Yellow Mama Archives II

Frank S. Karl

Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Aronoff, Mikki
Ayers, Tony
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Barry, Tina
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bates, Greta T.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Booth, Brenton
Bracken, Michael
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
Cherches, Peter
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dinsmoor, Robert
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doughty, Brandon
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hagerty, David
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hoerner, Keith
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernard
Holtzman, Bernice
Holtzman, Rebecca
Hopson, Kevin
Hubbs, Damon
Irwin, Daniel S.
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kempe, Lucinda
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kirchner, Craig
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Kondek, Charlie
Koperwas, Tom
Kreuiter, Victor
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Margel, Abe
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Miller, Dawn L. C.
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Newell, Ben
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Potter, John R. C.
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reedman, Maree
Reutter, G. Emil
Riekki, Ron
Robson, Merrilee
Rockwood, KM
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Ross, Gary Earl
Rowland, C. A.
Saier, Monique
Sarkar, Partha
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schildgen, Bob
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Simpson, Henry
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snell, Cheryl
Snethen, Daniel G.
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Temples. Phillip
Tobin, Tim
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Al Wassif, Amirah
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
Weisfeld, Victoria
Weld, Charles
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Wilsky, Jim
Wiseman-Rose, Sophia
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark

The Can Lid


by Frank Karl


He looked down at the body from the doorway, savoring the rush of sensations from having the power of death over life.  Maria was perhaps the best to date, he thought.  He had stalked her for a month after seeing her in that shop.  She tried to fight him, but with the broken back, she was no match for him.

He wasn't worried; he wore a condom and sprayed a double dose of sanitizer in the room.  In another minute the spray will have unraveled all the loose cells making the room and hallway surgical theatre sterile.

The building had been empty, abandoned for a year.  More than enough time for him to make a key that worked.  He had been saving the building for someone special.  The building was still on the power grid, not that he’d use the lights, that would give him away.  But he could turn the air conditioning up retarding discovery and complicating time of death estimations.

As he made his way down the back stairs, he was already regretting she didn't last longer. 

He didn’t know he had made one mistake.  The building wasn't abandoned.  True, it was empty and none of the security cameras worked, but the building cleared probate the day before, after twelve months of probate.  The new owner and realtor approached from the street side as he exited and locked the rear basement door.

It was a warm spring day, so they noticed the frigid air as soon as they opened the door.  There was also a strange odor that wasn't present eight weeks ago when the court had given him permission to inspect the building with a professional engineer.

“Probably some homeless people encamped,” the realtor told him, dismissing the problem.  "They shouldn't be a problem.  At worse, we'll get the police to chase them."

The owner nodded but wondered why they turned the cooling so high.

They found the body on the second floor.  The realtor stopped the owner from entering the room.  “She’s gone.  I’ve seen enough bodies in the army to know a dead one.  Let’s get out of here and call the police.”

The realtor made the call while the owner upchucked his lunch on the sidewalk.  The first car arrived two minutes later.


Detective Sergeant Carson Fox stood with his hands on his hips, watching the evidence technicians work.  Dressed in white body suits and wearing respirators, the evidence techs photographed the scene, paying close attention to blood splashes and bruises around the neck, vagina, and inner thighs. 

Fox knew they weren’t going to find anything.  He recognized the cloying odor of Steri-clear still lingering in the air.  It would have destroyed any loose cells.  No cells, no DNA.  They would turn her over and find her hands fastened with a kernmantle cord tied with three half hitches.  The autopsy would reveal massive fracturing in the lumbar spinal region. 

"The bastard drugs them, kicks them in the back while unconscious, and then ties their hands,” he told the technicians.  “Then he waits for the women to return to consciousness before he rapes and murders them.”  They ignored him and concentrated on their work.  “I want to hold this asshole face down in the mud until he drowns.”

His partner Susan DeSodo called to him from the hallway.  She wore pink and lime slacks, a silver top, and a dark green short coat with her badge pinned to it.  It wasn’t until she pulled her badge that you’d believe she was a cop.

He made eye contact and she shook her head.  He expected that, the building security system was offline, including door monitors and vids.

This was the sixth identical case in three years and the interval between victims was escalating.  So was the violence.  Carson walked over to his partner.  “Susan, I’m tired of this bullshit.  Six women, no evidence, no witnesses.  This has to stop.”

“What do we do?”

Fox thought about it and thumbed his comm.  “Let’s restore her.”  That got a side-eye stare from Susan.  Fox thumbed his comm link and made the call.

