TRIAL BY FEAR
Leslie Carson knew he was dangerous from the first moment she saw him. It was his eyes, the way they seemed to seek her out when he entered the nightclub. The way they raped her from across the room.
She didn’t mind. On the contrary, this was what she wanted. Thrills. Excitement. Danger. Her father, if he knew, if he cared, would call her a foolish ass. Her mother would pop her Prozacs and wash them down with scotch.
His clothes were not the most fashionable: tight jeans and a black T-shirt. But the way he filled them, his lean, taut physique, gave them an appealing definition. She gnawed her lower lip as she anticipated peeling them from his naked body.
She watched him as he pushed his way through the jumping crowd. Teazers was the hottest dance club in Chicago and there were other girls he could have chosen. Several of them tried to grab his attention–by grabbing him–as he passed, but he ignored them. She knew he would. She knew they’d be leaving together. She believed in destiny. Fate. And some feeling deep inside, down there, told her they were destined for something special tonight. He–or she–was marked. So she played it cool as he approached the bar and ordered a drink.
They stood beside each other at the bar for several minutes, watching the dancers writhing in the pit. She leaned back, shifting and arching her back so her breasts–not her best feature but not bad–were a little more prominent. He didn’t seem to notice. She cleared her throat to get his attention but of course he couldn’t hear her over the torturous music. Leslie downed her Tequila quickly, letting the burning alcohol dissolve her inhibitions. She might be playing it too cool. One of them would have to make the first move and she was almost ready to be the one. But he beat her to it.
Without a word he took her by the hand and led her–almost dragged her–down to the dance floor. She let herself be dragged. He cleared a path through the crowd, a little roughly she thought, although no one seemed to notice in the crowded pit. She only hoped he’d be as forceful later, with her. She hated the New Male, all passive and weak. But she could sense that he wasn’t like that. He knew what he wanted and he took it. Just like her.
When they found an open spot he turned to face her and they began to dance. They danced as they had stood at the bar, without speaking. The music–Teazers seemed to be favoring Limp Bizkit tonight–was too loud to allow even shouted conversations, but they touched. Their bodies bumped and slid and ground against each other.
The next song was just starting when another dancer, a rich kid riding something stronger than Tequila, fell between them. He jumped to his feet immediately but before he could dance away her new partner grabbed his arm. It was impossible to hear his words over the music and she couldn’t read lips, but the rage in his eyes was unmistakable. The careless dancer saw it too. He became instantly sober and tried to pull away but the grip on his arm held him in place. In a second the crowd around them pulled back, leaving a circle free for the altercation about to ignite.
“Forget it!” Leslie shouted, taking her partner’s hand and trying to pull him away. “He’s not worth it.” She could see the bouncers off to the side, about to intervene.
Her partner either couldn’t hear her or wasn’t listening. His grip on the kid’s arm tightened till it caused pain and the kid began to panic.
Leslie did the only thing she could think of: she stepped between them, took her partner’s face in her hands, and pressed her lips to his.
It worked. The spell was broken. He let go of the kid’s arm–the kid vanished into the crowd–and they stood in the middle of the dance floor, kissing. Sensing the tension dissipating, the crowd moved back in and the open circle disappeared.
Leslie stepped back and started to dance again but her man suddenly grabbed her by the hand and led her to the front entrance of the club. Just before they reached the doors he stopped and turned on her.
“Did you come here alone?” he shouted over the music.
She cupped her hand to her ear. “What?”
“Did you come here alone? Are you with anyone?”
“No, no one.” Again he took her hand and led her out onto the street.
“Where are we going?” she asked. She had to almost run to keep up with his long strides.
She laughed, but did not try to break his strong grip around her hand. “You don’t even know my name,” she said.
“Ok, what’s your name?”
“Leslie Carson. What’s yours?”
“Just Toby? Nothing else?”
