Both of them were on their cell phones.
"Auntie Jen? It's Blair. Is Naomi there?" Pause. "No? Do you know where she went?" Pause. "Did she mention any plans for today?" Pause. "Okay, thanks. Wait, wait! If she shows up, keep her there with you, and don't let anyone in the house. Call me or Jim right away." Pause. "Good. Bye."
"...an APB on Blair's Volvo, Simon. We think Naomi's the next victim." Pause. "We could tell you why, but...." Pause. "Exactly. Oh, make sure the BOLO says she's a cop's mom; we don't want her treated like a suspect, but like family." Pause. "Okay, thanks. We're doing everything we can think of." Pause. "We'll call if we come up with anything. Thanks, Simon."
They collapsed their phones at almost the same second.
"Jen has no idea where Naomi is," Blair blurted out.
"I put the 'be on the lookout' notice out, through Simon. He'll make sure if the cops find the Volvo, they know it's a cop's mom they're dealing with."
Blair nodded his understanding. "Jen said Naomi's been talking about Wiccans, Druids and animists, and how they celebrate Samhain. It's fascinating...."
"Her son's mother," Jim said with a quick smile.
"Yeah, I guess," Blair replied, jogged out of the daze he had nearly fallen into. "She could be looking for an invitation to the ceremonies, Jim. She said she had messages for local Wiccans and Druids. We should check it out."
"Yes, a good idea. Try the Druids first?"
Blair had to think for a moment. "I don't know anyone in the circle, now," he said sadly, "but Celtic Anam's been taken over since Sky...died."
Jim reached out an arm and gave him a quick squeeze on the shoulder. "Do you have the store number?"
"No, not now. But it's still in the same premises."
"Okay. Let's roll." Jim did a U-turn and ignored the yells of foul play from the other motorists in Cascade.
Celtic Anam had its 'Closed' sign on the door.
The dark had fallen, though it was only about five o'clock. And there was the fog, seeping into cracks and bones, smelling of dead fish, bouncing sickly yellow shadows here and there in the sodium street lighting. Chilly, drear and ugly, the fog made everything worse.
A candle was in the window of the shop, and by its light, Jim could just make out a tiny cup and plate beside it. He drew Blair's attention to it.
"Oh," Blair breathed. He pulled himself together. "That's an honoring of the beloved dead, Jim. It's for Rowan, and Sky."
Jim gave him a quick look over.
Blair smiled quirkily. "I just wish I'd done it, that's all." He strode forward and knocked at the door. "Pepper? Are you there? Anyone there? It's Blair Sandburg!"
A bulb went on overhead of the two men and then inside, at the porch. "Blair? Is it you?" The door was opened. A small lady, looking grandmotherly, poked her head out. "It is you!" she said happily.
"Hi, Bridie," he answered. "Jim, this is Bridie McCullough. She took over the shop, after Sky died."
"Hello, Jim," the small woman said. "You're late, though. I was just getting ready for the Samhain ceremony. Do you want to attend?"
Blair shook his head vigorously. "No, thank you, Bridie. Not this year. I'm actually looking for my mother. Her name's Naomi. I think she might have come here, or contacted someone in your circle. We've got to find her, and soon!"
Bridie stepped back and allowed the two men into the shop. Jim towered over her, but she twinkled at him, and he grinned back. "I haven't seen her, but I think it's possible Gwen Polgarth has. Let me call her."
She led the two men into the office area, and picked up a phone, speed dialing. "Gwen, dear. It's Bridie. Have you seen Naomi Sandburg? Yes, Sky's Blair's mother. You have?" She nearly danced with the news. "Do you know where she is now? Oh." The dancing stopped. "Did she say where she was going? All right. I'll tell Blair to try there, then." She put down the receiver.
The partners waited with bated breath.
"She did come to the store, on Gwen's shift, not Pepper's. She had a message for her from Gwen's sister in Nairobi. She stayed for a while, and they talked...."
"Bridie," Jim said with immense grace, "where is Naomi now?"
"Oh, oh, well, Gwen said she mentioned going to find a Wiccan by the name of Star Michelle."
"Do you have any idea who Star Michelle is? Her phone number? Place of work?"
"No, dear," she answered Blair. "But I do know where she's likely to be worshipping tonight."
Jim stifled back 'Yes!' and Blair grinned at him.
"Where's that, Bridie?"
"At Wolfshead Park, dear. Go past the gates, and if you need to get there quickly, drive down the bicycle path on the right, as far as you can go. Get out when you stop, and follow the path to where the stream crosses it. Contrary to popular superstition, white witches have no trouble crossing water," Bridie said, scolding, as if it were the men from Major Crime who had slandered her friends. "Cross the stream, and follow it to the left. It isn't far from there. You'll see the clearing. It's nicely sheltered, and the candles don't blow out. Everyone will be in black, which is hard on the eyesight, but there should be candles enough to see by, and they'll be wearing nice gold and silver jewelry, to call the sunlight. It's a glittery ceremony. I'd leave now, if I were you. You won't want to interrupt them once it's started." That was a caution, if ever one was uttered.