The paramedics arrived with several wheeled cases.  The lead one stopped at the door and took in the crime scene.  “We’re too late,” he told the uniform at the room door.  The cop pointed at Fox.  “Tell him, he’s in charge.”

Fox listened to the paramedic who explained Re-Life to him.  “The process is only good if we get to people currently undergoing death transitions.”

Fox nodded.

"Doctors use it if a patient crashes in an emergency room.  We're all equipped to start the process, but only if a patient codes during transportation.”

Fox nodded again.

“So you see, we can’t do anything for her.”  The other paramedic nodded in agreement.

Fox pulled back the front of his lime green and tangerine knee-length coat to show his badge and weapon.  "You start the procedure, or I'll arrest you for interfering with a police investigation and conspiracy after the fact to commit rape and murder.  We'll see how you like a 24-hour stay in general population."  

The paramedics looked at each other.  The lead looked back to Fox, then to DeSoda.  Seeing no immediate support he returned to Fox, who was still flashing his badge.  "You can't do that.”  The surprise was evident on his face.

“You’re a lawyer too?  You want to argue with a cop about the law?"

The two paramedics looked at each other for guidance and DeSodo took the opportunity to lead Fox by the arm back a couple yards away from the door.

“Don’t you think you’re exceeding your authority?” she said quietly.

"Susan, I'm pissed, and I'm kicking over the apple cart.  That woman knows who did this to her.  She's evidence and I'm attempting to preserve it." 

The paramedics paused, waiting for the outcome of the discussion.

“I wouldn’t blame you if you needed to make a doctor’s appointment or something that took you out of the room for a bit.”

They had been partners for five years.  The Commander had paired them together, telling Susan she was a good cop but a hothead.  "Spending time with the calmer Fox will mature you into a better cop," he told her.  After the first year, she saw the wisdom in the assignment.  Fox had twice stopped her from potentially career-ending decisions.  Looking at Fox standing near the body, she wondered if this would be his.  He was significantly over the line. 

She also knew that he would run into a burning building for her.  Damn it, she thought.

Turning to the paramedics, she pointed at Maria.  "What the fuck are you two waiting for?  Get to work!”

Fox climbed in the back of the transport with one of the paramedics and Maria.  Fox didn’t know enough science to understand the process.  It was enough for him to know the paramedics did.  "No radio," he told the driver through the hatch to the driver’s compartment.  “We don’t want to alert the media and warn the murderer.”

The driver nodded.  He had been at other body recoveries that had a radio blackout.  He put it in gear, hit the lights, and checked the radar.  Clear.  He pulled up on the stick, felt the engine rev up, and they shot skyward.


The lift-car pad on the roof opened to a large high-speed elevator.  The doors slid open and Dr. Cargill, head of Star Research Laboratory, walked out and helped open the ambulance doors.  One of the paramedics handed him the EDM pad while Fox and the other paramedic slid the gurney out.

Cargill motioned Fox over as the paramedics pushed the gurney loaded with Maria's body and connected gear to the elevator. 

“What are you doing, Detective Fox?  That girl is dead.  She should have been transferred directly to the morgue.”  Cargill continued to thumb through the files on the Electric Data Management pad while the elevator doors closed and the paramedics and body vanished into the bowels of the building.  “Yes, yes, I see.”  He held up a hand to silence Fox.  “Horrible crime, but still, nothing we can do.  The Re-Life procedure isn’t licensed for this application.  I’ll have to fill out paperwork and transfer the body...”

“No.  No doctor, you’re not.  Under Federal regs 96 CFR 451 subsection 126, you can't stop treatment once the patient has entered your facilities.”

“That’s a misinterpretation, Detective.  The law was written to protect living patients.  This patient is dead.”

"Are you sure, Dr. Cargill?”  Fox’s voice barely held in check his anger.  “You didn't examine her.  The definition of life has become more fluid both legally and medically in the last ten years.”  He pointed a finger at Cargill, almost touching him.  Anybody reading his body language would have seen the anger.

“You’ll treat this woman, or I’ll arrest you and your entire staff and march all of you in the front door of the Hall of Justice in time for the 5 pm headlines.”

Cargill thought about it.  “Our lawyers would never let that happen.”

“Are you sure?” 

Cargill hesitated.  “We’ll do what we can,” he sighed.