They crossed Hubbard Street on a red light, running to avoid the traffic, and turned up State. Leslie was hopeful as they walked past a Lexus and a couple of BMW’s, but was only mildly disappointed when Toby led her to an older Mustang. He unlocked and opened her door for her while she got in but he seemed to hesitate before getting in on his side, as if he was watching for something or someone. She was about to call to him but then he climbed in behind the wheel and started the engine.
“Where do you live?” Leslie asked.
“Not far. I think you’ll like it.”
The bucket seats of the Mustang didn’t allow her to slide as close as she would have liked, but she leaned over and placed her hand high on the inside of Toby’s thigh.
The Mustang squealed into traffic and headed north up State, then west along Ontario. In a minute they were on I94, speeding south. As they drove, Leslie moved her hand higher, pressing and kneading Toby’s crotch.
He put his hand on top of hers and encouraged a harder, faster motion. “Keep it up and I may lose control.”
“Lose control of the car,” she asked, “or of something else?”
“I’m sure one will cause the other.”
“Then maybe I should join you.” She leaned back, lifted her hips off the seat, and pulled her panties off from under her short skirt.
“You’re a bad girl,” Toby said quietly, shifting his gaze back and forth between her and the road.
“I haven’t even started yet.” She draped her red lace nothings over the rearview mirror.
“You’re a very bad girl.”
“Sometimes it’s good to be bad.” Leslie leaned over and unzipped Toby’s jeans.
“I don’t think I can wait,” Toby said, gritting his teeth.
The Mustang cut across two lanes of traffic, down an off-ramp, and onto a side street. They were in the Stock Yards, surrounded by factories and warehouses. At that hour, the roads were dark and deserted.
“Where are we going?” Leslie asked. She would have preferred something less isolated. They were leaving the busy streets–and the people–behind.
“A place I know. You don’t mind, do you? It’ll let us get to the good stuff quicker.”
Leslie smiled and stroked him, and herself, faster. “I’m all for that.”
Toby turned into a driveway leading to the service entrance of a large concrete manufacturer. They passed through an open gate marked Authorized Vehicles Only and drove down a corridor between mountains of sand and gravel.
The Mustang pulled up beside a small shack and Toby killed the engine. He got out and Leslie followed him. The shack was secured with a padlock but Toby wasn’t going to let that stop him. He walked around the shack, kicking in the dirt, until he found a metal pipe. He used it to pry the lock off the door.
“Couldn’t we get in trouble for this?” Leslie asked. Her voice wavered. “Isn’t this illegal?”
Toby laughed and motioned Leslie inside. “Considering what else we’re about to do I don’t think a little B and E is anything to worry about.”
“I’ve never done it in a place like this before.”
“Afraid?” Toby moved close behind her, his arms around her, his hands under her skirt, touching her.
Leslie moaned. “No. I’m not afraid. I’ll do anything.”
“Then after you,” Toby whispered, nudging her forward. “I think you’ll enjoy it. I know I will.”
Leslie didn’t hesitate. She stepped forward and entered the shack. It was dark inside. It became darker still when Toby’s pipe buried itself in the back of her head.
Simon Jacks’ fist impacted against Jerry Bergman’s jaw with sufficient force to dislodge the latter man’s glasses, but did no serious harm. Bergman drew back, ready to swing, but was restrained by the attorney who jumped up behind him. Other arms wrapped themselves around Simon’s shoulders, preventing him from striking another blow. From off to the side, Simon could hear someone applauding: Walter Dennis, no doubt.
The red haze of rage that filled Simon’s vision cleared enough for him to see the shocked, amused, and even complimentary expressions on the faces of his coworkers as a set of firm hands escorted him from the conference room and led him down the hall to the coffee room.
“That may not have been the best career move in the history of the firm,” Mel Goldstein said, pouring himself a cup of coffee. Goldstein was a good decade older than Simon and had acted as the younger man’s mentor when Simon had joined the firm six years ago. More like an older brother than a father, Goldstein encouraged Simon’s zeal and enthusiasm, but was always there with a firm hand on the shoulder when those same attributes threatened to lead him into trouble.
