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She was surprised at his action, but it didn’t disturb her. The team knew about their relationship, and they all seemed to approve. She thought, too, that he needed a human touch that night.

“You all right?” she asked, turning into his arms.

“Hell, no, I’m scared to death. This guy is following in the Ripper’s footsteps, but he isn’t going by any timetable. More time passed between the second kill and the third and the fourth. Last night, he killed two. And if he manages to follow the Ripper’s trail, the next event is someone indoors, and it will be the most gruesome murder yet. We have one man locked up who may or may not prove to be guilty, and it doesn’t matter, because the murders are continuing.”

“Stay here tonight?” she asked him.

He smiled. “Maybe. I know that I’m exhausted. This afternoon, I did mistrust everyone around us. But logically, I realized I know who it can’t be.”

“You don’t think it can be Ellis,” she said gravely. “But you’re still willing for us all to set him up.”

“I don’t believe you’ll prove anything against him.”

Whitney hesitated, looking at him. “I think it’s someone who is a member of the current Cult of Satan.”

Jude looked at her.

“The Cult of Satan was what Jonathan Black became high priest of—at least, I think,” Whitney said. “I think that somehow, our guy was at the site next door—he may have even slipped in at night, like teenage kids are bound to do at dangerous but spooky places. He knew all about Jack the Ripper—and all the theories that the Ripper killed Carrie Brown, and he knew that Jonathan Black had been here, that he had a base of operations here. Whether any of these theories is true or not, it’s as you once said—perception matters. I was with your dad today, and he showed me an emblem that all the members wore sewn secretly into their clothing somewhere. And he also told me that Jonathan Black was said to have had a cherished relic—something that contained a finger bone from the skeleton of Gilles de Rais—and he thought that his power came from the relic.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Jude said, and he smiled. “So, do I strip-search every suspect?” he asked dryly.

“No, but, if we do have a suspect…”

“Yeah,” Jude said.

They heard the bell out at the gate ring. “One of our guests is here.”

Whitney stayed with her jambalaya. Jude answered the door. It was Ellis Sayer who had arrived. She listened, as best she could as the others discussed the case with Ellis in the hallway. They seemed to be concentrating on the movie cast and crew, and Ellis was right there with them.

Angela came in to help her set the table. Whitney arched a brow to her.

“I’m feeling guilty. He seems like such a nice man. He has really humbly thanked us for having him over,” she said.

“I know. I feel like we’re beating a basset hound,” Whitney said.

In a matter of minutes, the table was set. The doorbell rang again; Dr. Fullbright had arrived. He was loud and cheerful, thanking them all for having him for their get-together of the minds. The group moved in for the meal.

Will’s place remained empty for the moment; he was still watching the screens.

The others began to sit, and Jude asked about drinks, offering Ellis a beer.

“Um, I don’t know. Are we working tonight?” Ellis asked.

“I’ll have a beer,” Fullbright said. “I’m not working, and that’s for certain. I don’t care if more bodies come in. Tonight, I’m off!”

“Ellis, I’m having a beer, you can have a beer,” Jude told him.

“All right. Thanks. I think this case is getting to all of us,” Ellis said.

“In a way,” Jude said, “it’s still six separate murder cases, you know? So, tonight, we can throw out any speculation, any idea, because one thing is certain—this guy is damn good. Hey, Fullbright, what do you think about the killer’s medical knowledge?”

Fullbright took a long swallow of his beer. Even in a knit polo shirt and jeans, he managed to look like a mad professor. “I don’t know. I really don’t know,” he said, running his fingers through his unruly hair. “These days, you can learn just about anything on a computer. But there’s a difference between seeing how something was done, and then actually managing to do it. Back in Victorian London, there were slaughterhouses and butchers everywhere, and people probably knew a lot more about mammalian anatomy than they do now, just in general. But did Jack—or our modern killer—have surgical skills? I don’t think so. I think the old—and the new—have a basic understanding of anatomy. And that they’re good with a knife.”

“Actors?” Ellis said. He shook his head wearily. “Do you know how many we’ve interviewed? Some of them as nice as can be, and horrified, and helpful. Some of them scared of the cops—even when we try to tell them our investigation has nothing to do with a drug bust.”