The lift-car port was clean, well taken care of, and designed with aesthetics reflecting the wealthy donors that often visited.  The street level entrance off to one side was plain, ordinary, with dirty concrete and worn sandstone steps.  Detective Fox stood in one of the city's few camera-free niches.  The medical staff used it as a smoking room.  It would have been scandalous if it leaked the country’s foremost medical development lab had a vaping area for their staff.  The door opened and Cargill stepped out.  The two men shook hands.

“Thanks for going along.  I don’t think that federal law you quoted was correct, but it’s on video that you gave me no choice in this matter.”

“I noticed you fumbled around with the EDM pad until the elevator doors closed,” Fox said.  There was no reply.

Fox looked around and then back at his friend.  “I know it’s not you, Jami.  Is your Board of Directors that cranked up?”

Jamison didn't like being called Jami, but Fox was the one friend he let get away with it.  "The procedure is new.  Too many risks.”  Jamison shook his head.  “The legal ramifications will be legendary!  At least the paramedics are covered by years of positive case law.  But you and I… I hope you know a good attorney.  I might want the number too.”

Fox looked at the crushed vaping tubes at his feet and wondered if it was a premonition.  "It's that bad?"


“What’s her chances?”

“Better than 50/50.  We’ve had some success in reviving week-old dead mice, but…”  his words trail off in an implied warning not to expect miracles.

“You’ll call me if she should show any sign of reviving?”

“Of course.” 


Police Commander Albert Crumrin’s windowless office was austere.  There was a small picture of his wife and two children, a boy and a girl, on the corner of his desk.  The rest of his desk was occupied by a computer screen, several EDM pads, and several stacks of paper reports.  Even at the end of the 21st century paper files were still the de rigueur.

On the side opposite of the desk stood Detective Sergeant Third Grade Carson Fox at attention.  Fox stared at Crumrin’s collection of improvised prison weapons.  Pieces of broken razor blades melted into plastic pens, jagged can lids, even sheets of newspaper soaked in urine and rolled tightly into spears were displayed.

The Commander finished reading an EDM and looked at Fox. “What did you think you were doing, Detective Fox?”

“Sir, my thoughts were on how to best preserve evidence of a vicious serial rapist and murderer.  If my actions were improper, I alone am responsible.”

“Save it for the review board, Fox.  I’ve heard all this shit from you before.  I assigned DeSodo to work with you because I thought it would mature her temperament.  But it seems to have gone the other way.”

Sir, Detective Second Grade Susan DeSodo had nothing to do...”

“Stop.  At ease, Fox.  I see you up here three, four times a year for these little chats.  More than anyone else in the entire department.  If you weren’t such a good cop, I’d bust you to pothole inspector.  What’s really going on?”

Fox relaxed but remained standing.  “Commander, we know of six maybe more, rapes and murders with the same MO.  He leaves no clues, uses a DNA sanitizer, and always finds camera-free locations.  Profilers for the FBI, NYCPD, and Free State of California come back with the same profile.  White male, late thirties to early forties.  He’s organized, likely employed in a position that requires judgment, organization and people skills, but he’s a loner.  He carefully chooses victims with no connections or commonality to each other.  He takes no chances.  He maims them, leaving them incomplete paraplegics, ties their hands behind their backs.  Then he," Fox paused.  Getting those images out of his mind was hard enough, he didn't need a reminder.  "It's in the reports, Commander."

Albert Crumrin had read the reports, seen the photos, visited some of the crime scenes, and stood the autopsies.  He didn’t sleep well those nights, even with medication.

“I know, Fox.  I want that asswipe too.”

“All the experts state he will continue killing.  Escalating both frequency and violence until he’s caught.  And frankly Commander, I don’t see him making a mistake soon.  I’m kicking over the apple cart and watching where they roll. 

Maybe this will work; Maria comes around and tells us who did this.  Maybe not, but the word will get out.  Always does.  Some leak or careless comment over drinks and the media is on it.  It will alarm him, make him panic, and then..."

“He'll make a mistake,” Crumrin finished for him.  “We’ve been holding a lid on these rapes and murders, Detective.  That goes against City Hall’s directives.”

"I don't care what the Mayor’s office thinks about the tourist trade or how the Police Commissioner thinks this will tarnish his badge.”

Crumrin sat there, silent for a moment.  “Alright, we’ll try it your way; I’ll run interference, but we need to nail this guy!”


