It was apparent he was straight out of the Academy. “Officer Wertz, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” She smiled. “Could you possibly tell me what happened here? I smell smoke. I hope everyone is okay.”

“Well there was a fire, ma’am. The dorm is intact and all the residents got out safely.”

“So, there were no fatalities?”

The young patrolman ground his toe against the grass in a nervous manner. He was hiding something.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I can’t comment on the details of an investigation.”

“Please, Officer Wertz, I know someone had to have died. Brandon’s Homicide. Why would they call him if no one died?”

The officer bit his lip, debating what to tell her.

“Officer Wertz, I promise this will stay between the two of us,” she whispered.

Officer Wertz looked down at the ground and once again ground his toe into the dirt. His constant movement was creating a noticeable indentation in the hard dirt. “Yes, someone died.”

“Do they have a name?”

“No, there wasn’t enough—” Officer Wertz caught himself before he said too much.

Katie tried to hide the flash of recognition in her eyes. He didn’t need to finish the statement, she could guess what he was going to say. “Thank you, Officer Wertz. I appreciate all you have said,” Katie mumbled. “I think I’ll wait in the car.” Katie did not wait for a response. Instead she climbed back into the Jeep, settled in the passenger seat, and sipped her coffee. She hoped this wouldn’t take long, or at the very least, Brandon would take her home soon. She was tired and cold. She had no idea as to why she needed to be here. However, since she was stuck here, she decided to make the best of it and do some research.

Katie reached into the back and grabbed her laptop. She turned the computer on and searched for a Wi-Fi signal.

Fortunately, they were close enough to the dorm to get theirs. She quickly connected to the internet and checked her email. It was early and in all honesty she wasn’t expecting to see anything, but checking email was part of her morning ritual. She was surprised to see an email with an attachment from Jade.

Hey Katie,

I couldn’t help but think about your situation last night. I sat down and brainstormed some ideas with a friend from university. He works for the FBI now. Don’t worry, this was off the record and he will not be contacting the police in this case.

However, after hearing the details you told me, he advises that the Bureau should be contacted. That being said, here is what you need to know. Feel free to pass it on to whomever you want. And watch out for yourself. I’ll talk to you soon.

Sincerely, Jade

Katie gave a small smile and silent thanks. She really did have some fabulous friends in the city. She would most definitely miss them when she moved back here. She wiped a tear from her face then opened the attachment.

Subject is a female sexual sadist between the ages of 25-35. Most likely Caucasian. Lives in a comfortable home or apartment, but also has access to remote location such as farmhouse or family home.

Subject will appear normal and even kind to those in normal day to day life. Her career will involve something where social interaction with the community is required. Careers such as teaching, retail/sales, community development/organizing are the most likely areas of interest.

While the subject blames a certain individual for her actions, in this case, Katie Quinn, subject has always had these latent desires to kill and torture. The fact that the subject is killing surrogates of Katie Quinn indicates she is in some way getting revenge for a wrong Ms. Quinn “committed” against her. It is because of this need for revenge that we have determined the subject is female. When subject is found a history of animal abuse and bullying will be found as well.

Since subject has been active for ten years, the likelihood of finding her is low. She’s had a decade to perfect her method. The best places to look for identifying characteristics such as fingerprints or DNA would be in the early case files.

While the murders have taken place all over the country, the subject mainly resides within the metro area of Columbia, Missouri. She most likely travels during spring break since this is the time when all of the murders have occurred.

If target is acquired by subject, the best way to prolong survival would be to remain outwardly calm and unaffected. The subject gets a thrill from seeing others react to pain; she will not kill until she receives gratification. If target remains calm then subject will prolong life until satisfaction is received.

As far as investigative purposes go, the target (in this case, Katie Quinn) most likely knows the subject. It will not be someone who participates in her daily life, but is familiar to Katie. It could be a work colleague, neighbor, or friend of a friend. While the subject may have just entered Katie’s life, the subject has known Katie intimately for at least the past ten years. Expect to find photos and videos of the target at the residence of subject.

Katie stared at the email in horror. They were dealing with a woman? How could a woman do those horrible things to other women? While that was troubling enough, the most disturbing part was the fact that she knew the killer. But how could she narrow that list down? She had many casual acquaintances and work colleagues from both here and New York. While she doubted someone in New York had anything to do with this, she couldn’t rule out the possibility.

Katie’s heart began to race. She needed to share this information with Brandon and Rebecca. They needed to know.

They could help. She quickly hopped out of the car, taking her laptop with her.

“Officer Wertz, I need to speak to Brandon. Could you tell me where he is?”

Officer Wertz shook his head. “Ma’am, Detective Hughes said you should stay here.”

“Please, Officer Wertz. This is important.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but I was ordered to keep you here until Detective Hughes returns. You’re welcome to stand outside the car with me, but we’re not going anywhere,” he stated firmly.

Katie thought about arguing for a second then dismissed the idea. The only purpose that would serve would be to annoy him. She didn’t want that. She needed him on her side. “Okay,” she relented. “I have some coffee in the car if you want some.” She smiled.

Officer Wertz looked as if he had just received a death pardon. Apparently Brandon had instilled the fear of God into the poor boy. She would make sure to talk him about that later.

“Yes, coffee would be great.”

“I’m afraid it’s black. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all, ma’am. Anything to keep me up.”

