Before his fight with the cop.
“All right, baby. Come my way!” he urged. His voice was husky, strange. “Baby, the other looked sweet, but now you ...” He let out a howling sound, staring at the elegant length of her neck. “I’m about to glut—and dine.”
The angel had a strangely determined voice as well. “I don’t think so—you vicious brute.” He’d been feeling powerful. Incredibly strong, powerful.
But she was strong as well.
Before he could move, she’d plucked up the bone saw.
She was so fast, indeed, that he was pitched into the true darkness of hellfire and damnation even as he realized just what she meant to do ...
Rutger took his time.
He sauntered into the hospital at midnight, making his way to the maternity ward.
No one noticed a nervous man in the waiting room.
He drank coffee, watched cable news. He wished he knew the killer who ruled the news. Now, there was a man who knew how to deal with lying, cheating, no-good women.
In the wee hours of the morning, just before dawn, he slipped into a maintenance closet and unfolded his hospital greens, covering his head and hair, and half tying a mask around his lower face. He walked through the hospital, acknowledging the few nurses and aides who greeted him in the hall with a return wave.
At one of the nurses’ stations, he helped himself to a prepared shot of some old geezer’s nighttime sedative and hurried onward again.
As he’d suspected, there was only one guard on Callie’s door by that time. A tall, slim, good-looking dark-haired dude, maybe thirty, thirty-five. His head was leaned against the wall; he was dozing.
Rutger walked briskly toward Callie’s door—finding her room had been a simple matter of asking at a different nurses’ station.
Then again, the plainclothes cop—still obviously a cop— was a dead giveaway as well.
“Hello, Doctor,” the cop said, standing to greet him.
What luck. He could pin the cop with the sedative so easily now.
“Hello, there. How’s my patient doing?” Rutger asked cheerfully, approaching the cop. His hand in his pocket, he fingered the needle and syringe, drawing it out and holding it against his side.
“Seems to be doing fine, Doctor.”
“Well, good. And it’s good to have you out here!” Rutger beamed.
In a flash, he raised the syringe, and jabbed it into the cop’s arm.
He slumped back against the wall, fell to his rear, his head bowed over.
Rutger stepped over him.
All right. He had to work fast. Didn’t know when some real members of the hospital staff might be coming by. Close the door first. Then get a gag around Callie’s mouth. Didn’t want her to let out a scream that might alert someone ...
She was sleeping restlessly. He stood over her, gently picked up one wrist, and then the other, tying them to the bedposts with surgical tape he had pilfered from the nurses’ station along with the syringe.
Callie was so sedated, she didn’t awaken at first. He pulled a sock from his pocket to gag her. As he stuffed it into her mouth, he slapped her cheeks.
It was time for her to wake up.
She did. Her eyes widened like saucers. She tried to scream, but choked as he taped her lips, forcing the sock more deeply into her mouth. She was powerless, and terrified. He pulled his knife out, smiling at her. “Yeah, baby. I’m here. Oh, yeah, you betcha. But guess what? I’m not going to kill you. I’m just going to make you wish you were dead.”
Her eyes closed; to his vast dismay, she slumped against the bed in a dead faint.
“No way!” he muttered furiously, stepping forward again. Let’s see how she’d sleep if he slashed her right in the face!
A cold suddenly settled over him. He froze, sensing someone behind him. He managed to turn.
The cop was behind him.
Couldn’t be! He’d knocked the damn cop out. But there he was, smiling pleasantly.
“Doc, now, is that any way to treat a patient?” the cop demanded.
“Man, you should have stayed down!” Rutger muttered, but he still felt the cold. “You should have stayed passed out, because now I’m going to have to stick you in the gut, pig!” The cop smiled, shaking his head. “You’ve got it all wrong, Rutger. Now I’m going to have to stick you.”
Rutger saw the hands descending upon his shoulders. He was lifted, drawn forward. Just as if he weighed no more than five pounds.
The pig was opening his mouth!
Ah, hell, just what he needed, a gay cop. The guy was going for his damned neck.
Rutger almost managed to scream.
But his scream was nothing more than a gurgle. His vein was instantly, expertly punctured.
He was unconscious in a matter of seconds.
The room was filled with a complacent slurping sound.
Rutger was drained. Dry. The “cop” let him fall to the floor.