Christopher Ranholt sat behind his desk, paying attention to Judy Polanaski.  The federal bureaucracy was too complicated, so companies like Saf-Food Packaging hired third-party liaisons like her to deal with regulations.  He didn't hear a word she said.  He was too busy admiring her figure.  Judy was 38 years old and had a body that benefitted from hard work and professional sculpting.  Nobody had breasts that perky naturally, he thought.  She wore a conservative blue and silver business suit with pinstripes of miniature red stars, a contrasting checkered blouse sealed at her neckline.  Conservative, professional, and he would have bet she fucked like a rabbit in heat.

It had been a couple of weeks since that bitch Moralis.  He was disappointed in her.  The rush of taking everything he wanted didn’t last as long as he expected.  But he didn’t think that would happen with Judy.  The plant had a couple of sealed rooms nobody went near; maybe he could keep her there for a few days.  He had never considered the idea of days.  The idea excited him.  Maybe he could get her to stay after work to check on some records.

The voice of caution whispered to him.  What about Judy's vehicle in the parking lot?  Disappearing from work would draw attention to you.  What if upper management decided to use those rooms?  There were vid cameras everywhere.  FDA regulations insisted on them.  Turning off just a few would point like an arrow to him.  It was a bad idea, the voice whispered.

Still, those breasts!  He was sure she’d be into it.  All women wanted to be taken; he was sure of it.

He decided to stay with his normal plan, at least for the time being.  It worked flawlessly.  He'd stalk her, run into her at a bar or restaurant.  He was charming, well-liked, had the income to travel with a companion and have a good time.  Maybe he would date her, sleep with her a few times before he took her somewhere and really enjoyed her.  The thought of it made him almost giddy with excitement.  Her personal information was in company files.  He could find it or devise an excuse to have someone else find it for him.


“The body seems to be responding, doctor.”

Dr. Jamison Cargill looked up from the EDM pad at the voice, clinical technician Matt Sonjay.  "It's not a body, Matt.  She is a patient and her name is Maria Moralis.  Everything was taken from her.  We will not victimize her further by dehumanizing her.”

“Sorry sir,  Maria is improving.”

Studying the improvements, Jamison just nodded.


Fox met Cargill for breakfast the next morning.  “How is she, Jami?”

Cargill shrugged and then said.  “The body is responding.  But the mind, Carson.  We don’t know if she’s in there.  She might remember nothing or worse.”


“Her mind might be locked into endless cycles of her attack, rape and murder, completely forcing everything else out.”

Fox put his fork down.  It was clear he had lost his appetite.  “That’d be a living hell, Jami.”

Cargill pushed his half-finished meal away.  “Yes, it would.”


Jamison was reviewing the department budget when he was interrupted by a computer beep.  He touched the screen and a window with Pola Slawski opened.  “Dr. Cargill, I think you want to come down here; there's been a change."

“On my way, Pola.”

Bedside, Jamison studied the readings.  Excluding the tubes, Maria appeared to be asleep.  

“Let’s start the withdrawal protocols to get her unplugged.”

“Yes, sir.”


It was Susan DeSodo’s turn to sit by the unconscious woman.  Maria was breathing on her own.  Susan knew the room was being recorded, but she couldn’t keep her eyes open.  It didn’t matter a great deal.  If Maria woke up as the doctors said she would, either she or Carson would be in the room.  Carson was sleeping on a cot in the linen room down the hall. 

She felt the EDM pad slip from her fingers and heard a voice she didn't know.  The voice was raspy, almost unintelligible.  Maria was conscious and Susan's eyes flew open.

She moved to Maria’s bedside and pressed the alert button on the bed's monitoring system.  Susan wasn't sure what to do, so she leaned over and spoke to the barely conscious woman.

“You’re in a hospital, Maria.  You’re safe, you’re alright.  We’re taking care of you…”  She didn’t get any farther before Dr. Cargill arrived with several people in tow.

He scanned the bed monitor and told them to raise the patient’s head slightly.  He produced a medical EDM pad and synced it to the bed.  

"Hello Maria, I'm Dr. Cargill."  He watched her and the output displayed on the pad.  They were increasing to normal levels.  "You're safe now, but you had us worried.  How do you feel?"


“A little water for Maria, please.”

The water cup with a bent straw was on Susan side, so she picked it up and moved it near Maria's mouth.  Maria reached for it but the fabric restraints on her arms limited her motion.  The realization she was restrained made her go wild with fear and terror, jerking at the straps.  She started screaming an enraged animalistic howl.

“One-unit paradole, stat!  Cargill said.  The nurse next to him had it in his hand in anticipation and pressed the hydrospray to Maria’s neck.  The effect was almost instantaneous.  Maria relaxed, her eyelids drooped and she stopped screaming and seemed to be reevaluating the situation. 