"Thank you, Ms. McCullough," Jim said politely.
"I'm just Bridie, detective. Thank you for stopping by." She began to usher them out. "Oh, I forgot something."
The men turned to look at her.
"Blair dear, did you remember to leave anything for Sky tonight?" she asked in her silvery voice.
Blair was embarrassed and troubled. "No, I didn't. I wish I had."
"Well, then, why don't I sell you these for a penny?" Bridie materialized a candle, a cup, a bottle of water, and a single star-anise cookie.
Blair choked a little. "Did you have them ready and waiting for me, Bridie?"
Bridie smiled kindly. "Let's just say I thought you might be thinking of Sky tonight."
Blair reached into his pocket and took out his wallet.
"The price is a penny, sir!" the little woman fluttered. "Not a cent more!"
Blair dug into his jeans, and found one red cent. "Thank you, Bridie. Thank you, very much."
She showed him to the window, and he lit his candle from the one there, putting out the cup full of water and the cookie beside those Bridie had left herself.
Then he went on the hunt for his mother again.
The clearing was right where Bridie had said it would be, but it took a good hour to drive to the location, even with sentinel sight to guide them. The fog was filthy, thick, and rotten. It was hard to breathe, let alone see.
Jim found the stream, and they got out to ford it. When they found it, the circle of thirteen Wiccans were in the midst of preparations. An altar held candles of black, orange, white, silver and gold, and their placement was the work of one black-clad member. Another two were discussing the choice of stone, to represent Mother Earth in the ceremony. Someone was measuring out herbs and spices, incense for a thurible – Jim made out bay, cinnamon, rosemary, and frankincense, but couldn't guess at the others. A group of four were standing to the side, with grand masks of animal faces. This much he saw, then the two partners were challenged.
"What do you want here, with us, tonight?" a compelling woman's voice asked from the darkness.
Blair answered, as was right. "Bridie McCullough told us we might find Star Michelle here. I need to talk to her."
"Bridie McCullough, eh?" came a deeper voice, a man this time. "Why would she tell you that?"
"Because it's true, I expect," Blair ventured.
Everyone was surprised into a laugh, and the formal challenge was over.
"I'm Star Michelle," the first voice told the men from Major Crime. "Why do you need to speak to me, at this hour, in the middle of celebrations?"
"I'm Blair Sandburg, Naomi Sandburg's son, and I really need to find her. She's in danger." Blair couldn't continue.
Star Michelle spoke again. "I met her for the first time today. She had a message for me from a friend in Greece. I don't really know her, though."
"No, I understand that. But did she say where she was going tonight? Did she tell you her plans? Anything, anything at all that you remember could help her."
Star Michelle was silent, in the vast darkness. A moment or two passed, while Blair thought he would die of the waiting. At last, "She didn't tell me anything about her plans. We talked about Druidic beliefs, and Wiccan, and she spoke also of an animist she'd met, who impressed her a lot. A very conversable woman. I liked her, and she did me and my friend a service. If I could tell you more, I would. But this is the day of new beginnings to us, and we will keep your mother, your Naomi, in mind as we celebrate the coming of the new year."
Blair's eyes were misty. "Thank you. I appreciate your help. Please keep her in mind."
"You too, shaman," came the male voice. "You also we will remember as the new year starts."
"Thank you," Jim said, as he put an arm around his best friend. "From both of us."
"It's time for you to go now," Star Michelle said. "Blessed be."
"Blessed be," chorused the other worshippers, and they went back to their preparations honoring mother earth and the dead.
A bonfire sprang into life behind them as they drove out of Wolfshead Park.
"The animist must be Pete," Jim told Blair. "Somehow, we've got to find him."
"Yeah, but how, Jim? It's midweek, you and I both know he doesn't keep the salon open past six, and it's seven-thirty now, with half the park to drive through before we get to an open road. Who do we ask for help, now?"
"Simon," was Jim's ready answer. "Phone him."
Blair called Simon's cell phone. "Simon? Where are you now?"
"Major Crime. Where would you expect me to be? Where are you, Blair? Is Jim with you?"
"Yes, I'm here, Simon. I'm driving."
"Where are you, that Jim's using both hands on the wheel? No, don't tell me, unless it's important."
"Simon, has there been anything come out of the BOLO?"
A deep sigh came over the line. "I wish I could tell you it had, but there's been nothing. It's hard to read the plates of parked cars with the fog so high, and rising higher every minute."
"Damned fog," Jim grumbled. "Okay, look, we need to find the proprietor of Pete's for Pets." He spelled out the name. "Can you do a computer search for the ownership of the business, who pays realty taxes, whatever you can come up with, for us? Naomi may be with him."
"Run a search of his record, Simon," Blair demanded. At Jim's look, he said, "Hey, I may not want to know, but I want to know."
"Okay, you've got it. I'll call back in a few."
They said goodbye, and Jim kept driving.
They were almost at the gates of the park when Simon Banks called back.