Simon leaned over the counter on his elbows, rubbing his temples. “It wasn’t something I put a lot of thought into,” he confessed. “I just couldn’t take his smug accusations any more.”
Goldstein nodded. “Oh, I understand completely. The guy is a pain in the ass. But taking a swing at him doesn’t prove him wrong. You’re a better lawyer than he is and you have to use that to your advantage. Success is the best revenge.”
Simon laughed. “That’s pretty hard when you’re fighting against Adams’ Golden Child.”
Bergman had joined the firm only four months before, coming from one of the big firms in New York. He didn’t have half the experience Simon had, which admittedly wasn’t all that much compared to some of the old timers at McCarthy, Adams and Grant. Still, he had managed to ingratiate himself with Adams. They had something in common, same fraternity, rumor had it. Bergman took full advantage of the fact, never missing a chance to mention it when Adams was around. Then there was his handling of the recent Conroy case. Dumb luck really, but when Simon had fumbled, Bergman had caught the ball, dashed from the ten yard line, and made a touchdown. Now he was doing his end zone dance.
“Not too loud,” Goldstein cautioned. “There are a few people around here hoping to ride the wake behind that Golden Child. Office politics is a game you have to learn to play, like it or not.”
Simon nodded and turned to head back to the conference room but Goldstein put a hand on his shoulder. “I’d suggest you sit this one out. It’s just a review, not that important. I’ll make sure you get your briefcase. Oh, and one other thing,” Goldstein said as he left the room. “Next time you decide to take a swing at the Golden Child, make sure you knock him right on his arrogant ass.”
An hour later Simon was sitting in the office of William McCarthy. The elderly man, the principal partner of the firm, was not smiling and Simon felt as if the verdict had already been read and sentence was about to be passed.
“When was the last time you had a vacation?” McCarthy asked, his piercing blue eyes gazing at Simon over the steel rims of his glasses.
“It’s been a while,” Simon shrugged. He had to think back a long time to be more specific. “I took a couple of days off a few months ago.”
“And worked most of that time, if I’m not mistaken,” McCarthy sighed. “You’re burning out, young man.”
“There’s been a lot of work,” Simon argued quietly.
McCarthy folded his hands on his desk. “There’s always a lot of work. There always will be. This firm hasn’t had to lay anyone off for lack of work since the day we opened the doors thirty-five years ago. But if you keep up this pace you’ll be laying yourself off. I’ve seen it happen. You sit behind a desk all day, letting the stress build up, and the next thing you know you’re getting stabbing pains in your chest. You won’t do us any good from six feet under.”
Simon acknowledged with a nod.
“Of course, you’re insured,” McCarthy continued, “so your wife will be well taken care of. She’ll miss you, naturally. There’ll be a grieving process she’ll have to endure, but no doubt she’ll eventually remarry, maybe even start a family. She’ll tell her children about her first husband, whom she’ll mention with fondness, but not very often. She’ll–“
“William,” Simon interrupted. “I get the point.”
McCarthy smiled. “I hope so. I want you to take a week off.” He held up a hand when Simon began to protest. “Think of it as a vacation, not a suspension. It’s the fourth of July coming up anyway. I’m sure you’ve got the time coming to you. I’ll make sure we take care of the files you’re working on. And I’ll make sure that nothing comes of this incident with Jerry Bergman. I have no doubt he deserved what he got and I wouldn’t want to see you suffer for displaying a little righteous indignation.”
“Thank you,” Simon tried to smile. “I appreciate it. I just got a little carried away.”
McCarthy waved the issue aside. “It’s not the first time someone’s been decked in these offices and I expect it won’t be the last. But,” he wagged his finger at Simon, “I want you to make damned sure you don’t spend this week working. Don’t even think about the firm. Take that pretty little wife of yours and have some fun. Get laid. Maybe start your own family before it’s too late. And for God’s sake, relax!”