“It’s okay,” Susan said after a moment and placed the straw in her mouth.  Maria took a sip. 

"Where am I?  What happened?"  Maria asked

"You're safe, Maria."  Dr. Cargill said,  “You've been hurt, but now you're better."

“Why am I tied?”  The question came out fast.

Because we weren’t sure you wouldn’t wake up some mindless, deranged killing machine, Cargill thought.  “We were a little afraid your reaction to the medications might cause you harm.  We can take them off as soon as we run a few tests, alright?"

“I’m so tired.  I want to sleep.”

By now, someone had remembered Fox sleeping in the linen room and had woken him.  He was standing outside the crowded door trying to get in.  "Susan, Jamison, can you come here?  We need to talk.  Now!”

They formed a little knot over to one side.  “We need to question her,”  Fox said.

"Absolutely not." Cargill told him.

“She’s a crime victim, Dr. Cargill.  She might know who did this,” Susan said.  “Even now the sick bastard could be planning another rape and murder.”

“We don’t know if she’ll return to consciousness if she does sleep.  Jamison, I’ve got to talk to her now.”

The doctor shook his head.  “Look, Carson, she is still organizing her mind.  You question her now and you may plant ideas that supplant the truth.”

The two detectives contemplated that.  Fox started to speak and Cargill cut him off at the knees.  “And I’ll testify about that at the trial.”

There was ice in Fox’s voice.  "You wouldn't."  Susan placed her hand on his arm to restrain him.

“It’s in your best interest, Carson.  Nobody will mention the crime, police or what actually happened until you’re ready to talk with her in a couple days.  Perhaps she will ask to talk to you.  Wouldn’t that be better?”

Susan answered for the two of them.  “Yes.  That’s a plan.” 


Later that evening Maria slipped into a dissociative state and the memories that flooded back started her hyperventilating in terror. 


“She’s alright now.  We gave her a sedative and she has calmed down.  She has questions," Cargill told the two detectives.  They were standing in his office in response to his comm link message.  "She needs answers and we owe her an explanation of what happened."

Susan DeSodo spoke first.  “How do we do this?”


Maria had pulled her knees tight into her chest.  She didn’t realize she was rocking back and forth.  The people in her room were arranged by gender.  Susan DeSoda, Pola Slawski and several other women were clustered around her.  The men formed the outer ring.  It seemed everyone but Maria was holding their breath.  Maria seemed to be gasping for air as she told what happened to her. Pola had a hydrospray sedative in her pocket and was positioned to see Cargill.

Maria finished her story.  She had a name.  "I met him at my father's shop.  I sometimes help out on the weekends.  He was in a couple times about auto bodywork and things." 

The words were hard for her, Susan realized.  They brought up memories that would have terrified anyone. 

The two detectives finished, told Maria she was amazing and they would protect her and her family.  They promised to have a policewoman outside her door and left for the elevator.

“Do we have enough?”  Susan asked as the elevator doors opened to the lobby.

“I got a friendly judge.  But let’s first gather some information on Ranholt and scrub the videos from the other crime areas.  We’ll get the E-detectives to do a background check and then we’ll see what we got.  I want to know everything, property, education, Boy Scouts awards and his batting order in little league.  Everything!”


Christopher Ranholt was walking into Blue Toliens, a trendy bar just beginning to slide off of everyone’s must-do-list and ran into Judy Polanaski.  They expressed surprise over what she thought was a chance meeting.  He was early for meeting friends at another restaurant and was killing time with a drink.  She was waiting for friends, but agreed to share a table for a couple moments.  Chris, he insisted she call him that, was charming, well read, and interesting.  Having hacked into her social media and previous employments, he had no trouble being effortlessly interesting. 

Her friends showed up about twenty minutes later and Judy thought of inviting him to join them, but he looked at his watch as they walked in the door and she waved to them.  "Oops.  Seems I'm running late.  Maybe we can do this again sometime." 

He slipped over to the bar, paid their tab with cash and was gone before Judy could introduce him to anyone.  The chance meeting was quickly forgotten about.

Ranholt worked his way around the building and into a storage shed where he knew he could get access to the bar’s security cameras.  He watched her on his EDM pad and then followed her home, casing her building’s security.  He had no intentions of kidnapping her there, but you never knew when opportunity knocks, he thought.


Judge Mike Tomson studied the application for a search warrant and looked up at the three people in his chambers.  “I don’t think you have enough for a conviction here.” 

