Sacred Evil

Page 15


Whitney stood in the darkness, watching the site. Patrol cars rounded the corner regularly, and she was pretty sure that when Jude Crosby left her, he had called in to make sure that the cars would watch Blair House throughout the night.
When the equipment arrived, she knew that they would want to keep a good eye on the site.
Pulling her phone from her pocket, she saw that it was nearly midnight. The time had gone so quickly that day. She told herself that she had to be tired; she had not known this morning that she’d be spending the night in New York City. But she wasn’t tired; she was wound up.
In the kitchen, she brewed herself hot tea and made mental notes about where she wanted cameras set up. She wanted a couple of cameras looking down Broadway at all times, but, of course, they couldn’t cover every possible nook and cranny and shadow. Yet the cameras would catch movement of anyone who did come onto the street.
Finally, she went back into the hallway. She stood very still, waiting. Nothing happened. No shadows moved. The old house didn’t even creak.
“What? Did everyone die in this house in a state of absolute bliss?” she said aloud.
Nothing. Just the darkness.
Of course, it wasn’t Blair House where the supposed evil had taken place; it had been next door, at the House of Spiritualism. But she wasn’t an idiot, and she wasn’t going to go out to explore the area until the rest of the team had arrived.
At last she convinced herself that it was time to get some sleep. She put her service revolver on the little table next to the bed, changed into pajamas and curled up to sleep.
She couldn’t sleep, and so she rose, and in the quiet of the night, headed for the stairs.
Downstairs, she looked at the pictures she had taken at autopsy. They were a good record, and she would show them to the others, but at the moment, they weren’t giving her any information that would help in finding a suspect.
She found the book that Andrew Crosby had loaned her. It was fascinating reading, all about the demise of the Five Points area, the House of Spiritualism and the founding of the NYPD. And the murder of Carrie Brown.
The author had been convinced that there had been other victims.
She tried to imagine the squalor of the Five Points area, so near to this one. What had happened to the sea of humanity that had lived in those tenements when they had been brought down? The area had been so similar to Whitechapel in London; filled with immigrants eking out an existence. Filled with crime—and police who increased their incomes by taking bribe money from all the establishments in the area. Money paid so that the police force would protect shop owners from thugs and criminals; money paid so that the police would overlook code infractions and other illegal activities.
She smiled; impressed and thinking about Jude Crosby. The man was truly intelligent and well read. He wasn’t unlike most of humanity; he believed in what he saw, in flesh and blood. In bad people who did bad things.
“Well, yes—there is a truly evil person, flesh and blood out there,” she said softly. “But, if someone is in this house, I’d love to speak with you!” she added. Nothing.
Hoping she could sleep at last, she closed the book, headed back upstairs and willed herself to try to sleep. Finally she dozed, and then she slept deeply.
She didn’t dream. No images flashed through her mind in the night, at least none that she could hold and retain.
When she woke up, sun was filtering through the chintz drapes.
She yawned and stretched, and looked toward the foot of the bed.
And froze.
A woman stood there, her image hazy and then solid. She appeared to be in late Victorian dress; her clothing was poor, simple cotton. A crocheted mantle sat over her shoulders. Her hair was queued, and yet tendrils were escaping. She looked to be about thirty, but her appearance was worn and tired…
Like that of the image of Jane Doe wet Jake had created from her death photos.
But she wasn’t Jane Doe wet. She had lived long before Jane Doe wet.
Whitney thought that she heard something, like a whimpering. She realized that the woman wasn’t alone. At her side was a large hound, a mix between a shepherd and a wolfhound, perhaps, but a large shaggy creature that stood valiantly at her side.
The woman began fading away again.
“Please, please, stay!” Whitney begged.
The dog lingered just a moment longer.
But the woman disappeared, and then, more slowly, the dog. Whitney was left to wonder if the images had really been there, of if she had imagined both the woman and canine in the desperate hope that she could learn something from the beyond.
It was barely the crack of dawn when Jude pulled the last of his information sheets from the printer in his home office and arranged his discourse for the task force meeting the next morning. He had pictures and every note taken on the Jane Does, and he had every note they’d thus far acquired regarding Virginia Rockford as well. And, he had drawn up a time line of Jack the Ripper in London, the murder of Carrie Brown and everything he could find on the House of Spiritualism as well. There was nothing to be found on the mysterious Jonathan Black other than what had been written by his contemporaries. Hannah was searching records, but she had found nothing that registered he’d been in the country, or in the city of New York.
