Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | January 16, 2011

Sample – First Chapter from ” Devil’s Blade” My Newest Completed Novel

Chapter 1

The second one.

Our escort took us past yellow Crime Scene tape, through oak double doors, into an indirectly lighted foyer. The cream-colored carpet, deep and soft, muffled our steps. To the left, a living room’s white sofas and overstuffed chairs sat illuminated by tiny spotlights. Picture windows, framed by draperies, matching furniture and carpets gave a panoramic view of Manhattan’s sparse early morning lights. A professional decorator’s touch glittered in the contrast the vivid paintings and prints on the walls offered.
The uniformed cop stopped and faced right. He hadn’t spoken since introducing himself outside the doors. He still didn’t speak. He gestured with an open hand into the sharper lights of the kitchen and the tableau before us.

The cop left.

Forensic technicians worked in the kitchen, taking pictures and samples. Their seeming immunity to the barbarity they examined always amazed me.
A man and a woman sat, facing each other, taped to straight-backed chairs,. Their lips had been closed with skin bonding glue. Their eyes— now rolled back under their brows—had been glued open. They couldn’t refuse the sight of brutality committed on their partner.

They had been flayed—skinned alive in precise strips.

The names, condo and children differed. The slaughter didn’t. We’d been called to a similar scene only three weeks ago.
After the first murders, Pete and I knew more would follow. They sat before us—two more again—the work of a serial killer.
This time the murdered doctor had been a female neurosurgeon and her husband a big-time bond trader at one of the houses off Wall Street. The pattern followed the other couple; they lived in an ultra-expensive condo in downtown Manhattan and one was a doctor.
An anonymous telephone call to the Post, at about 1:45 AM, triggered the dispatch. The uniformed cops had the building’s officials unlock the door, saw what now confronted us and closed it again. They’d left guards, sealed off the building and called for forensics and the detectives assigned to the first case—Pete and me. They’d followed textbook procedure, but didn’t want to look at the horror any more than we did.
I already knew the Captain of Detectives, as well as the Chief of Police, would berate us, as the politicians yelled at them. I could hear, in my imagination, the loud, indignant questions Pete and I would be expected to answer. The newspapers probably had their systems adjusted by now to change the morning’s front pages. From the Times to the tabloids, we’d be reading headlines about the murderer they had nicknamed “The Nanny”
Now, he’d be called a serial killer. The similarities guaranteed the story.
“They only had the one kid; a little girl about six and she’s still doped-up,” Pete said.

We stood facing the sickening scene in the kitchen.
“Who’s she with”?
As I asked the question, one of the women from the forensics team came down a hall and through the living room with a child draped across her shoulder. A pink blanket partially covered her. She had pink slippers almost falling off her feet. The bunny ears flapped as she passed by. She’d been drugged, like the two kids in the first case. She looked asleep and peaceful.
Good. She wouldn’t see her parents—the central focus of a gruesome spectacle.
As the woman passed with the little girl, Pete answered.

“I checked around while you were on the phone with headquarters and found out that the kid’s father had a sister out on Long Island. One of the dispatchers called the little burg where she lives to see if the cops out there can bring her here to take care of the kid,” he said.
“This is the ‘Nanny,’ Pete. That’s what that idiot reporter wants to call this foul animal. ‘Nanny,’ bullshit!”

My tones, and volume, caused some of the techs to look up and briefly stare.
Newspapers and television stations treated savagery inflicted on people, other humans, as a great way to increase sales and market share. Vultures.
Pete and I kept well away from the tech people to avoid any possibility of contaminating the scene. I turned and walked away from the kitchen through the dining room to the living room as much to clear my eyes from the butchery that made them almost hurt, as anything else. Pete silently followed. There were several impressionistic paintings and modern Japanese woodblock prints, easily worth several years of my Detective’s salary. Out the wide picture windows, only sparse lights in other buildings and sky came through the night. Anything, though, to rest my eyes –aching from the sight of too much blood.

“Malacca…” Peterson usually didn’t use my formal first name; he must have thought that some of the other people moving around the place would expect it. Usually he, like most people, called me Mal. I am technically senior to Pete, a Detective-Investigator, Grade One. Pete will retire as a Grade Two. Formality between us was unnecessary, we’d faced too much together.
“Yeah, Pete, its bad, sickening and painful. And, we’re going to catch hell since we didn’t catch the guy already.” In all of three weeks, I could’ve added.
Pete nodded and continued,” I was just gonna say that I made sure they got the earplugs out of the little girl’s ears with sterile gloves and kept them for a possible DNA check,” he paused, then went on. “Careful as this guy is, it’s probably a waste of time, though.”

