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SHADOWS IN THE GLASS -- Chapter 31 (2)

LanceDeanAug 5, 2022, 3:49:44 PM

Lisa kept spare evidence bags in her car. She filled out the information on the bag. She photographed the scene. Then she zipped the hammer up in the bag and locked it in her gun safe in the garage.

For the moment that managed to satisfy her cop and self-preservation instincts. She knew she was ducking the problem. But she couldn't tackle the problem until she'd identified it.

She ignored it and went in to work. Did her job. Kept her doubts to herself. She brought up the connection between Rodriguez and Cohen again, but Benny deemed it coincidence.

He said Rodriguez installed security systems. Cohen had a system installed. It didn't look like Cohen's security system had been circumvented. It looked like it simply hadn't been turned on. "I don't see any connection between the crimes. Unless you can link it to the murder, forget about it."

Lisa couldn't so she put it out of her mind as well. There was never a lack of problems that required immediate attention.

First priority, more bundles of human meat were discovered inside a dumpster in Glendale. Forty miles from the last location. This dump site held the better part of two bodies. The cuts were more precise. He carefully removed the parts he liked. No need for trimming later. His skill and tastes were more refined. More specific. Scalps were removed from these victims also.

The maraschino cherry on the Monday came that afternoon. As Markus had predicted, Bernie Rodriguez had jabbed his stick at the political hornet hive of civic bureaucracy by filing a wrongful death suit against the Phoenix Police Department.

Bernie had been posting videos online that portrayed his brother as a victim. Though far from viral, they had gained some traction on the internet. So when Bernie followed the filing of the civil suit with a televised press conference, local English and Spanish news reporters were there. Bernie hired his own video crew to film it. CNN even sent a crew. They had picked up on the tail end of the serial killer search.

Within twenty-four hours the story was international news. Roberto Rodriguez generated more coverage dead than when he was killing girls. Within forty-eight hours TV commercials began appearing for Bernie's now world famous law firm. Featuring footage from the press conference, choice sound bytes and the baritone gravitas of professional voice-over talent delivering the close.

Opportunist or not, Bernie was intent to play it out and play for keeps. He subpoenaed all the case files on the murder investigation. The autopsy of Roberto Rodriguez Junior. Any and all information pertaining to his death: ballistics reports, photos, videos.

The list of minutiae demanded in the subpoena ran into pages. Barbara Prescott the lead prosecutor assigned to the DA's Office filed a motion to suppress the subpoenas until the completion of the investigation.

With the media circus tents unfurling on the sidewalk, actual work on the case took a backseat to damage control. Benny joked that with all the free press he was getting, maybe Bernie killed his brother for the publicity. As they were leaving Barbara Prescott's office Benny got a call from Dr. Tanaka. The DNA reports had come back on the eyes from the jar. There were complete sets from the first five victims. One eye each from the last two victims. Nothing from Tania Lopez.

Benny put his cellphone on speaker so Lisa could hear. "I figured he broke some, cutting them out."

Tanaka replied, "That would make them unsuitable trophies. Then again I would expect the eyes to be from earlier victims."

He agreed. "Practice makes perfect. This is something else."

Lisa said, "It started with Tanya Lopez. The only one he grabbed and dumped at the same spot. Maybe this was another spontaneous elaboration of his routine."

Benny picked up the thread. "So maybe initially he's acting out impulses from his mother's murder. But the more he does it, the less it's about her. The more it's about himself. He experiments, and I don't know. What does he do with them?"

Tanaka chimed in. "These things are an expression of the inner landscape. Eyes are symbolic of many things. Maybe he did something symbolic with them."

"Like what?" Benny asked.

Lisa's stomach turned. Started to roil and constrict.

Tanaka said, "He might burn it or submerge it in water or bury it. Perhaps eat it. Or put it someplace to watch for him."

Tanaka's voice faded as Lisa moved away. She headed downstairs and crossed the lobby to the ladies room. Tanaka's insights had brought the crow dream back to mind with a sickening impact.

Pushing open the bathroom door she ran for the sink. She hurled her stomach contents. Started uncontrollably hacking. Heaving air and flecks of bile. Leaking spit and snotty tears for several minutes.