"I've got an address for you. No phone number, or at least the one I got doesn't work. Try 568 North Union Drive."
Blair, ever curious, asked, "How'd you get it? He doesn't have any convictions or anything, does he?"
Simon was heard laughing his head off. "Only one, Blair, only one. He's a tree-hugger." The connection was cut.
"Shoulda seen that one coming," Blair said to his near-hysterical partner. "Look where you're driving, Jim!" He wrenched the driver's wheel over to the right, so they didn't pop a wheel on a massive rock, which had escaped Jim's notice.
Jim sobered up instantly. He took over the driving with all attention to the road, and drove like Hades in his chariot.
Blair was silent. Blair was praying.
North Union Drive was a landscape full of small, but comfortable, bungalows and ranch houses, and Number 568 was one of the latter. The generous yard, laid out in an era when land was cheap, was filled with green growing things, and huge, majestic cedars. A jack-o-lantern with a jolly smile sat in the window, but the outside lights were off, apparently to signify that all the treats had been given out, and it was too late to ask for more. It was nearly impossible to think that that could be the site of anything as unnatural as an immortal Jack the Ripper.
Jim had barely touched the brakes before Blair was out of the truck and running. "Hey, wait up!" He screeched to a halt and slammed Sweetheart into park, then he was up and running, too.
Blair was pounding on the door, ringing the bell and sounding a brass knocker, as well. "Open up! Pete! Open up!"
A clatter within brought a halt to the door bashing. The door swung open, and the Major Crime pair gaped.
"Oh, it's you. I should have expected it. Libby was just full of worry about you two. Naomi also. What's wrong?"
The man built like a Sumo wrestler on steroids, the self-declared King of Sweaters and Jeans, was wearing a hula skirt and coconut shell bra. Jim had to turn away to hide his face.
Blair held the fort. "Look, Pete, we need to find my mom. Did she say anything about where she was going tonight?"
Pete said, "No, she didn't. I have no idea where she is. Why do you have to find her?"
Over Pete's shoulder, someone said, "Look here. That's why."
A news bulletin was running on national television. "...The so-called Copy Cat Ripper, whose count now stands at five women dead in Cascade, Washington, delivered this recording to All The News just thirty minutes ago. It contains a threat that we hope reaches the men it's meant for, on this broadcast, and we encourage other news agencies to run this recording until we know it's reached its intended hearers. Here's the tape:
"Greetings from Hell, gentlemen. You've been trying to catch me, but nobody can. Nobody ever will. Ha-ha. The game's not over, but it's become more fun, hasn't it? I know where she is, and you don't. I can see her, and you can't. I'm going to kill her, and you won't stop me. Ha-ha. You're welcome to try. Little Jackey's on a lark, and Ms. Davies is in the dark. So are you, coppers. Or should I say 'copper' and 'brass'? You do have a brass nameplate on your desk, don't you, sonny boy? Don't delay, or I'll be having fun with your mum, without you. Hahahaha!"
Cold grue laid spider webs on the hearers' skin. The laughter was maniacal and sickening.
Though the message had been whispered, and the voice disguised, Jim and Blair had no doubt that they were the copper and brass the Ripper referred to, nor that he had Naomi in his sights.
"God, please," Blair pled.
Jim grabbed him in a hug. "We'll be going now," he said to the house owners.
"No, wait," the second of them told him, a man in a wetsuit and snorkel. "Pete mustn't have heard her; he was getting the party favors together. Naomi was here, and we talked about animism. She's a good listener and a great talker."
Blair turned in Jim's grasp, and Jim let go of him.
"She is that!" Pete said, and the man in the wetsuit smiled fondly at him for a second.
"Anyway, she talked about a lot of things, and I remember her saying she'd had a past life regression done at the convention."
"That's right," Blair said. "She did."
"She said she was going to go as her past self, get a costume for it, and see if she could win a prize at the grand ball."
"Grand ball?" Jim asked.
"Yeah, yeah, Jim. They're supposed to close the booths for business and open the park up for a nighttime costume party. She's going alone?"
"I guess," said the snorkel man. "Does that help?"
"Does it ever!" Blair said, bouncing. "We've gotta go. Thank you so much!" He was down the walk and into the truck before Jim managed to shake both men's hands. "Jim! C'mon! Hurry it! I'm calling Simon."
"She's at the costume ball? I'll alert security there to keep an eye out for her. What's the description?"
Jim gave it. "Pretty woman, middle-aged, red hair, in a Victorian dress, black, with ruffles, I expect, floor length. Can we get Megan and Joel and everyone who's seen her out into the park? Damn it, the Ripper says he's there now, and can see her. Whoever can get to her fastest has to go for it, Simon!"
"I'm on it, Jim. And I'll be there for the...I'll be there to get him, too."
"He meant to say, I'll be there for the kill," Blair said bleakly. The enthusiasm of knowing his mother's whereabouts had dropped like an anchor in water, once he realized how long it would take them to get to the park. Even with the flasher on the roof and Jim's kamikaze driving, it had to be at least ten minutes, and that was far too long.
