“Yes, we have many rooms on the ground floor,” Mrs. Dean said.
“Yeah, forensics on the window,” Ellis said. “I’ve already called—should be a team here soon. Gloves?”
He offered a pair to Jude, and Jude accepted them, and struggled briefly to get them on his long-fingered hands. He opened the window and stuck his head out. “Footprints, too, the ground is soft, they might find something. And the parking lot is just about fifty feet away,” he said. He turned. “Who is on the morning shift?” he asked Mrs. Dean.
“Gertrude, but she’s gone home now,” Mrs. Dean said.
Jude looked at Ellis. “We’ll need—”
“I know. I’ll get over to see Gertrude.”
Jude appeared frustrated but resigned. “All right, Mrs. Dean, thank you for your time. No one has touched anything in this room since Captain Tyler was here?”
“The cleaning crew comes in from 7:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m. every day,” Mrs. Dean told them. “But we received Detective Sayer’s call, and we were able to stop them before they came in the room.”
“So, it was left like this, with the bed made?” Jude asked.
“Just as you see it,” Mrs. Dean agreed.
Jude flashed Ellis a look of gratitude and Ellis Sayer nodded. “I’ve already been in here. There were no glasses, cups or anything else. And the crime scene unit will dust all the furniture.”
“Mrs. Dean, you didn’t see anyone here last night that shouldn’t have been here, or anything unusual?”
“No, nothing… I didn’t even think the alarm was unusual until you asked, and we knew that Captain Tyler was gone. Thank God that he’s all right, but then he has been living on the streets a very long time—he does know his way around, bless him,” she said.
Whitney set a hand on her shoulder. “This is a home, not a fortress or a prison, and I can see that you try very hard to make the veterans happy.”
“But I should have…I should have been aware. We take precautions with our senile guests, and certainly, with those suffering from brain damage. I should have thought about that alarm and—”
“Mrs. Dean, if you should think of anything, or hear anything, please notify me right away,” Jude said, handing her a card.
“Of course,” she agreed.
She turned and walked out of the room. They followed.
Major Radison hadn’t gone to bingo. He was still standing in the foyer, smiling, as he looked at the pictures of the administrators. “Major Radison, bingo is about to begin,” Mrs. Dean reminded him.
The elderly man looked at Whitney and smiled again. “Marnie, are you coming?”
She was about to make a polite response when she saw the first ghost who had seemed to recognize her in the hallway. He was frowning, watching her. Slowly, he pointed a finger at Major Radison.
Whitney frowned in turn, but then she wondered if the ghost was trying to help her.
“Major, before you go, did you hear or see anything unusual last night?” Whitney asked him.
“Miss,” Mrs. Dean said softly, “the man suffers from Alzheimer’s. I’m afraid that he can’t help you.”
“Shh,” Jude said softly. “Whitney?”
“Major?” Whitney prompted.
“Why, come to think of it, child…” Major Radison said thoughtfully. “Someone walked into my room with a cup and said that I needed my medicine. But then he looked at me, and said he had the wrong room, he was very sorry,” the major said.
“Was he—a nurse?” Whitney asked.
“Well, a most unusual nurse, if you ask me. He was wearing some kind of ridiculous cloak—in a hospital! It’s not even cold in the hospital. And he had a big hat—he looked like something out of an old-time movie! Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous!” Major Radison said, shaking his head with confusion and disgust.
“I told you that he couldn’t help you!” Mrs. Dean said.
“Major, I’m going to send a sketch artist to see you,” Jude said. “Do you think he could help you draw the man you saw?”
“Why, of course!” the major told him, apparently quite happy to be of service. He turned to Mrs. Dean. “I know what I saw,” he said with quiet dignity.
“Or, better yet, if you’re willing, I’ll send an officer to pick you up and bring you downtown. I’d like to have you look at some pictures as well, and see if you recognize anyone.”
“I am willing, sir, always to serve my country!” He bowed to Whitney. “But, it must be tomorrow morning, sir! You see, now, I am on to bingo!”
“What if I sent out the artist tonight, but had you picked up to come down to the station in the morning?” Jude asked.
“I shall be happy to assist, after bingo,” Major Radison said.
With a clipped bow, he left them.
“Thank you, Mrs. Dean,” Jude said. Then he smiled at Whitney and opened the door for her.
