- Sacred Evil
Jenna murmured, “We need to do this. Jackson is right, the next time the killer strikes, it’s going to be a double event.”
“Onward to the House of Spiritualism,” Jackson said.
He led the way; the last out of Blair House, Whitney made sure that she locked the door as they departed, and she locked the gate as well. She wasn’t sure if locking the gate—or even the doors—could protect them if someone was determined to break in, but she had no intention of making it easy for anyone. She looked back at Blair House as she followed the others.
That afternoon, they’d finished positioning their powerful magnifying cameras toward the property next door, but even so, Whitney knew, the darkness and shadows would stop them from discovering what she was expecting to find in the basement area of the House of Spiritualism. She and Will had discussed their options, and they had ten of what Jake described as the “feather lights” to be set up in the foundations along with an equal number of recorders; until they explored the site, they wouldn’t know if they’d figured accurately.
The gate at the construction site meant little. It was a bad lock, and the fencing around the site was chain link. Around the block on the other side, they saw that a single night watchman was on duty at his canvas-covered tent. She was sure that he made certain no pedestrians or cars entered through the main gate, yet she was equally sure that he remained at his post through the night, and didn’t wander into the vast expanse of the property.
Jackson waved his light toward the guard to let him know that it was the team entering the property. Then he set his powerful beam on the ground that lay before them, and started toward the abyss of the foundations.
“What the hell is that?” Jenna demanded suddenly, pointing her own beam toward what appeared to be a lump to their right, near the deconstruction of some scaffolding. Jackson quickly turned her way, approaching the site. A tarp lay over what might have been a body.
Jackson drew the tarp aside.
For a moment, Whitney’s stomach twisted. There appeared to be a female in late-nineteenth-century dress, white button-up blouse and navy skirt, face-down in the dirt. But Jackson quickly hunkered down, touched the form and let out an audible sigh of relief. “Mannequin,” he said. “She must be left over from some kind of shoot.”
They moved on. A treacherous flight of steps led downward into the gaping hole of the foundations. Plywood covered some areas over the foundation support walls, and in other areas, they could look up to the night sky. They moved on down, Jake and Will warning one another to be careful with the equipment.
The original structure must have been very large, perhaps a good ten thousand feet just on the ground floor. While their lights displayed the usual—hard earth for the floor, with remnants here and there of brick and wood, along with brick support walls—they also created shadows and proved the fact that the foundation itself had been broken up in many areas.
“I think this is the largest section, right here, at the base of the stairs,” Whitney said. “And if Magnor Honeywell was right in his assumption of where black masses might have been carried out, I believe it would have been right here.”
“Let’s set up two of the cameras,” Will told her.
“Thank God!” Jake said, setting down his burden.
“All right. We’ll do this in threes,” Jackson said. “Jake—”
“Yes, of course, hang with Will and Whitney and help unpack,” Jake said.
Jackson grinned. “Angela, Jenna and I will venture around the walls,” he said.
For once in her life, Whitney wished she could be the one exploring rather than working on the technical side. But she set to work with Will, unpacking their cameras and recorders.
“Will these broadcast on the screens back in the hallway at Blair House?” Jake asked.
“Yes, each camera has to be set, but each camera has a dedicated screen,” Whitney assured him.
“One at each end?” Will asked.
Whitney nodded, and then realized that he might not see her; his flashlight was angled on the boxes.
“Yes. Jake, grab the tripod there for me, please?” she asked, heading toward the far wall with one of the cameras. “These batteries are supposed to last twenty-four hours, so we’ll have to change them again tomorrow evening, starting out a little earlier.”
Jake came with the tripod and she set up the camera. She hit a switch, turning it on. She heard a little whir; she’d poised the camera angle on the stairway, but the little whir assured her that the motion detector was working. The lens would follow them while they were in the foundations. It would later direct itself toward anything that moved.
They did get a lot of shots of rats that way, but they’d also managed to capture unusual phenomena in the past.
A green light came on, assuring her that the remote was feeding into the screens back in the main hallway of Blair House.
Jake walked over to where Will was setting up, straightening out the legs of the tripod being positioned on the opposite side of the room.
Whitney started to follow him, when she froze, aware of a sound behind her. She turned quickly.