Street sign followed street sign, and still Jim couldn't drive fast enough. Hades in his chariot would have given Jim Ellison wide berth that night. He swung Sweetheart around the other cars and through intersections as if they were square dancing, carefree and raring to go.
Yet it wasn't fast enough.
Blair was back on the phone with Simon. "I know, I know. Just tell me who's out there? Isn't there anyone in the park who knows my mom?"
"Megan should be there within a couple of minutes. I expected her to phone in before now; she may have been delayed by the fog. It's rolling in off the Sound like some ugly, yellow Juggernaut. Blair, everyone is en route to the ball. I'm on my way. I called Park Security to tell them. I even called the Mayor for a contact for whoever signed on to do special security there, like private investigators, or off-duty cops. The word is out. We just have to keep hoping, Blair. He's up against a whole army of people."
"Yeah, that's what Scotland Yard and the City of London Police thought, too, Simon. Okay, okay. I'll try to keep my spirits up. Thanks. Thanks for the help. I know you're going the distance and more." Blair hung up.
Jim couldn't take his eyes off the road, not at his rate and in those driving conditions. But he had to comfort Blair somehow. "Listen, Chief, I've heard the guy's voice now, and I can probably track him that way. He isn't going to be expecting a Sentinel and his Guide on his trail. He has no way, no way at all, of knowing what we can do. Hell, we hardly know what we can do!"
"Yeah, I know." Blair stopped to think. "How many senses can you bring up on the dial without danger of zoning or disabling pain, Jim?"
Jim tried to think. "I don't exactly know, Chief. It's probably a combination of number and intensity. How many do you think we need, and how high?"
"Gotta have sight. No choice about that."
"You got that right," Jim said, and barely missed a city transit bus as it mistakenly tried to merge into traffic. Jim's traffic didn't merge.
"What about scent? Ma's probably got a lot of lavender sprinkled on her. She likes it, and she used it to cleanse the loft. Plus it's appropriate to the Victorian era. What do you think?"
Jim shook his head. "The fog stinks, Chief. Even filtering out the stench, I couldn't be sure to pick up on a delicate scent like lavender, and it's a favorite for a lot of women. If there are any other choices, maybe we should take them."
Blair sucked foggy air deep into his chest, and coughed. "Okay, hearing, then. You've got his voice, even if it was disguised. Do you have, like, a mental imprint of his cadences?"
"Like where he puts emphasis, and his pausing and stuff like that?"
"Yes, I have. If I can't listen for the exact tone, I can at least listen for the way he speaks."
"Great, Jim, that's fantastic!" Blair pumped a fist into the air. "Taste is out. Scent is out. Sight and hearing are in. Touch is out, too." He started chewing his lower lip.
Jim Ellison smiled grimly, and started taking even greater chances.
They reached the park before hearing back from Simon Banks about the arrival of Megan, or any other people whom he spoke of, for that matter. Heedless of parking lot attendants and their shouts of indignation, Jim pulled Sweetheart up to the space reserved for the Mayor and got out. He flashed his badge at the man with the day-glo baton, and told him to tell Hanratty to call Jim Ellison if she had a problem with parking.
Blair was off and running, into the foggy night air.
"Hey, Chief! Don't get too far away from me!"
"I'm heading for the bandstand, Jim. You can see the lights overhead. If she wanted a prize, she'd be in that vicinity. What time is it?"
"The time now is 10:40. When's the judging?"
"Eleven! She's around here somewhere. Just catch up to me, Jim, and we can search together."
Jim swore under his breath. Blair was quick as a bunny over short distances, and had outpaced him. Jim picked up his speed, breathing the cold, wet air and feeling his lungs ache. When he got to the bandstand, he managed to tag his partner, and latch onto him.
"Don't, Blair," he choked out. "I've got a stitch in my side. I can't breathe like this."
Blair patted his partner's chest. "Okay, okay. I'll stick with you, now we're here. Do you see her anywhere?"
Jim peered around. "No. I don't."
"How high is the dial?"
"Grab my hand and ratchet it up to seven. What about now?"
"Uh-uh. Lots of long outfits, but most of them are ghosts or vampires, clothing that fits over outerwear. It's damp and cold, and Pete in his hula costume had good sense, staying home."
"Yeah, well, who'd go out looking like that, anyway, Jim?" Blair asked without expecting an answer. "If you ratchet up to nine, is it dangerous?"
Jim sucked his tongue. "I'll zone, if you don't give me a lot of support."
"What do you need?"
"Hearing. Sing something, Chief."
"For God's sake, Blair, we're trying to save your mother's life. Sing, dammit!"
Blair sang. It was the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the most rousing song he could think of, and it was sung with everything in Blair Sandburg, heart, soul and spirit.
Jim was safe, but he still hadn't found Naomi. "Chief, I'm bringing it down now. I need to try hearing."
"What do I give you for alternate stimuli, then?" Blair was beyond being able to think straight.