It was possible, of course, that the murders were not related in any way, and that the murder of Virginia Rockford was unrelated to any past or present Ripper. But Deputy Chief Green had been disturbed enough by the similarities to call in a special unit, and there was no reason not to entertain anything that might help in the investigation.
He dreaded the thought that another victim would tell them whether or not they were moving in the right direction.
Allison, his blue-eyed mixed-breed cat, meowed, cleaning her paws as she sat at the edge of his desk.
“Too damn bad they hadn’t invented credit cards back then,” he told the cat.
He was startled by a knock at the side door to his office.
When his dad had bought the apartments, they’d discovered that the place had once been owned by a notorious madam, Madam Shelley, who had been a voyeur. What had appeared to be wall actually hid a door, and that door led to the apartment next door. When he’d had to fix the wall because of water damage from a leaking pipe on the floor above, they’d found out that there had been an entrance and exit between the two apartments—and a way for the madam to spy on her clients.
They’d kept the exit/entrance something of a secret door. Jude’s father had never interfered with his life, and it was nice that he was close. He could feed Allison when Jude wound up working crazy hours on a case.
He stood to unlock the door, letting his dad in.
Andrew remained on his side of the doorway, hands behind his back, waiting for an invitation in. Jude smiled, looking into his dad’s back parlor. A lot of the things crammed in here had been his own—a huge desk and computer and game player, for example; the shelves were crowded with books, and more. Animal skulls, comics, Star Trek and Star Wars toys and all kinds of collectibles.
“Sorry, I know it’s early but I heard you rattling around in here,” Andrew said. He grinned and drew his hands from behind his back, producing a large paper coffee cup. “Didn’t know if you’d bothered to brew yourself any.”
Jude took the cup, stepping back. “Thanks. Good and strong?” he asked.
“You bet, killer strong, just the way you like it.”
“Come on in. You know I always appreciate your advice.”
“The media just keeps going crazy. Slow day for catastrophes yesterday,” Andrew said with a shrug. “No storms or oil spills or other such activity. The major cable stations have all hopped on the bandwagon. Everyone across the globe has to be getting information regarding Virginia Rockford. I can’t help but wonder if she’s happy in heaven. She found her fifteen minutes of fame—a lot more than fifteen minutes. There are even some takes from that movie on the internet—don’t know how people got them. Well, barriers can only keep onlookers so far—it’s gone viral. That movie is going to make a fortune!”
“Yes, I guess it is,” Jude said.
“And don’t hesitate, son, if you want any help on anything, let me know. There’s got to be something else useful in my book collection. if you want any research done and your folks are bogged down—though I guess you have half the department on it—let me know, okay. Even if it’s just coffee.”
“Thanks, I’ll take you up on that. And, hey, I’m going to leave my side of the door unlocked. Will you check in on Allison this evening, give her an ear rub and make sure she has water and food?” Jude asked.
Andrew laughed. “I’ll even clean the litter box! I can see you gotta get out of here. Talk to you later.” He turned to close the door.
“Hey, wait,” Jude said.
His dad paused, brows arching with anticipation.
“Yeah, we’ve got lots of people, but you are a reader and you have one of the best book collections I’ve ever seen. Keep reading. See what you can find on the House of Spiritualism, Jonathan Black—and Blair House.”
“Of course,” Andrew said.
He left, closing the door between the two apartments. Jude headed out. As he did so, he picked up the morning paper at his door, flipping it over:
Have You Seen This Woman?
He was pleased to see that Hannah had gotten Jake Mallory’s computer rendition of his victim on the lower-right side of the first page of the paper. Since he’d spent the night preparing for the meeting and grimly realizing how little they had to go on, it was a pleasant perk to see that the likeness was in the paper, and just as he had wanted it placed.
The paper was on the front passenger’s seat of the car when he picked up Whitney; she was in front of the house, waiting for him at precisely 7:30 a.m. He couldn’t help think again that everything about her was gleaming, from the pert curls in her hair to the tone of her skin and on to her eyes. She was entirely unique—and absolutely mesmerizing. She would surely draw attention no matter where she went. He did wonder if that would prove to be an asset or a distraction.