At first, she saw nothing.
Then she heard the sound again. It was a soft whining.
The camera clicked and whirred, turning itself.
There, against the shadows of the far rear wall was a dog.
No. The dog. Huge, furry and beautiful. It was the mixed-shepherd hound she had seen when she had awakened this morning.
The phantom dog that had guarded the phantom woman.
He trotted up to Whitney; she hunched down and stroked his massive head, and it seemed to be real. She watched and felt it as he licked her fingers.
And faded into the night.
Harold Patterson wasn’t much of a surprise.
He was tall, slim and fit, with a head of rich dark hair that was as sleek as his designer suit. His office was posh, on the twentieth floor of a renovated building in Tribeca. Before entering the man’s office, Jude read the notes that Sayer had texted to him. Fellow is slimy as a rat but has a law degree; he can carry off prostitution as legally as the Catholic Church hires nuns. Melody Tatum was not scheduled to escort anyone anywhere last night; she’d asked him to leave her off the bookings, but I’m obtaining a warrant anyway to check out his client list, and what bookings were made for last night.
Now Jude looked at the man himself, sitting across the elegant, polished cherry-wood desk that was the centerpiece of an office designed to make a wealthy client feel that he or she was among equals, and as such, safe.
“This is truly horrible, which I told your comrade Detective Sayer. Melody was a beautiful woman, and she had such a touch of class about her. And you realize, of course, that congressmen, businessmen, busy men come to this city and they’re expected to make appearances at cocktail parties, dinners and all manner of social occasions. Not to mention the fact that a man with numbers spinning in his head might just need a night out at a theater or a concert, and desire a companion with whom to discuss the event. Melody was an amazingly kind and sympathetic woman—she wasn’t just beautiful,” Patterson said.
Jude leaned forward, not about to be intimidated by his surroundings, and certainly not about to believe the spiel about his escorts being nothing other than educated sounding boards or eye candy.
“I’m not concerned with anything that has to do with your real business practices, Mr. Patterson. You’re a pimp in a suit, and your girls are better-dressed hookers.”
Patterson’s face mottled and he looked as if he was going to explode with a denial, but Jude rose to his full height and stared down at the man. “I don’t give a damn about that at the moment. If I did, it wouldn’t matter. But you can spout your legal rights and the Constitution at me for hours. The city is in crisis, and we can acquire all the warrants we need. There is just cause. I’m concerned with the death of Melody Tatum, and the fact that a modern-day madman is at work in the streets of New York trying to prove that he’s Jack the Ripper reincarnated. I want to know who Melody was seeing the night she was killed. Unless, of course, she happened to be with you.”
Patterson, clearly tongue-tied, opened his desk drawer and produced a ledger. “My God! I’ve never even hit a woman! I didn’t kill her—I was with Holly Blum, another of my employees, all night. She’ll testify to that, swear on a dozen bibles! I don’t know who Melody was with! Honestly. And I’ve handed over the list of clients who come through here. Honestly. And they can take my computer—you can bring in all your techs.” He hesitated. “Only thing is…”
“The only thing is?” Jude demanded.
“Nothing, really,” Patterson mumbled quickly.
Jude leaned on his desk, and brought his face down close to Patterson’s. “Only thing is what?”
Patterson winced. “I, uh, I’m not always sure they give their real identities.”
Jude eased back. Patterson hadn’t killed anyone; gut instinct.
“Congressmen, yeah, accountants, sports stars—movie people?” he asked.
“Probably,” he muttered. “Guys with money who want a girl who doesn’t look like a two-bit floozy come here. It’s not like they hand me their personal credit cards,” he said. He looked up at Jude. “You said I was a pimp and my girls were hookers. Well, a john is a john as well, whether he’s a horny teen looking for a quick hookup, or a guy in a designer suit who wants the illusion that he’s with a do-over ‘Pretty Woman.’ Producers, directors, presidents—they all have the same basic biology.”
Jude drew the man’s ledger over to him, flipping through the pages, looking at the names, running his finger down the pages.
His finger stopped. He looked over at Patterson.
“Who is this?” he asked hoarsely.
Frowning, Patterson looked at the entry.
“Um…” Patterson said.
“Who the hell is it?” Jude demanded.
“I don’t know.”