Jim did the thinking for them both. "Touch. Got a light?"
"No. Maybe we can bum one."
Jim simply commandeered a lighter from the next person who wandered past, reeking of tobacco, and handed it to Blair. "Scratch my palm steadily, and watch for zoning. If I seem to go too far...."
"...bring up the flame. I got it. I hate it, but I got it."
Jim stared steadily at him. "It's for Naomi, Blair. I can stand a lot worse than a burn blister to save her life."
Blair tried to say something, but choked instead. He just sealed his lips together and nodded furiously.
"Okay, then," Jim said. "Scratch my hand, and watch me for zoning." He went into the classic 'listening sentinel' pose, head back, mouth open, eyes fixed on nothing on earth.
Blair scratched at Jim's palm until he'd almost broken the skin. Reluctantly, he lit the lighter. But the second before he applied it to Jim's hand, the sentinel came back to full attention.
"Got her, not him. I can't hear him. He's not talking. But she is," Jim exulted. "Thank God she's a chatterer!"
"Yeah. Thank God you're a sentinel, too, Jim," Blair said, his heart in his eyes.
Jim smiled at him and jerked his head to the right. "That way. If we can close the distance, I can raise the dial again and follow her exactly."
They began sprinting through the park, bumping into people, Jim blocking like a linebacker. They plowed for what seemed like a quarter mile before Jim called a halt. "Okay, try again." Jim caught Naomi's voice at level six, before Blair had to start work on his palm. "There!" he pointed the way.
As Jim followed the trail, Blair followed Jim. They went more slowly this time, Jim keeping an eye out for anyone who looked like trouble. Unfortunately, very many people were dressed as if they were trouble, and a lot of them were masked. Jim began to up his scent ability, to check for adrenaline and fear. There was a lot of adrenaline, a lot of excitement, but no fear. Not until....
"Blair, he's got her."
"Oh, my God, what do we do?"
"He's gagged her; she's not speaking. I'll have to try following scent."
"I thought you couldn't do that with lavender."
"Not lavender. Fear."
"Oh. God. What do I do, Jim?"
"Sing again, I guess. I'm going to need the hand to hit with."
Blair sang. This time, he sang a sea-chanty, as if he were a sailor ashore, drunk as a skunk, and partying hearty. "Sixteen men on a dead man's chest," he warbled loudly.
Jim scouted for Naomi's fear trail, and got it. "Pipe down, Chief. We're going after her."
He jogged fast, staying on top of the trail, when, suddenly, it disappeared.
"Jim? Why 'shit'?"
"Lost her. Don't know why. I can't even guess."
Blair hung his head in his hands, long curls spilling over his fingers. It couldn't end like that. It just couldn't. He needed a miracle.
He took his hands away from his eyes, and he got one. A fancy black lace fan was lying at his feet.
"Uh, Jim?" Blair said. "Can you tell if this is Naomi's?"
He picked up the fan, and held it just out of reach of his partner.
"Yes, yes, it is hers. Why? It can't help me track her."
Blair looked at him peculiarly. "Trust me, Jim."
Jim stared back, puzzled.
"Jim, just trust me, please."
Jim was still puzzled.
"If ever in your life or mine you ever trusted me or will trust me again, trust me now!" Blair hissed.
"I trust you, Blair," Jim said.
Blair closed his eyes. "Thank you." He put a hand out to touch Jim's shoulder. "I'm going to give you the fan, Jim."
"And you're going to psychometrize it."
"I'm going to what?"
"Trust me, Sentinel."
"Got it. I'm going to psychometrize the fan." Jim held out his hand, and Blair put the fan into it.
A lovely lady in a lovely dress, but frightened, a handkerchief stuffed into her mouth. She was being pulled backwards by a man in evening clothes, with the handle of some implement jutting from his breast pocket. Over his shoulder, a statue could be seen, a statue of George Washington. He pulled the lovely lady into a tent, lonely and forgotten.
"He's got her in a tent at the statue. The tent enclosed her scent. I know this is right. Come on, Chief!"
Blair didn't have to ask which statue in the park Jim meant. All he had to do was keep up with him. They powered along abandoned pathways, until they reached the tent Jim had seen in his vision.
Jim went in alone. The murderer was still dragging his chosen victim backwards.
"How? What? You dare?" the Ripper roared. His grip slackened just a bit.
Jim had his gun out. "You let her go, and I won't shoot you dead."
Blair was circling the tent outside, crouching, below the line of sight, hidden in the dense fog, except to sentinel senses. He came to a stop when he was at right angles to the men squaring off. He got out his Swiss Army knife, and slowly, carefully, started cutting a slit in the tent.
"I said, you let her go, and I won't shoot you dead," Jim repeated.
The Ripper tore the knife from his bosom, slicing outward through the cloth of his coat. "You'll never get me, copper!" he taunted Jim, and turned the knife toward Naomi, beginning the downwards stroke.
Blair tore the tent apart, leaped through, and struck the murderer like a thunderbolt, his hand out to push the knife away from Naomi, his body taking the man down to the ground, hard and unforgiving.
