Opening Moves

Opening Moves by Steven James Read Free Book Online

Book: Opening Moves by Steven James Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steven James
serious, and I’d said lightly, “To catch the bad guys.”
    “No, I’m not joking around, Pat.” Though her tone wasn’t sharp, I could tell she really was being serious. “There’s more. I know there is.”
    Suddenly, unexpectedly, words came to me. Perhaps I’d heard them in a movie, or maybe they escaped from a private, reflective place I wasn’t even aware of before that moment, but they came, and they surprised me when they did: “To keep the demons at bay.”
    “What demons?”
    I’d gone to church as a child—my parents had taken me—but I’m not very religious. Still, the word “demons” was the one that’d come to mind. I had to think about what exactly I’d meant. “Um…I’m not sure. I just feel it sometimes—the darkness tugging at me. When the things you despise the most about human nature call to you, whisper for you to take a step closer to them. You know what I mean?”
    She regarded me quietly. I saw love in her eyes, but also concern. “What things whisper to you, Pat?”
    “Dark things.” I tried to say it in a tone that told her I preferred to be done with this topic.
    But either she didn’t catch that, or she wasn’t ready to let the subject drop, because she said again, “What things, Pat?”
    The things that lead us over the edge.
    “The things I see in my cases.”
    Even though I was closer to her emotionally than I’d ever been to anyone in my life, in that moment that was all I felt comfortable telling her. Her silence indicated to me that it might not have been enough. Or maybe it was too much.
    The topic hadn’t come up again, but I sensed that the ghost of what I’d said was still there, had somehow crept between us, settled in, found a home, and wasn’t about to leave any time soon.
    Colleen Hayes might have gotten a good look at her attacker, might be able to identify him, so before going to MPD headquarters for the nine o’clock briefing, the first order of business was paying her a visit at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.
    I left a message for Taci that I’d be at the hospital, asked if she could meet up with me for a minute or two while I was there, then hopped into my car and took off.
    Thinking about Taci.
    About evil.
    About keeping the demons at bay.

8
     
    The Milwaukee Regional Medical Center lies situated on a sprawling campus now littered with autumn leaves. Only a few of the trees still clung to their leaves, but those had turned brown in the dreary fall and only served to help give the campus a tired, weary feel. It was the biggest academic health-care center in the state, with six different care facilities all on the same campus. I knew it well. I’d been here on a lot of my cases, as well as to see Taci.
    Four things concerning the abduction and mutilation of Colleen Hayes were on my mind:
(1) I was profoundly thankful she was alive.
(2) Her kidnapper’s choice of the location in the alley showed that he (or they, if there was more than one) had some interest in or connection with Jeffrey Dahmer.
(3) It was impossible at this point to discern her attacker’s original intent, whether that was to kill or to maim—or possibly even to let Colleen go free.
(4) Based on the grisly and flagrant nature of the crime, I could hardly believe that this was the kidnapper’s first offense. The stark brutality of his mutilation of Colleen might actually help us narrow down the suspect pool, might actually help us find him.
     
    Radar was waiting for me when I arrived at the hospital, and he met me at the front door. After asking me about my jaw and my wrenched finger, and after I assured him, honestly, that they were feeling remarkably better, he said, “It’s gonna be a cold one today.” His eyes were on the spreading slabs of gray clouds blanketing the sky.
    “Yeah.”
    “I wish it would just snow and be done with it.”
    Wisconsin winters are long enough for me as it is. Besides, I’d been hoping to squeeze in a few more weekends of rock

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