Katie nodded then went to the car. She grabbed her cup along with the thermos Brandon had brought. She topped off her cup then handed the rest to Officer Wertz.

“Thank you, ma’am. I hope Detective Hughes won’t be mad that I drank his coffee.” He smiled sheepishly.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I can take care of him if need be.” She smiled.

“I don’t see how you can deal with him, ma’am. He can be a bit intimidating.”

“Honestly that’s all for show. He takes his work seriously, but underneath that gruff exterior is an incredibly sweet and funny man. Once you get to know him you’ll understand.”

“If you say so, ma’am.” He shrugged his shoulders as if to say he didn’t believe her.

“I do. And please, call me Katie. I always hated being called ma’am. It makes me feel old.” She laughed.

“Yes ma’—I mean Katie.” He chuckled. “My name is James by the way.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, James.” Katie smiled then took another sip of her coffee.

Brandon stared at the grotesque crime scene. The twisted and charred remains of a human being had melted into the once green grass. The putrid smell of burning flesh and bodily fluids clung to the air. For the most part, the police had been successful in keeping the students at bay. Right now several young officers were interviewing the residents of the dorm, checking their phones for any video or pictures that they had taken. He knew someone out there had something. Eventually it would leak to the press. He only hoped that they could get to the witness first.

Brandon glanced nervously back towards the Jeep, grateful to see Katie chatting with Officer Wertz. He knew her curiosity was probably killing her, but he was adamant that she not see the scene. The message left would be far too upsetting. He wanted to inform her of it in private, without half the school watching.

“What do you have, Rebecca?” he asked. “Well, he was burned.”

“No shit,” Brandon groaned. “Thanks for that observation, Captain Obvious. Is there anything else you can tell me? Like, if the fire killed him perhaps?”

“Don’t get sharp with me, Brandon Hughes. I’m just as tired and concerned as you,” she snapped. “I won’t know the cause of death until I do the autopsy.”

Brandon sighed. She was right. He had no reason to be short with her. She cared just as much about Katie as him. “I’m sorry. I was rude. Forgive me?”

“Yeah, okay.” She nodded then called for a gurney. “I’ll do the autopsy as soon as we get back to the morgue. You should have my findings by this evening.”

“Thanks. You’re an angel.”

“Yeah, yeah. Just keep Katie safe.” She climbed into the ME’s van and pulled away.

Brandon walked around the crime scene, inspecting every minute detail he could see. The evidence techs were carefully combing the area. He wouldn’t be surprised if they found next to nothing. The fire had pretty much burned through everything.

His heart began to race. This killer was smart, almost too smart. Not once had he made a single mistake. He had killed for ten solid years and not been caught. With each passing day, the odds of his capture slimmed.

Brandon looked back at Katie, who was still speaking to Officer Wertz. She glanced up for a moment and saw him staring. She flashed him a weak smile then returned to her conversation. Brandon smiled back even though she wasn’t watching. Then he headed to the crowd in search of a witness.

By nine in the morning, the coffee was empty and Katie was getting cranky. She couldn’t understand why Brandon had insisted that she come with him. He had promised to explain why when he woke her up this morning. She still had not received that explanation.

In the nearly five hours since they had arrived, Brandon had only returned to the car twice to check on her. Every time she asked to speak to him he said they’d talk later and walked away. As kind as James was, she was beginning to tire of his company. She wanted one of two things right now: answers or a ride home, but first she needed to find a way to get rid of James.

“James, I hate to say this, but I really need to use the ladies’ room. That coffee is running right through me. Is there someplace we can go?”

“Yes, I’ll take you inside. Follow me.”

Katie did not wait for James. She took off across the lawn, careful to stay on the correct side of the crime scene tape. When she reached the entrance to the dorm two officers stopped her.

“I’m sorry ma’am, but you can’t go in there. The dorms are closed to the public right now. If you’ll please just turn around and wait with the others. We will let you know when you can return.”

Katie was about to snap when James caught up with her. “Don’t worry Ellen, she’s with me,” he said. “This is Katie Quinn.”

The female officer looked apologetic. “Oh, I’m sorry ma’am. I didn’t realize who you were. I truly do apologize. Please, follow me,” she said then let her into the dorms.

“Thank you.” Katie smiled. “I just need to use the ladies’ room.”

“Of course. They’re right down this hall.”

“I know. I used to live here during school.” She smiled then walked down the hall to the nearest bathroom.

Katie emerged several minutes later. She was just about to round the corner into the main entryway when she heard someone whispering.

“What do you think it means?” A male voice said. “Well, she’s obviously hiding something,” another male voice replied.

“You don’t think Hughes would actually be involved with a criminal,” the first voice whispered.

“Maybe he doesn’t know.”

Katie cleared her breath then walked around the corner. The two officers stared at her as she passed them. Try as she might, she could not hide the anger on her face. She hated it when people talked behind her back. She was just about to berate the two officers when she felt the sting of tears in her eyes. She quickly turned and exited the building and began her search for Brandon. A few minutes later she saw him speaking to the Fire Marshal in front of Buck’s Ice Cream. She ducked underneath the crime scene tape and headed for him. It was time for him to listen. About halfway through the field she stopped mid-step. She finally saw what everyone had been talking about: a message intended for her, burned into the once green grass. Her stomach dropped and hot tears flowed from her face as she read:

Katie Quinn: confess your crime or die.

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