Naomi was propelled forward and landed on hands and knees, safe, if shaken.
Jim shot the bastard anyway. "For safety's sake," he told Blair. "He did still have the knife in his hand. I had to shoot him."
"He was knocked unconscious, Jim," Blair said, incredulous.
"Shhh," Jim whispered, his fingers at his lips.
Suddenly, the area was filled with police officers. The gunshot had drawn them. Jim laid his gun on the ground, and faced the other police with his arms in the air. Blair also raised his hands.
"Sandy? Jim?" It was Megan. "These are the good guys, officers," she vouched for them. "And that lady. What the hell are you doing in a blonde wig, Naomi? No wonder we couldn't ID you! We were looking for a redhead."
"I was a blonde," Naomi said, pulling off the wig. "It's a costume." She sounded dazed, and Megan put an arm around her and propped her up. Naomi smiled at her dizzily.
Megan went on. "As for the crook on the ground, someone cuff him and read him his rights. I have my hands full. You know," she blurted out to Jim and Blair, "he really does define 'medium everything,' like the clerk said, doesn't he? Kind of 'nothing-ish'."
Jack the Ripper was coming to. "How did you get me, copper?" he asked sullenly.
"The copper didn't get you. The brass did," Jim told him.
Simon, somewhat against his better judgment, allowed Jim and Blair to interrogate the suspect. Everyone insisted the interview be taped.
First came the requisite statement of rights. Jack the Ripper, however, was more than happy to boast of his prowess. He spurned legal help, and it was captured on film. What did he need with a lawyer? He was never going to see the inside of courtroom, he claimed. That, too, was captured on film.
"Tell us your real name," Jim suggested.
"Jack the bleeding Ripper."
"We've taken your fingerprints, and they don't match any on file here or with Interpol. So who are you, really?"
"Jack the Ripper. Saucy Jack. Don't you listen? Stupid coppers."
"Now, if you were Jack the Ripper, as you claim to be, you'd be something like 140 years old or more. That's impossible. You look to be in your thirties. So who are you?" Blair asked reasonably.
"I'm fucking Jack the Ripper, the one and only, the original, no one ever before like me, and no one ever after me, again, either." He sniffed.
"So how'd you make the trip from 1888 to 2000, across the Atlantic and the North American continent?" Jim asked.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Jack smirked.
"We were talking it over," Blair said, motioning to Jim with his head. "We figure you've got a time machine."
"Oh, then maybe it's the Fountain of Youth?" Jim conjectured.
"You wish," Jack sneered. "But it's not."
"You're a sorcerer?"
"Now, you're talking. Can I get a fag?"
Jim ponied up a cigarette, lighting it before he rolled it down the table to the hands cuffed to it.
"You're a sorcerer? Cool," Blair put in with mild interest.
"I'm not just A sorcerer, brass. I'm THE sorcerer." Jack bent forward to get the cigarette between his lips.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand," Blair said, innocent and helpless.
Jack looked at him with pitiless eyes. "You're not meant to understand, little brass monkey man. I wield powers beyond those of time and space. I'll be out of here as soon as my kneecap heals." He blew smoke at Blair's face.
"How are you going to do that?" Blair wondered. When Jack just sat there, Blair turned to Jim. "I don't think he's got a plan. I think it's just big talk."
"Oh, I've got a plan, all right. No prison can hold me. I can walk through walls. I can journey across time and space. I can transport myself anywhere I like."
"Only not with a broken kneecap?" Blair said, with curiosity.
"Huh. I probably could. But the pain gets in the way."
"You talk like you've done this before," Jim put in.
"I have. Dozens of times. You think I was born in the 1800's? I'm older than Rome," he proclaimed. "I come and go as I please. No man can kill me. All you can do is slow me down, and then I'll be out of here and off to the future. Me and my knife. I miss my short sword, though," the killer said with regret. "Now, there was a weapon."
"You have, like, a Roman name, then?" Blair asked.
"Iacus. What did you think?" The Ripper snorted. "You lot are so stupid. Once I'm fixed up, I'm gone from this land."
"On morphine, for the knee. It frees the mind."
"Oh, so you do all this with mind control," Blair deduced, opening his eyes wide. "Was it hard to learn?"
"Piece of cake. Well, a piece of cake that took a hundred years or so to master, but what's that in a millennium or three?"
"So you, like, astrally travel or something?" Blair asked.
"Something. I move the whole carcass. Astral travel is for children." He spat out bits of tobacco. "Unless I'm diving into computers, that is. I can suck a hard drive dry in under a minute, but it's a purely mental thing, that."
"We thought maybe you found women that way," Blair commented.
Jack took a drag of smoke again. "Yeah, helped here. But I was out and about all over Cascade, stalking, too. Got a line on LuLu Nichols that way, being in the right place at the right time. The convention was a good time waster, when I wasn't cutting. Your ma's past life regression session was funny. Stabbing abdominal pains at the moment of death meant she must've died in childbirth? Please!" He smiled nastily and rattled the handcuffs as he mimicked a stabbing with a closed fist.