He was right. Although the kitchen looked like the floor of a slaughterhouse, no blood showed anywhere else. The killer had systematically flayed them; face, neck, shoulders, chest, belly, legs and tops of their feet in careful pieces. The bloody ribbons were uniformly two and three inches long and one inch wide—there were not as many of the long ones—the forensics people said that they were too long to tear off cleanly. A few pieces of flesh hadn’t peeled away evenly and weren’t squared off on sides or ends—we’d found some of these in the kitchen trashcan under the sink—and somehe’d put in the garbage disposal.
Along the edge of some shreds a dark line showed like a sliver of a bruise. The killer marked the little rectangle in ink, cut along the line and then peeled the strip from the living body. The thought of watching someone mark your body and that of your mate, probably using a ruler, for slow, careful cutting made me queasy. I’ve seen death—and caused it—on the battlefield, in all its gruesome forms, and with my pistol, as a cop, but the utter coldness of this meticulous butcher astounded me. I could almost feel the chill of a straightedge and the pressure of the rolling marker along my skin, knowing a scalpel would soon burn a bleeding path along the same line.
The sting of a blade along the line would be paltry compared to the ripping agony as the flesh ripped away—probably carefully and slowly—as the killer enjoyed each horrendous second, anticipating more awful fun.
The killer stacked the neat flesh segments of each person, by size, on separate dinner plates and put them in the refrigerator. The neat shreds were laid out in meticulous starburst fashion, leaking blood to one another on cream-colored bone china. A special strip centered the display one plate; it measured a precise one-inch square and featured a tiny red star tattoo precisely centered. Probably from one of the woman’s breasts.
On the other plate, the man’s testicles and penis were laid out in an anatomical grouping: the shriveled, circumcised penis in the middle and the testicles on each side. The woman’s small, pink nipples flanked the testicles. I shuddered. Had the killer mutilated the man’s genitals before he started skinning him?
“Detective Longwood?” one of the techs said.
“What’ve you got?” I said.
“My God, this is awful but hardly different from the other one. This is the same guy. You’ve got a serial killer to catch,” she said.
Her nametag said Brownell. I didn’t remember her from the earlier killing, but then I wasn’t focusing on anything but the victims. Now, with a virtual repeat of the earlier murders, I needed to be more aware of who was helping me—and may be helping again to catch this filthy coward.
I was sure that the coroner’s assistant was going to tell me—as he had before—that the victims died of shock from the pain and loss of blood. Yeah.

What Pete had said about the earplugs was the reason the papers had nicknamed our killer “The Nanny.” In the first murders, when one of the cops checked the rooms at the opposite end of the big condo, she found two children: a boy and a girl. She’d thought they were dead but looked more closely and saw that they were breathing shallowly. They’d been drugged and were still unconscious when the officers removed the surgical tape that bound their hands and ankles and the band that covered their mouths. When the children began to regain consciousness, they found the earplugs.
The reporter who had taken the original call had neglected to tell the dispatcher that the killer had said, “Take care of the kids, they’re not to blame.” When his newspaper came out the next day though, the killer’s quote, and the nickname the reporter coined had all the media calling the killer “The Nanny.”
Bullshit, as I’d said to Pete.
The technicians found no trace of fingerprints and no evidence of saliva or other bodily fluids. We found no footprints, just a few smears in the blood on the beige tile floor. The place, except for the kitchen, was clean.
The tools the killer had used, according to the Medical Examiner’s man on the scene, were obviously professional surgical instruments. Compression marks on the strips of skin were from surgical forceps, the black ink edging skin strips was sterile ink used in surgery.
A team of six uniformed cops helped us interview residents of the building. As before, no one had seen or heard anything unusual. The doorman, a florid-faced, big-bellied man who actually wore livery, said that the couple’s au pair, a young woman who had recently joined them, had left about 12:30 AM. My guess: we’d never see her again.
Pete and I went down to the lobby to use the men’s room. While the forensics people were still checking out the bathrooms in the victims’ condo, it wouldn’t be good to have our fingerprints and DNA scattered around. Besides, downstairs, I could take a pee without using latex gloves.
After relieving myself, I splashed cool water in my eyes. In the mirror, I looked like hell. I saw a guy just over six feet tall with short, curly brown hair. He wouldn’t have passed for the traditional Irish cop, but had red-streaked green eyes. As I readjusted my shirt and straightened my tie, I looked over at Pete who was going through the same process in front of the mirror.
“Mal, how in hell do keep so trim? I know that you spend a bit of time in the department gym, but you look like you could still run 10K races.”
“Well, when I became a cop I made myself a promise. No donut-fueled gut. Besides, now that I’m a detective, I wear suits. My lady insists that they be tailored and she buys them for me. I can’t disappoint her by busting the waistline every year or so.”
“Well, with the lady you date, you’d not want to disappoint her about anything.”
He grinned, man-to-man, adjusted his belt up over his gut and took out a pocket comb for his hair.
My hair is short enough that I don’t have to bother. My beard was beginning to show, though. My great-grandmother on the maternal side had been described in the New Orleans Parish records as the daughter of a “…free Creole woman of color and a white planter.” My beard was darker than my hair and showed up on my lighter skin. A couple of shades lighter than café au lait.