“You may be right, your Honor, but once the word gets out that his last victim survived, he’ll destroy any evidence he kept.” 

“I see your point, Commander Crumrin.”  Judge Tomson studied the documents.  He knew they came to him because he had a low threshold for search warrants.  That didn’t mean he wouldn’t look at the evidence.

“And you have a list of items taken from the other victims which were never released to the media."  It wasn't a question but a statement.  "You think he has them at this location?" 

“Yes, your Honor, we do.” 

Crumrin looked over to Susan who had answered the question.  "We are very sure of it, your Honor," he amplified.  "That's why we need the warrant."

"Your Honor, we have him going off the grid an hour before each of the rapes and murders and no other time,” Fox added.  “We found multiple images of him around several of the victims' homes before the crime, but never after.  This indicates he was stalking them.  He has access to an airborne sterilizer at his job, Saf-Food Packaging.  He fits all the profiles.”

“I’ll give you the warrant.  But this is going to create new case law and upset a lot of people.  You better be right or this will explode in our faces and I have an election coming up.”


Ranholt was curious about the knock at the door.  He wasn't expecting anyone.  His neighbors, like most big-city neighbors, seldom visited.  The security cameras showed a woman dressed in a shiny, bright yellow long coat and a black sailor’s hat with the brim turned down.  She wore large, heart-shaped tinted glasses and a cheap necklace that read ‘Do me.’  Her hands were empty and she was chewing gum with an exaggerated jaw movement. 

He unlocked the door, assuming she was a professional with the wrong address.  Even as he opened the door, he wondered if he could hack the building cameras.  Nobody would know she arrived here. 

Any fantasies he had were short-lived as she pushed the door open and a dozen uniformed officers rushed followed by DeSodo and Fox flashing their police badges.

Susan pulled her hat off and produced a hard copy printout.  "Mr. Ranholt, we have a search warrant to search your apartment, vehicle, and any other adjunct properties you have access to for evidence of a crime.”

“What crime?  What are you looking for?”

“It’s all in the warrant, sir.”  Susan slipped it into his hand.

“I want to call my lawyer.”  What would an innocent person say, he thought.  He decided they would be more vocal.  “I demand to call my lawyer right now.”

The woman pointed to a uniform, “Hold him in the doorway so he can see and let him make a call with your comm link.”

“I want my link.” 

“Sorry, it’s confiscated as evidence.”

Detective Fox and the gum-chewing DeSodo supervised the gloved uniforms.  Everyone was wearing glasses with stereoscopic video cameras in the frames.  They carefully took out all the drawers, looked underneath, behind and through every drawer.  Clothing in the closets was taken off the hangers, pockets checked and seams felt.  Shoes were examined.  The rugs were rolled up so floors could be examined.  The search was coming up with nothing.  Christopher Ranholt stood silently in the doorway watching the activity.

One of the uniforms walked over to Fox. 

“Detective, can I speak with you?”

“Sure, what’ve you got?”

“I’m not sure, but this guy looks everywhere but at the light fixture in the middle of the ceiling.”

“We searched that.”

"Yeah, but even when it was searched, he never looked at it."

Fox looked at the fixture, back to Ranholt and back to the fixture.  “Can you turn that on?”  The cop shrugged and the two of them tried several switches.  The light stayed dark.

Susan watched all of this.  “Your room light doesn’t work, Mr. Ranholt.”

“It’s nothing.  It’s broke.  I’ve meant to put a work order in, but it's not that important." 

Fox reexamined the room.  Everything was neatly taken care of.  The books on the shelves, dusted, carefully organized by author and then title.  The computer on the desk was centered and the mouse in the recharging station.  There were no dishes in the sink or dishwasher, everything was cleaned, and put away.  But the ceiling light didn’t work.  It didn’t fit.

Fox pulled a chair over and undid the decorative nut holding the glass shade in place.  He studied the bulbs for a minute and reached up and twisted the metal base.

“You’re going to break that.  Who’s going to pay for that!”  Ranholt said, suddenly coming alive.  “You’ve checked that, I want my lawyer.  You have no…”

A click silenced him as the base spun free revealing a cylinder and no wires.  The cylinder contained women’s rings and watches.  One of which matched the watch Maria wore that night.

“Mr. Ranholt,” Susan said almost gleefully, “I’m placing you under arrest for the rape and murder of Maria Moralis.  There will be other charges later.  I’m going to read you your rights.  Pay attention!”


“The cops planted that stuff, Mark!  I never saw any of that before.”