"Why do you kill women?" Jim asked.
"Why don't you?" Jack answered.
Jim said consideringly, "I never saw any sport in it."
"Well, it's a little harder now than in the past, but it's still fun. Besides, I'm entitled to them."
"Entitled to them?" Jim repeated. "How, exactly?"
"Part of the bargain. I kill them here, and they serve me there."
"There? Where, there?" Blair asked.
"Hell, of course. Where I write from. Doesn't either one of you listen? Can't you read?"
"You made a pact with the devil?" It was Jim's turn.
"I made pacts with a bunch of different devils and demons," Jack yawned. "They're limited, you know, but they won't admit it. They can't all promise you eternal life, infinite riches, endless wine, women, and song. That's how stupid most humans are. They believe anything, if there's the smell of fire and brimstone along with it."
"But you're smarter than that, aren't you?" Blair said. His eyes were bigger than ever.
"Of course, I am. I bartered with six fallen angels to get eternal life, youth, power over time and space, and the entitlement to killing women to serve me in hell." Jack yawned again.
"Let's see. Life is one. Youth is two. Power over time is three. Power over space is four. Entitlement to killing women for service in hell – that's only five," Blair counted.
"You have to break it up. Entitlement to killing women is five, and their service in hell is six."
"Which angels were they?" Jim asked.
"Like I'm going to tell you? So you can get the package deal, like I got? Think again."
"You said something about how stupid most humans are. Aren't you human?" Blair asked.
Jack looked around the interrogation room, then straight into the mirror. "Yahhhh!" he screamed, sticking his tongue out. He laughed that insane laugh, Hahahahaha. Then he said, "Nope. Not human, here."
"Well, then, what are you?" Jim wanted to know.
"I," Jack said grandly, "am one of the Nephilim. Bow down and worship me." He spat on the floor again.
"Huh?" Jim said intelligently. "Never heard of 'em."
"I bet he has, the brass boy."
Jim looked at Blair.
"The Watchers, I think, from the Hebrew writings," Blair explained. "They're giants, and they have some unnatural lust for women, or something. I could be wrong. They're very obscure, and I haven't looked at the source material recently. Sorry."
"Oh, you're a fallen angel, then?" Jim picked up the topic.
"No, I'm a Nephilite. A giant, not a fallen angel." Jack seemed to be outraged.
"A giant? Like Goliath? Not just, you know, a giant among men, but really big?"
"Of course. Take a look at me." Jack cocked his head, apparently expecting admiration.
"He doesn't look like a giant to me. Does he look like a giant to you, Chief?"
"Nope. And I'm not exactly tall, myself. He looks kinda normal. Don't you, Jack?"
"I look normal when I'm among humans. It's part of the bargain, power over space. In hell, I revert to being a giant. What's wrong with you people? Don't you understand anything?"
"We're having some trouble understanding you, Jack," Blair admitted.
"This is so stupid. I'm quitting. Go talk to the mirror. Show's over." Jack threw his head back and laughed for five minutes.
Jim made a motion to the mirror, and he and Blair got up and left the Nephilite to his solitary pleasure.
Forensic psychiatrist Madeleine Palfrey had been observing, for the prosecutor's office.
"What's your opinion of his mental state?" Simon asked on behalf of all.
"Loony-tunes, crazy as a coot, howling mad: take your pick. He's clearly delusional, and with his thought processes and attitude, I can't see how he could instruct legal counsel or aid in his defense. Sorry, everyone. I think he's unfit to stand trial, and that sanity is not in his future. My professional opinion." She lifted her shoulders for a goodbye, and left.
"All right!" Jim and Blair slapped high fives.
"All right?" Simon yelped. "In what universe is that all right? I want him tried, convicted, and sentenced to death."
"Ah, Simon -- this is one of those things you really don't want to know," Blair began.
Simon's face went wan. "He's not crazy. He's really the devil. That's what you mean."
"Yeah, sorta, Captain," Jim said sympathetically. "We think he really can mindwarp himself out of a prison cell, if he's not in pain."
"Tell me something I want to hear," Simon begged.
"See, this is what we're thinking," Blair closed the gap between himself and Banks, speaking low. "If he's sane and evil, we've got problems. But if he's insane and bad, we don't."
"Why?" The one word seemed to have all 26 letters of the alphabet in it, and more.
"All those lovely psychotropic drugs, Simon," Blair said happily. "The standard stuff given to psychotics. They'll dope him, and keep doping him, until he thinks he's a human being like the rest of us. Know when that will be? Never! And he'll be such a space case that he'll lose all the mind control powers he ever had."
"To say nothing of the fact that he'll probably be permanently in restraints, strapped down to his bed, because of his violent nature," Jim tossed out.
"Gotta hand it to the devil, or devils," Blair pondered. "They never make a bargain that works out for a human. Or a Nephilite."
Simon said slowly, "I am beginning to think there are a bunch of women who have just been let out of hell."