Whitney turned back to see the ghost soldier who had pointed to the major when they’d been about to leave.
He saluted her gravely. She didn’t give a damn what anyone thought; she saluted in return, and then stepped on out the front door, and into the gray mist of a fog-filled twilight.
Little felt as good as the hot shower Jude took when he reached his apartment at last. He scrubbed thoroughly, and the water seemed uplifting, allowing him to believe that they would sift through the haystack and find the truth. As Agent Mulder from the X-Files always said, The truth was out there. He’d been a fan of the show; seeking the truth about aliens was more entertaining than that sought in the mind of a human psychopath.
Sometimes, it did seem that the truth was hidden in a vast galaxy, but he had hope that Major Radison did have moments of pure lucidity, and that he could give them some kind of picture of the man who had come to drug and kidnap Captain Tyler.
Emerging from the shower, he longed to forget the case.
He knew that he could not. Jude had no problem believing that, whether he suffered from Alzheimer’s or not, Major Radison still met the killer entering the wrong room. Somehow, he had known about Tyler, and decided that the homeless veteran would make a good scapegoat. Except that something about the situation was disturbing.
If the killer was playing Jack the Ripper, they knew damn well he wasn’t done.
He felt refreshed, and yet restless.
And at odds.
He worked fine alone. When he was off, he knew how to play alone, or enjoy time with his father, friends, or even heading out for the night, when there were those times he’d meet a woman, and they’d wind up spending the night. Since his last fiasco, however, he’d determined to keep it casual, and not out of vindictiveness or bitterness. He knew cops who had good marriages. He knew more cops—especially detectives—who had broken marriages. Better to keep his distance.
He deserved a break, and he knew he had the right to take it. And that he wasn’t a one-man island—the NYPD didn’t work that way. But there were too many threads unraveling; he was almost certain that the blood discovered via Luminol at the site would prove that the first two women had been attacked there, at the pentagram, just as the others had been attacked before them more than a century earlier. He’d be lucky to get test results tomorrow from the crime scene unit techs working on the blood and trace at the site, and from those working on trace from the limos he’d asked to be inspected. Still, he was restless; he wanted to get into the killer’s mind.
And, tonight, he didn’t want to be alone. He didn’t want to pull out his jazz or blues collections, and didn’t want to wander the streets, or watch sports in one of his favorite bars. He didn’t even want to drop in on his father—who was wonderful at helping him sort out his mind.
He wanted to return to Blair House.
And he had a very sound reason; Jackson Crow was a behavioral specialist, a profiler. And while he was forming his own suspicions, there was no one better to discuss such suspicions than the head of the crack team sent to help him.
And, of course, he’d spent the day out with Whitney, and he needed to see what headway, if any, members of the special unit had made.
As he drove, he pondered the way that Whitney had been at the veterans’ home—strange. At first, it had almost seemed that her mind was wandering. Yet when they had interviewed Mrs. Dean, she had, as usual, stepped back, speaking only softly at what always became the right time.
Good cop, bad cop, he thought. He and Monty had played that game often enough. It seemed that he and Whitney had fallen into the strategy as well. He was too curt and too quick, and she stepped in, flashing her beautiful smile with her soft green-and-gold eyes, and her words would never try to excuse his behavior, just clarify and soften.
But her intuition in speaking with Major Radison had been uncanny.
Just as her suggestion that they dig beneath the bricks in the flooring at the House of Spiritualism. She’d found bodies; many of them.
When he parked in front of the house, he half expected to find that the team wasn’t there, that they’d gone next door again, perhaps to dig in new ground. But he saw that patrol cars were sitting in front of the construction site, and that Blair House was aglow with lights.
He parked and headed up the walk. He was surprised that the door opened before he could reach it. “I was hoping you’d come,” Whitney said, smiling as she greeted him. She was wearing a casual knit dress that bared the fine structure of her throat and collarbone, and the sleekly muscled perfection of her lower legs. He felt an instant heat sweep through him; it wasn’t unpleasant. It was caused by seeing her there, and by the sound of her voice.
“Showered even,” he said lightly.
“You look fine in the dirt of the ages, at least to me,” she assured him. “Do you like sushi? Will was our cook tonight. We’re having a working dinner—Jackson has a board going like the one you use at your task force meetings, and we’re all discussing what we know about the case. I hope you’ve come with a little time?”