Callie began to awaken with a growing sense of panic, remembering that Rutger was in the room. She wrenched at the tapes holding her wrists, choking on the gag, trying desperately to get some sound out.
Then she froze. Rutger was on the floor. A cop was in the room with her, seated across from her, in the visitor’s chair.
The cop belched, then drew a hand to his lips, looking slightly embarrassed. “Excuse me!” he said. He rose, stretched, and nudged Rutger with a toe. He plucked him up from the floor then, holding him easily, as if he was no more than an ashen rag doll.
Then, with a powerful movement, the cop ripped Rutger’s head from his body.
Once again, Callie passed out cold.
The cop took a step toward her.
* * *
He was riding again, his horse’s hooves pounding the earth, spraying dirt over the length of the field.
A ... battlefield
The boom of a cannon sounded, as loud as a thunder clap. He was blinded by the powder that filled the air around him. He inhaled the smoke, the powder, the smell of death. From somewhere, a horse screamed.
“Hold up, hold up!” he commanded. “Take to the far cove of trees!” Men rode with him. He looked at their faces, and he knew them, yet, for some reason, he couldn‘t remember their names. They were dependent on him, and he knew that danger came from everywhere, and still.. .
God, but he was anxious for the day to end. Come hell or high water, he would ride to her. He had to see her, had to reach her, touch her, feel her. He could endure it all, when he heard her voice . . .
But again, he heard the explosion of cannon fire, and the dirt and trees before him suddenly exploded and...
Sean awoke. His eyes flew wide open, and he stared at his ceiling. He was vaguely aware of the dream—nightmare?— that had so recently plagued him. It had been so real, but now it faded quickly away, and it just seemed a silly dream. He lay, breathing deeply, mentally shaking his head at the fine sheen of perspiration that lay over his body. He was like a kid, surely, wanting to play soldier.
How long had he dreamed? He suddenly worried that he might have awakened Maggie. He reached out for her.
She was gone.
He bolted up, anxious. Gone. Gone where? Had she tried to make it back to her office, wanting to awake in her own place to shower and dress for work. God, no. There was a maniac at large in New Orleans.
He almost shouted her name; his voice was hoarse.
He swung around, blinking. She was standing in the bathroom doorway, lithe and naked, a glass of water in her hand, red hair falling around her slim shoulders like a crimson cloak in the muted night light.
“Oh, man, Maggie!” Shaking with relief, he buried his head in his hands.
She walked to the bed, silent and graceful, setting her glass on the bedside table.
“Sean?” she repeated softly.
“Oh, God, Maggie, you scared the hell out of me!” he told her.
“I’m here, Sean.”
He pulled her down to the bed. She slipped easily into his arms, and he held her tightly, tenderly against him. She threaded her fingers through his hair, her eyes on his, soft, liquid gold.
“You know I lied earlier,” she told him.
“I’m not ... falling in love with you.”
He felt the jagged slam of his own heart.
“I do love you, Sean,” she whispered. And he smiled, and held her closer. Her free hand fell against his chest. “But I’m afraid, Sean!” she added on a barely audible breath. “I’m so damned scared!”
“Don’t be afraid. I’m with you, Maggie. I love you, Maggie.” She was quiet as he sat in the darkness and shadows, rocking with her.
Yet he was strangely convinced that was exactly why she was afraid ...
But he couldn’t begin to fathom her reasoning.
All he knew was that he was afraid himself.
Afraid that he would lose her.
So he held her all the more tightly, and told himself that he simply wouldn’t let her go.
* * *
London September, 1888
Newspapers were wild with speculation.
And information came to the streets through the inquests into the deaths of the murdered women.
Dr. George Baxter Phillips, the divisional police surgeon, believed that Dark Annie’s killer must have had some surgical skill or anatomical knowledge to have mutilated and removed organs in the manner done— and in the time the murderer must have had.
Papers spoke of a monster. A creature with the ability to melt into the shadows and mist of the night.
More rational people whispered of some manner of a slaughterhouse worker— or a surgeon.
Perhaps there was a madman out there procuring human organs for medical schools— killing for gain.
The police had a number of suspects, but no investigations seemed to pan out. “Leather Apron,” or George Pizer, an immigrant accused of threatening whores with a knife, was found and taken in, but he had an alibi for each murder, and it turned out he had been hiding out in fear of what the maddened throngs might do.
Several suspects were saved by the police from lynch mobs.