Simon tossed his briefcase on the backseat of his car and climbed in behind the wheel. But he didn’t start the engine immediately. He sat thinking about the Conroy case, about Bergman, about what McCarthy had told him. He had been working sixteen-hour days for the past six months, skipping meals, breaking promises to his wife. Long hours in a law firm were the norm, not the exception, but he admitted he had been overdoing it. McCarthy’s warning was apropos. Simon hadn’t been to the gym in months and his waistline was starting to show the result. He was sure his blood pressure was too high and the only thing keeping the headaches at bay was a steady supply of aspirin and the massages Samantha sometimes gave him if he got home before she went to bed.
He smacked the steering wheel hard when he suddenly realized that he had forgotten their anniversary two months ago. And Samantha had been supportive and understanding through it all.
Simon took his cell phone out of his jacket pocket, called directory assistance, got the number for his wife’s favorite restaurant, and made a reservation for an early dinner. Then he called a florist and arranged for a dozen roses to be delivered to the house. As a last thought, he called his uncle.
“Jason,” Simon greeted him. “Fine,” he responded to his uncle’s inquiry. “I’ve got some time off from work and I was wondering if the island is free this week.”
This time he had gone too far. Too far too fast. He didn’t mean to kill the girl, not yet, not here. He just wanted to knock her out, stun her maybe, so she wouldn’t struggle while he tied and gagged her.
But Leslie was such a hot little slut. The things she did–with a man she didn’t even know–just pushed him over the edge. He lost control. And that was what she wanted. She wanted him to lose control, to give in to her temptations, to be bad with her.
She had to be punished for that, for being such a slut and a tease. So he hit her, harder than he intended. Too hard. The pipe shattered the back of her skull and continued on into the soft gray matter inside.
It took several minutes to recover. He was so excited. He stood there in the open doorway of the shack, staring at her, rubbing himself. Climaxing helped. It let him think clearly. He knew he couldn’t stay there, couldn’t leave her there. This wasn’t what he had planned but he’d have to cope.
He wrapped her head in a plastic bag and tied it tight around her neck with rope, before placing her body in the trunk of the Mustang. It took him more than an hour to clean the floor and walls of the shack. He couldn’t afford to miss anything, not so much as a drop.
After that he should have driven home. He should have gotten out of the city as quickly as possible. But it was a long drive up the coast to Emerald and he was tired. He didn’t want to risk making some mistake that would attract the attention of the Michigan State Police.
Instead, he drove around aimlessly until he found himself at the lake, near the airfield. He fell asleep there, after bringing himself to another climax with the aid of Leslie’s panties, and when he awoke a little while after dawn, who should be walking toward the car but one of Chicago’s Finest.
Toby was awake and alert instantly, assessing the situation, planning his responses to any likely questions. He realized with a start that he was still holding the panties and he casually stuffed them under his thigh. The officer’s gun was not drawn so he didn’t suspect anything out of the ordinary. But the holster was unlatched; he could draw quickly if he needed to. There was no one else in the cruiser, parked about ten yards away. No one to run his plates. So either this officer had already done that, before Toby woke up, or he’d do it later if he felt the need. Either way, Toby would have to be careful with his lies, truthful about facts that could be easily and immediately verified, but of course not too truthful.
Other than that, there weren’t many options. He could try to run, but running would show he had something to hide and they’d be bound to track him down eventually. He could fight. But the cop was armed and he wasn’t. Getting shot wasn’t on his list of things to do today.
He lowered his window. The officer wasn’t taking any chances; his hand rested–relaxed but ready–on his sidearm.
“Morning, officer,” Toby greeted cheerfully.
“May I ask what you’re doing here?” All business. He was older, experienced. It wouldn’t be the first time he had found someone sleeping in a car. He’d know there could be a hundred reasons for that, none of them very good.