Mark Southfield never asked a client if they were guilty.  Not his concern. Providing them with the best defense they could afford was his only care.  Fortunately, Christopher Ranholt had the deep pockets needed.

Mark had reviewed the files, watched the vids taken from different officers, including the one from Fox.  If he planted evidence, the detective missed a career as a stage magician.

“Look Christopher, it doesn’t matter.  I’ll file motions claiming it was an improper warrant.  Who knows what this woman remembers, what the cops told her.  She was dead, for Christ’s sake.  You can’t believe a word she says.  The court will vacate the search warrant, then anything they found gets tossed too.  You'll be out of here by the weekend.


Judge Ronda Smithson looked around.  She purposely had selected a smaller than average room for her chambers.   The smaller room would crowd everyone but her, so only the essential people would squeeze in.  She wasn't sure that was working today.  Defense attorney Mark Southfield sat in one chair and next to him sat DA Arlene Twohorse.  Police Commander Crumrin and his two detectives, Fox and DeSodo completed the circle.  In the back, Dr. Cargill stood leaning against the wall.  Smithson was convinced if they all moved at once, the walls would be forced outward.

"I have your motions and have read them.  Let’s keep it simple today.  I’ll start with the defense.”

Mark attempted to stand up, but there simply wasn’t any room and sat back down.  “If it pleases the court…”

The judge interrupted him.  “We’re not in court.  There’s no jury so your brilliance would be wasted.  Put it simply.”

Mark started again.  “Your Honor, we simply don't know what the legal status of Maria Moralis is.  She was dead, now it appears she is not.  We don’t know what she remembers or what her damaged mind might have concocted.  She is the lynch pin to the search warrant and it should be invalidated.”

“What about the jewelry the detectives found?” DA Twohorse injected.

Smithson gave the DA a warning look.  “Councilor, you'll get your turn later."  

Turning back to Southfield, "You would claim the items recovered are the fruit of the poisonous tree?”

“That’s correct, your Honor.”

“What do you have to say, Commander?”

Detective Fox answered in his place.  "We have supporting evidence, video of Mr. Ranholt in the neighborhoods shortly before their kidnappings and murders.”

“Coincidence, your Honor.”

The judge nodded, “I’m inclined agree with that.” 

“He has access to the spray used to destroy DNA evidence.”

“So do the other 359 people employed at that plant.  That type of product is available to the general public,” Southfield countered.

Fox looked at DeSoda.  She also looked worried.  He knew he was.  They had the right man.  If the search warrant was ruled improper, Ranholt would be released and disappear.  He’d start up again with a new name and a new location.  If he was half as smart as Fox thought he was, he’d change up his MO.  It could be years before anyone caught on to him.  That scared him.

“Your Honor?”

“Yes,” Smithson had to look down at her notes to find his name, “Dr. Cargill.  What is it?”

“Your Honor, I have submitted sworn testimony from myself and other experts that Ms. Moralis has no organic brain damage and her memory of activities leading up to her death are whole and contiguous.” 

Judge Smithson flipped through the files on her EDM pad and opened one.  "Yes, I see.  This will take a little study, I think."

"Your Honor," it was clear from Southfield’s tone this was not developing the way he wanted.  “My client doesn’t know Ms. Moralis, never met her.  There is no connection.”

"What do you have to say about that?"  Smithson was looking at Commander Crumrin. 

DA Twohorse beat him to the punch.  "Your Honor, we have security tapes from inside the auto repair and body shop where Ms. Moralis’ father, Mateo, works.  Ms. Moralis often helps her father out on weekends.  We have video tape showing Mr. Ranholt in the building when Maria was there.”

“Coincidence again, your Honor,” injected Southfield.

“Perhaps, perhaps not.  That’s for the jury to decide.  I'm going to leave the warrant in place.  In the interest of giving Mr. Ranholt his day in court, we are moving ahead on the trial.” 

“But your Honor!”

“You’ll have a chance to discredit her to the jury, Mr. Southfield.”  The judge checked her calendar.  "Two months from today?  Are we good?"

There was no other possible answer other than yes from the attorneys.

Southfield had one last card to play.  "I am submitting the evidence to the Technology Review Committee for their review and recommendation."  The right decision from the committee could negate the judge's ruling.  That possibility was often enough to stall most judges.

“Don’t bother, Mr. Southfield.  I did that yesterday,” Judge Smithson said.