Jim and Blair smiled at him. "We think so, too."
Blair ended with, "Hey, in there. Can you hear us, Jack?"
A long howl was the response, and then Jack the Ripper began gibbering fiendishly, kicking the table, and overturning his chair.
"Thought so," said the brass.
The three men from Major Crime left the observation room, more than content.
A week later, Jim and Blair stood on the loft's balcony. The fog had disappeared, gone with November frost. They were still in October, though, the case of the Ripper on their minds.
"There were a lot of strange things about that case, you know," Blair mused.
"Yeah, I noticed some, too," Jim replied. "Like how there were so many other coincidences with names and jobs, besides the women the Ripper picked for victims."
"Chuck Warrener and Sir Charles Warren? Fred Aberconway and Fred Abberline?"
"Both of which Homicide cops have now transferred out of Cascade, and no one's heard of them since. Yeah, exactly like that."
"How he focused on my mom, Jim, too. She wasn't a streetwalker, he didn't pick her up in a bar, and she's not in the computer database. It's like everyone around us, including all the victims, were really reincarnated, on purpose, into this time and place. Only Jack wasn't, 'cause he never died. Too bad. With his karma, he'd have been pond scum, and no problem at all."
"I wanted to ask you, Chief," Jim hesitated.
"Yeah? What, Jim?"
"You think I can really psychometrize stuff? On a continuing basis? I mean, think of all the cases I could solve!"
Blair held up warding hands. "Whoa, man. I don't know the answer to that one. But...." He hesitated in turn.
Jim waited for him to complete his thought.
"When you did the first psychometrizing, it was after Alex. To stop her from killing masses of people with nerve gas, and to avenge what she did to me. When you did the second, it was because Jack the Ripper, the real Jack the Ripper, was here in Cascade and killing with impunity. When you did it the third time, it was to save my mom's life."
Blair put his hand on his buddy's arm. "I don't think it's reproducible in a lab, Jim. I don't think you can call this up whenever you want. It's got some spiritual preconditions to it, from what I can see. It either involves a lot of people in danger from callous killers who have gone free from justice, or it's about me, or my mom, your family, you know?" Blair was a little pink. "I wish I believe I could help you use it, but I honestly don't think I can. It's a God-given talent, Jim. Ask Him about it."
Jim stared out over his city. "Hey," he said, " that's cool, as long as any time you have a fan you need psychometrized, you know who to go to."
"I'll know, Jim," Blair assured him. "I'll know." He smiled at Jim.
Jim smiled at Cascade.
"The Copy Cat Ripper has been confined to the state psychiatric facility for the criminally insane, until such time as he is judged to be fit for trial."
"Mm, mm, mm." Trey Jacobs turned off the radio. "Whatchu think of that?"
"He one sorry-ass nutcase. Cutting all those women. Ain't nothing sane about that. Women are for loving." Curly Gordon went on shaving wood from a stick.
"No, man, I mean, whatchu think about that De-tec-tive Ellison? And Dr. San-burg?"
"They cool. They got him."
"Yeah, but it's how they got him." Trey's voice was mysterious.
Curly looked up. "Whatchu mean? How they got him? How'd they get him?"
Trey reveled in his friend's attention. "He got secret powers, that De-tec-tive, and that doc-tor, he do too. Uh-huh. I know it." His word was final.
"How you know dat, homey?" Curly asked with a pout.
Trey pursed his lips together. "I heard it," he said, "from a friend of a friend."
1. The author thanks Suisan, Caellagh, and Anna, her consultants on this story; any mistakes are those of the author alone.
2. The primary source material for this story was The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper, edited by Maxim Jakubowski and Nathan Braund, Robinson Publishing Ltd., 1999, ISBN 1-85487-537-X. The number of sites on the internet devoted to Jack the Ripper is legion, and the author suggests any interested readers might run a search on the topic through any search engine for further information.
3. The best sources for studying urban legends are the books by Jan Harold Brunvand, including "The Vanishing Hitchhiker", a classic in the field. It is available, in part, on the net: http://garlic.aitech..edu.au/~bwechner/Documents/Hitch/vanish.html is an authorized web version. A web search on this topic will divulge a wealth of great tales.
4. The Burning of Bridget Cleary, by Angela Bourke, Pimlico, 1999, ISBN 0-7126-6590-0, is a non-fiction work about a 26-year-old woman in 1895, Ireland, who died at the hands of her loving family, when they burned her to death in the belief that the sick woman had been switched for a fairy changeling, and that the fairies would give their loved one back to save their changeling.
5. 'Nephilite' is derived from the word 'Nephilim', found in Genesis 6 and Numbers 13 of the Hebrew writings/Old Testament of the Bible. Who or what the Nephilim (a plural word) are, is obscure and, in some versions (like the cloned, alien/human hybrid giants created by our hidden UFO masters), downright bizarre. Try The Straight Dope post at http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mgiantsons.html for more on this odd topic, which probably generated a few urban legends of its own in its day.
Email the Author
Return to Novation Productions