Toby laughed, just a little to show he wasn’t nervous or frightened, but not enough to seem disrespectful. “I had a bit of an argument with my girlfriend. Stupid, really. A difference of opinion about past girlfriends. But we did both agree it would be best if I didn’t stay the night.”
“Why didn’t you go home?”
“Too tired and too far to drive. I’m from out of town. I thought it would be safer to just find a place to park.” Safety conscious. That should score some points.
Yes. The hand was no longer on the pistol. But it could be back in an instant.
The officer said nothing for a beat or two, then he asked for some identification. Toby handed over his driver’s license, which the officer studied impassively.
“Where is Emerald?” the officer asked. He didn’t hand the license back.
“Michigan. Up the coast, not far from Traverse City.”
“And your girlfriend?”
“You mean where does she live?” one beat, no response, so he continued. “South Marshfield, over near Ogden Park.”
“What’s her name?”
“Jackie Phelps.” There was such a girl, and she did live on Marshfield. But she wasn’t his girlfriend. She might have described him as an acquaintance, just someone she had met a few times. She was the girl he planned on being with last night. He had been watching her since the spring, every time he came to Chicago, learning her habits, her friends, and the places she went. She liked Teazers. She went there often. If she hadn’t gone out of town–he didn’t know where and wasn’t about to question the neighbors to find out–she would have been in the trunk of the Mustang now instead of Leslie, bound, gagged, waiting.
“Wait here,” the officer told him and turned to walk back toward his cruiser.
Toby’s hand went to his door handle and began to pull. He couldn’t let the cop make a call to the Phelps home. Jackie might still be out, but she had roommates. They wouldn’t corroborate Toby’s story. The cop would become suspicious and check Toby’s record. There was nothing recent, not so much as a parking ticket, but before … Were juvenile records sealed, or could the police access them at any time, without a court order?
The latch flipped on Toby’s door and he pushed it open an inch.
The officer stopped in his tracks, listening. But his attention was on the alert coming from the cruiser’s radio. The windows were down and the dispatcher’s voice was distinct.
“Code 10-1. Officer down. All units respond to First National on Madison.”
The officer spun back, shoved Toby’s license into his hand, told him to make up with his girlfriend, and sped away in his cruiser with lights flashing and siren screaming.
Toby closed the Mustang’s door and then sat back, his eyes closed. At first he just breathed deeply and slowly. But then he started to laugh, a little, then harder till there were tears in his eyes. Five minutes later the Mustang was on the Interstate, heading out of the city, the cold body of Leslie Carson growing stiff in the trunk.
Dinner at Le Chateau Parisian was an investment well worth the expense, if only for Samantha’s display of appreciation. The maitre d’hotel escorted them to a dark little booth past the other patrons who regarded them with stares blending appreciation and envy. Samantha was of medium height but seemed more leg than anything else, an illusion enhanced by the short, high-slit hell-fire-red dress and stiletto heels she wore. Her strawberry-blond hair cascaded down her back, almost to her bottom, but didn’t fully obscure the very low cut back of her outfit. The plunging neckline at the front was almost as low, exposing her slender waist and most of her ample breasts that shimmied and jiggled enticingly with each step. It must have been difficult for onlookers to know where to focus their gaze: on her aerobically-toned body or on her equally captivating face and ice blue eyes.
Beside her, wearing a tailored gray suit, Simon could easily have stepped out of GQ. He had the handsome good looks of a male fashion model–straight, well proportioned features, raven black hair, deep brown eyes–but wholly lacked any pretension. He kept his arm low around Samantha’s waist, possessively, proudly.
As soon as they were seated Samantha began seducing her husband. She reached under the table to touch and stroke him, then she took hold of his hand and placed it on her thigh, sliding it up under her skirt. By the time dinner arrived she had removed her tiny lace panties and arranged them in the breast pocket of Simon’s jacket like a handkerchief. It was quite likely their waiter noticed but he was either too discreet or too shocked to say anything. Simon would have loved to have heard the resulting conversation in the kitchen.