Ranholt wasn’t happy with the news.  Still, his attorney assured him the prosecutor needed to call Maria to the stand to make their case.  During cross, he would shred her story and demolish her credibility.  The jury would not believe her, and that was reasonable doubt, Southfield told him.

The guards escorted him from the conference room back to his single inmate cell.  All the prisoners waiting for trial were held in the isolation wing of the jail.  Cameras watched over these cells.  Having not been convicted of any crime, they were wards of the state and the state had a duty to protect them from each other.  The guards walked rounds and checked on him and several others.  He was isolated from the prison's main population.  Still, Ranholt found meals with the rest of the jailed suspects frightening.

“You’re not going to survive the big house, white bread.”  Rollo was a large white inmate with a shaved head, who sat next to him at meals.  He had a jagged scar on one arm and his nose had been broken several times and never reset properly.  Prison tattoos of women performing sex acts and skulls started at his neck and worked down his massive arms.  A professionally added cross and crown of thorns sat on one skull.  “The boss cons are going to knock your front teeth out for better blowjobs.”

“My lawyer said I’ll get off.”

"They all say that, fuckhead.  The best most of them can do is a reduced sentence.  You got what?  Six murders?  Just three with a plea will get you forty years and don’t think finding Jesus will get you in front of the parole board sooner.”

Ranholt thought about it.  He realized he didn’t believe his lawyer either.  He was a fool to keep the souvenirs.  He never took them out.  Just wanted to know where they were.  It was a mistake.

“What should I do?”

“Start working out at night in your cell.  At least five dealers in lock-up can get you ‘roids to pack on some muscle.  Then find a strong man in your cell block and be his bitch.”  He stood up and picked up his tray.  “You could always kill yourself,” he said in a low tone as he left the table.

Ranholt had a steel can lid he found.  Over the last two nights he carefully sharpened an edge on an unglazed part of his toilet bowl.  He wanted it for protection.

He tested the edge with his thumb.  It wasn’t very sharp, but it was as sharp as he could make it.  Rollo’s words haunted him.  He was sure he had night visitors who stood outside his cell and leered at him.  Nobody believed him.

This night he lay quietly with his blanket pulled over his head, listening to guard’s footsteps fade in the distance.  In the darkness, he found his pulse in his neck, placed the sharpened can edge against it and started sawing.


When he didn’t line-up to rollcall, one of the guards entered Ranholt’s cell.

“Alright Ranholt, get up!”  Not getting a response he pulled the blanket away.  The clotted blood made the blanket stick to the wound and it gapped open like a raw mouth.  The guard made it out of the cell before throwing up.


Maria was tired of being told how much she had improved.  After being dead, any improvement was phenomenal in her mind.  Dr. Cargill had offered her a position here at the clinic, as resident test rat.  No new experimental treatments, just occasional cognitive or physical tests and weekly blood draws for as long as she wanted to stay.  “You’re going to need physical therapy for at least a year,” Cargill told her. “Why not stay here, comfortable rooms, world-class chefs on rotation, and a salary?  You can leave any time you want."

He told her the amount.  It was impressive.  Maria figured she'd do it after negotiating a vacation clause.

She was still working on her strategy when DA Arlene Twohorse walked in.  Maria read Arlene’s body language and knew something was wrong.

“What’s up, Arlene?”

“I have bad news, Maria.  There will be no trial.”

“I don’t, … I mean what does that mean, Ms. Twohorse.  Maria dropped into formality, fueled by the betrayal she felt.

“Ranholt is dead."  Seeing her confusion, Twohorse explained.  “He found a can lid and sharpened an edge.  Last night after a guard checked on him, he cut his own throat and bled out.  He’s dead, suicide.”

That seemed like good news to Maria until the thought occurred.  “He’s not in Re-Life, is he?”

Arlene Twohorse never thought of that.  Death was still a full stop to her. 

“No, oh no.  The law requires an autopsy following the death of anyone in custody within 24 hours.  Ranholt's brain is sitting in a jar of formaldehyde.  Christopher Ranholt is never coming back.”

Maria leaned back in her chair and a sense of ease rushed over her for the first time since she woke in the hospital. 

Freed, she thought, by a can lid.

The End


Frank Karl is a retired chemist who made his living using a microscope as a “CSI” for industry. He has always enjoyed reading, especially science fiction and adventure stories. His hobbies at one time or another include identifying pollen, collecting pocketknives, and cross-country skiing, among others. He was once tasked with teaching knife throwing to children, and first had to teach himself.  The kids did okay! He continues to teach adults firearms safety and tactics.

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