“Hey, any luck in the alley where Captain Tyler said he found the coat?” Jude asked Ellis.


Jackson stood with his drink. “Cheers for this one evening, anyway, while we all seek the truth. To Whitney! Whitney is an amazing cook—she can whip up true Creole in a matter of minutes.”

“Well, she is true Creole!” Jenna said.

“A total olio of humanity, actually,” Whitney said, grinning at Ellis.

Whitney realized she felt horrible. She actually liked Ellis a lot. But then, Jude did, too. And he was willing to let them try to draw him out.

In fact, he was helping them get Ellis a little inebriated, or he was going to do his best to help.

“I think we have to look more and more closely at the actors in the movie, too,” Jenna said. “After all, we’re pretty damn sure that we have Angus Avery on Virginia Rockford’s murder, but, obviously, he wasn’t working alone. Or someone planted the evidence in his car. I still say it had to be the actors.”

“I say that you need to look to the past,” Fullbright said. He shook his head. “Jude, I don’t want to depress you, but the original Ripper got away. Whoever is doing this is brilliant.”

“Brilliant, but we all know that even the most brilliant criminal can get careless,” Jude said.

“You haven’t found anything, anything at all, on the bodies?” Angela asked. “Dr. Fullbright, they really need you, you know.”

“Look, what you all should do is force yourselves not to think about it for a night,” Fullbright said. “Come back at it with fresh minds.”

And then, when talk diverged into miscellany, Jude turned the conversation back to the case. “It was amazing how you found the captain—wearing that cloak,” Jackson said.

“Yeah,” Ellis said.

“Exactly where did you find him?” Whitney asked. “I know that when we were first looking for him, we searched all over.”

“The City Hall subway station,” Ellis said. “When you don’t give us specifics, we keep watching the areas near where the victims were discovered.”

He looked around the table at them all. “Someone knew that, right? Someone who has been watching us? I was supposed to find him, wasn’t I? I was actually used, I think.”

Ellis looked at Jude. “I—or another police officer—was supposed to find the captain. And he was supposed to have been arrested, and the public uproar would cause charges against Avery to be dropped.”

Jude lifted his beer to Ellis. “If Angus Avery was being framed, then I’d say, yes, you were being used. You—or whatever cop stumbled across the captain. If Angus is one of the murderers, you might have been used, as well. He might have gone and kidnapped Captain Tyler, and planted the evidence, knowing that his partner was going to strike the next night and get him off the hook. Or, the killer is really relishing his accomplishments, and taking dangerous chances.”

“Great. You think you’re doing the right thing,” Ellis said.

“You did the right thing. You did what you had to do,” Jude assured him.

“Actors,” Ellis said again, his basset head hanging.

“You were an actor,” Whitney reminded him.

Ellis looked truly puzzled. He laughed. “I was in a play in school because I was madly in love with Briana Vanney. That’s my theater experience!” He frowned and wagged a finger at her. “You investigated me!”

“I just happened to see a picture.”

He shook his head. “You investigated me,” he repeated.

“We looked into everyone, Ellis. It was just curious. I thought I’d mention it.”

“I had such a crush on Briana Vanney,” he said.

“We all do strange things for love,” Jude murmured.

Ellis stood. He wavered a little bit. “I have to go home. I have to go to sleep. Hell, Jude, I don’t know how you do it.”

“They’ve been long, hard days,” Jude said.

“Hey, just go take a rest on the sofa,” Angela suggested.

“Ellis, that’s a great idea. Just go and lie down for a while. Trust me—I had to get through medical school,” Fullbright told him. “You can’t burn the candle at both ends forever.”

“I should just go home,” Ellis said. “Most of the guys—they’re working in twelve-hour shifts, and somehow, they manage to go home and let it go for the hours they’re off. Somehow, Jude, you can’t do that with a case. Neither can I.”

“Go lie down, Ellis,” Jude said. “That’s what I’m insisting you do right now—as head of the task force, I’m ordering you to get some rest.”

Ellis looked at them all. Then he looked sadly at Whitney. “I’m not an actor. If I were, I wouldn’t have been on the force. I’d be trying for fame and fortune, and I’d have appreciated it. And I’m a good cop. I sure as hell would never break the law on purpose, much less hurt anyone.”