On the ride home Samantha continued her enticements and by the time he pulled into the garage she had them both mostly undressed. Once inside the house their play grew increasingly heated and they made love for hours until they eventually fell asleep, exhausted. It was a great way to start a vacation.
The next morning Simon was just entering the shower when the phone rang. He half hoped it was Judy Hunter calling to say she and Victor wouldn’t be coming with them. The Hunters were their best friends and they had spent their vacations together before, usually in the tropics. Samantha had wasted no time in inviting them along after Simon had called home yesterday morning and told her his uncle had agreed to let them spend the week at his cabin in Michigan. It so happened that both Victor and Judy had some time off and they agreed a week on the island would be a pleasant change from their normal excursions. By the time Simon found out what Samantha had done it was too late to ask the Hunters not to come, but he had really been hoping for a chance to spend some time alone with his wife.
Before Simon could answer the phone, Samantha beat him to it. He waited, listening, and a moment later she told him Walter Dennis was on the line. Simon returned to the bedroom.
“What’s up Wally?”
“We got Parker Lee,” Wally exclaimed. Simon could picture him shoving his thick rimmed glasses higher on his nose as he seemed to do whenever he got excited.
“The Supreme Court Justice?” Simon asked, confused.
“You’re thinking of former Supreme Court Justice, Parker Lee McDonald. No. Definitely no relation. This is just Parker Lee,” Wally explained. “The guy the police picked up for the Toolbox Murders. Weren’t you watching the news last night?”
Simon thought back to the evening he had spent with Samantha. “No, I must have missed it,” he replied, smiling to himself.
“Well, we got the case.”
“Lee’s father is some big shot in the shipping industry and it turns out he used to be navy buddies or something with McCarthy. He phoned McCarthy at home at three o’clock this morning. Said to forget the Public Defender. He wants McCarthy’s firm to take the case and he’s willing to pay anything to get his boy off.”
“Who’s handling it?” Simon asked, trying to sound disinterested.
“Well, you for one. McCarthy said he wants you on the team.”
“Yes!” Simon punched the air.
Simon cursed. “Who’s lead?” he asked, obviously deflated.
“Goldstein,” Wally told him. That was good. Mel Goldstein knew what he was doing and, if Simon’s impression yesterday was correct, he had no fondness for Bergman. He’d keep him in line, unless Adams started interfering and that wouldn’t go over well. Goldstein was a full partner, not an associate like Simon. He was tough and he wouldn’t hesitate to tell Adams where to shove it. With any luck, he may even take his own swing at the Golden Child.
Simon got all the details Wally could provide. It wasn’t much yet. They were still waiting for police reports and disclosure from the District Attorney’s office. Parker Lee was asserting innocence but his case didn’t look good. There were prior convictions for assault, sexual and otherwise. Lee frequented prostitutes, the younger the better, and sometimes got violent when it came time to pay up. The latest item on his rap sheet was a charge but no conviction for beating up a fifteen-year-old hooker. McCarthy, Adams, and Grant had handled that, successfully. This time it would not be so easy.
The Toolbox Murders, a name adopted by the media after someone in the police department talked when they shouldn’t have, had been headline news for months. Over a period of three years, more than a dozen girls had been found, their bodies washed up on the beaches of Lake Michigan up and down the coast from the tip of the peninsula at Green Bay to Milwaukee. All had been killed with some type of hand tool. That was apparently all the media knew. The police were keeping a close lid on things.
But Simon knew more.
Friends on the force and in the Coroner’s office had revealed that the girls, most of them runaways and hookers who lived on the streets of Chicago, had not just been killed with a hand tool. They had been tortured with a variety of tools, probably tortured to death. The bodies were severely mutilated and certain parts, nipples and genitalia, taken as souvenirs.
This last bit of information had been kept very secret. Only a few people knew it. Apparently no members of the media knew or it would surely have been reported. Gore sold papers and pumped up ratings.