“Pete, while we’re down here, let’s talk to the doorman again. There’s probably nothing for us to find in the condo and maybe we’ll learn something new.”

“Good enough, I don’t want to look at blood, skinned people and human flesh on a plate either,” he said.
The doorman gave us a description of a possible suspect. Why the jerk hadn’t provided more detail before, I never learned.He described the couple’s au pair as a slender young woman, who he’d heard was Swiss, with straight, dark blond hair and blue eyes.
“She wasn’t all that pretty—kinda flat-chested. I guess the Doctor didn’t want her big-time broker husband to get ideas,” he said.
He’d stroked his little brown patch of Hitler moustache and half-grinned, arching an eyebrow as he made the observation. I glanced at Pete, silently asking him to continue the interview. I wanted to get away from the asshole before I punched him.
I went outside for a moment to catch some fresh New York air and a little mental distance from the atrocity upstairs. I had barely cleared the revolving door when voices began pounding me like the first heavy drops of a coming rainstorm. A mistake. Reporters.
“Hey, Detective Longwood, what’s it look like upstairs? Has the ‘Nanny’ been peeling again?” a male who looked as if he’d been sleeping in his clothes—on the sidewalk.
“We called it in. The call came from my paper. Who got done this time?” A slightly tidier skinny male with a whiney voice.

“Sir. Give us a break. We’ve gotta take something back to the station,” a female who looked like she’d been working on the nine o’clock news and still wore the same clothes and makeup at nearly four AM.

“You’re the one who took down the mob guys, you going to get the ‘Nanny’?” The skuzzy guy again.
Now was not the time to allow my temper to erupt. If I could have done so, I’d have forced each of them to go upstairs and look at the victims. If they didn’t barf, they’d have run. Probably both for some. I couldn’t afford a scene. The shit coming from the department for the murder we hadn’t solved would be enough. I forced a professional straight face.
“The department will have a statement for you folks in a little while,” I said as I waved over my shoulder and retreated back inside.
Pete was finishing his interview with the doorman. His cheeks were redder than normal. He didn’t like the guy either and was eager to get away from him.
When he saw me, I waved him to a pair of couches that faced across a coffee table in the lobby.

“Well, this is the same guy, for sure. We’ve got to grab him before he can do this again. He will. That course I took with the FBI down at Quantico was clear on a number of points. One of their primary theories about serial killers is that they will repeat the crime. Probably can’t help it. What’ve we got?” I said.
“Not a helluva lot.”
He pulled out his notebook as I took out mine. Actually, I did it for something to do with my hands. We both knew the details. Couldn’t wipe away barbarity. We talked.

In the earlier case, an elderly man in the building had supposedly been stricken by a heart attack on the night of the murders. An ambulance and EMT crew, responding to the call, took him to the emergency room. When Pete and I questioned the crew, they recalled one unusual incident. A doctor, who none of them could recall meeting before, met them at the building and accompanied them to the heart attack victim’s condo.

After the man was on the gurney, the “doctor” told the crew he’d phone ahead and have another doctor meet them at the emergency room. They’d never seen him again, and the emergency room personnel received no calls.
The paramedics described him as a small man with delicate hands, dark hair and brown eyes. No witnesses reported seeing him leave the building.
Pete and I went through the appropriate detective drills with more interviews in and out of the building. The lab people performed additional tests, high-tech scans for blood or fluids—the normal stuff cops and techs are expected to do at a murder scene. As we did it again—skipping no steps—I knew, although I wouldn’t even say it to Pete, it was a waste of time and resources.
The easy—and probably correct—guess was that the “small doctor” and the “Swiss” au pair were the same person. Not much more to go on. The killer was good, too damned good. The ritualistic scene and the sexual overtones—evidenced by the removal of the male’s sexual organs and the female’s nipples—told anyone who had been in police work for over a month what we were dealing with. We all knew he’d kill again, probably here in the city and probably in the same gruesome way with similar victims—we just didn’t know when.
Probably soon.

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