As Simon spoke on the phone Samantha came up behind him, nude and still wet from her own shower, and put her arms around him. She reached under his towel and very skillfully began distracting him. “Want a quickie before we leave?” she stood on her toes and whispered in his ear.
“I’d love to,” he said, instantly responding to her touch.
“Love to what?” Wally asked, still on the phone.
Simon cleared his throat. “Listen,Wally. I’ve got to run but I’ll call you back later.”
Samantha took the phone from her husband. “Hello, Walter. I’m fine. How’s Carol? Listen, Walter. I’m afraid Simon made a mistake. He’s not going anywhere near a phone for the next week. All cell phones and pagers are outlawed on this trip. If Simon so much as mentions the office I’ll tie him naked to a tree.” There was a pause and then she laughed. “Maybe I’ll do that. Bye, bye.”
Samantha hung up the phone and Simon turned to embrace her. “Maybe you’ll do what?”
“Take pictures so he can show them around the office.”
“Cute. Wally would do it, too.” He and Walter had a reputation for relieving stress by making others the butt of practical jokes. Bergman had been their favorite new target until Adams had told them in no uncertain terms he was off limits.
“Don’t put it past me, either,” Samantha threatened. She tore off his towel and handed it to him.
Simon tossed the towel aside and took his wife in his arms. “Am I to expect you to be a little kinky on this trip?” he whispered.
“And more, so long as you promise to reciprocate.”
“Count on it,” Simon promised. He lifted Samantha in his arms and lowered her onto the bed. “Now, what did you say about a quickie?”
After finally taking his shower, Simon called the office and spoke to Goldstein. He didn’t learn anything else about the case, but then that wasn’t the purpose of the call and Goldstein knew it. He wanted to know about Bergman. He wanted to know how tight a reign Goldstein was going to keep him on. He wanted to know if he should ask McCarthy to postpone his vacation–suspension– so he could help prepare for the case. Goldstein assured him it wasn’t necessary. Things were still moving slowly. He’d keep Simon in the loop, fill him in when he returned. And he’d make damn sure to keep Bergman in line. From the way Goldstein said it Simon gathered something had happened in the last twenty-four hours to cause a little hostility between the two men. He didn’t inquire but he made a mental note to talk to Wally about it later. Goldstein told him to forget about work and have a good vacation. Parker Lee would still be there when he got back.
Simon was on the phone almost an hour with Goldstein and others before he got dressed in what he called his comfort clothes: faded jeans, an old Chicago Bulls T-shirt, and a tattered denim jacket. He didn’t shave. Shaving on vacation was against his principles.
On the way downstairs he passed his sister-in-law’s room and the door opened. Tiffany was staying with them for the summer, on vacation from studying psychology at the University of California. He didn’t mind. She kept Samantha company–important given his recent work schedule–and, sometimes, she even helped out around the house. But the girls’ favorite pastime was shopping together. The day after Tiffany moved in she and Samantha spent a small fortune at Frederick’s of Hollywood, treating him to an intimate fashion show that evening. His own briefs, legal briefs he had brought home to review, remained untouched. The only problem was that Tiffany, like her sister, was a flirt.
Tiffany stepped out into the hallway, bumping into him. She was nude, just pulling on a short satin robe.
“What’s with you?” Simon asked, making a quick survey before she covered up. Tiffany was almost a twin of her older sister, slightly more blond perhaps, but otherwise they were almost identical physically. Sam’s five extra years didn’t show.
“What do you mean?” Tiffany yawned.
“We usually have to drag you out of bed by your feet to get you up this early. And I know you got in late last night.”
Tiffany smiled. “Not too late to hear you and Sam going at it like rabid bunnies. What was it this time? The Cop and the Hooker or The Principal and the Naughty Schoolgirl?”
Simon hesitated, wondering how much she had really heard and whether it was practical to soundproof their bedroom. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” he laughed nervously.
“Sam will tell me,” Tiffany said. “She tells me everything. And she’ll have plenty of time. I’m coming with you to the island.”
“You? I thought your idea of a vacation was lounging in your thong beside a pool while sipping something tall and cold, not battling mosquitoes and black flies.”
“Sam talked me into it. I think she’s afraid I’ll tear the house apart with wild parties if I’m left alone.”
She was right, but Simon shook his head. “I’m sure she just wants the company. I’ll probably be out fishing more often than not.”
“Whatever,” Tiffany shrugged. “I’m taking my thong with me anyway.” She winked at him.
Simon smiled. “I’m looking forward to it. Just get ready quick, OK?” He turned and headed downstairs, trying to put out of his head the picture of Tiffany in a thong bikini.
Such a tempting image could be dangerous.
Parker Lee changed everything.
After his narrow escape from the police in Chicago, Toby stopped for breakfast at the McDonald’s just south of the Michigan-Indiana border. It was while he was sitting in his car in the parking lot that the news began flooding from the radio. Holding a half-eaten hash brown in his mouth, he listened to the reports about Lee, the murders, and the arrest. When it was over he choked down the rest of his food, then scanned every station on the dial looking for more news.
With Lee behind bars, the murders would stop–had to stop. There wasn’t a chance he’d make bail and it could be months before his trial even began, months more being heard. If no more victims washed up during that time, it would only reinforce the case against him.
No more victims.
Then what about Leslie?
The others had been easy. Toby had wanted them to be found. He’d made sure they were found. And each time he had more newspaper clippings for his collection.
Leslie was different.
Leslie Carson had to disappear forever. She must never be found. She had to become just another missing person–Chicago had plenty of them–not a victim of the Toolbox Murderer.
He’d have to be careful. He’d dump her body in the middle of the lake, not near the shore as he had the others. During decomposition the body produced gases and would float to the surface, so he’d have to weigh her down. Of course, none of this would happen until after he took his souvenirs. The bitch wouldn’t cheat him out of that.
Toby worked out the details of Leslie’s disposal, the way he’d cut her, tie her. The way her body would sink beneath the waves, never to be seen again. He was so involved with his fantasy that he almost didn’t see the car pull in beside his, and the occupants step out. Four teenagers–two boys, two girls. He ignored the boys but couldn’t take his eyes off the girls. They both wore tight, low on the hip jeans and short T-shirts–they obviously weren’t wearing bras–that left their midriffs bare and inviting.
They knew what they were doing, the effect they had on men–on him. The way they dressed–or undressed–the way they moved, the way they talked–it was all designed to tease and tempt, to seduce. They knew, and they loved it.
One of the girls was wearing a navel ring. It glittered in the early morning sunlight, dragging Toby’s gaze to her body like a magnet drawing a compass needle. She caught him staring and smirked. Sure of his attention, she put her arms up above her head and stretched–or pretended to–pulling the thin cotton of her T-shirt taut against her nipples, causing the gap between her shirt and her jeans to widen, exposing more of her body to him. When she finally turned away and walked toward the restaurant with her friends, her bottom seemed to roll within her snug jeans and her hips seemed to sway just a little more than was naturally necessary.
Tease and tempt. Just like all the others. She deserved to be punished for that, for treating him like that. And Toby knew how he’d do it. He could see it all in exquisite detail. As the scene unfolded in his mind, he felt the growing heat in his groin. He put aside his unfinished breakfast and started rubbing himself, urging the spark into a full flame.
He was a pulse beat away from a climax when the navel girl looked back over her shoulder. Their eyes locked and a sly smile danced across her face. She knew what he was thinking, what he was doing.
Toby’s passion was instantly transformed into rage. He twisted the key in the ignition and the engine of the Mustang screamed to life. Before navel girl and her friends were inside the restaurant, he was out of the parking lot, leaving black streaks of rubber on the asphalt.
His hands were still trembling by the time he turned back onto Interstate 94.