The Can Lid
He looked down at
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
He wasn't worried;
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
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.
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.
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
The owner nodded
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
call while the owner upchucked his lunch on the sidewalk. The first car arrived
two minutes later.
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
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.
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
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
Fox thought about
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.
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
paramedic who explained Re-Life to him.
“The process is only good if we get to people currently undergoing death
"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
Fox nodded again.
“So you see,
do anything for her.” The other
paramedic nodded in agreement.
Fox pulled back
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.
too? You want to argue with a cop about
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.
you’re exceeding your authority?” she said quietly.
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."
paused, waiting for the outcome of the discussion.
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
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
She also knew that
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
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
The lift-car pad
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.
over as the paramedics pushed the gurney loaded with Maria's body and connected
gear to the elevator.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
it. “Our lawyers would never let that
“Are you sure?”
hesitated. “We’ll do what we can,” he
The lift-car port
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.
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
fumbled around with the EDM pad until the elevator doors closed,” Fox
said. There was no reply.
Fox looked around
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
Fox looked at the
crushed vaping tubes at his feet and wondered if it was a premonition. "It's
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.
call me if
she should show any sign of reviving?”
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.
finished reading an EDM and looked at Fox. “What did you think you were doing,
“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
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
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..."
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!”
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.
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.
seems to be
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.”
improvements, Jamison just nodded.
Fox met Cargill
breakfast the next morning. “How is she,
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.”
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,
Cargill pushed his
half-finished meal away. “Yes, it
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,
studied the readings. Excluding the
tubes, Maria appeared to be asleep.
start the withdrawal protocols to get her unplugged.”
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
slip from her fingers and heard a voice she didn't know. The voice was raspy,
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.
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?"
The water cup with
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
go wild with fear and terror, jerking at the straps. She started screaming an
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.
said after a moment and placed the straw in her mouth. Maria took a sip.
I? What happened?" Maria asked
Maria." Dr. Cargill said, “You've
been hurt, but now you're
“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
so tired. I want to sleep.”
By now, someone
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.
not." Cargill told him.
victim, Dr. Cargill. She might know who
did this,” Susan said. “Even now the
sick bastard could be planning another rape and murder.”
she’ll return to consciousness if she does sleep. Jamison, I’ve
got to talk to her now.”
The doctor shook
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
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
that evening Maria slipped into a dissociative state and the memories that
flooded back started her hyperventilating in terror.
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
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
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!”
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
Her friends showed
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
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
your Honor, but once the word gets out that his last victim survived, he’ll
destroy any evidence he kept.”
“I see your
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
“And you have
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?"
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
"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.”
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
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
He unlocked the
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
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
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
“What crime? What are you looking for?”
all in the
warrant, sir.” Susan slipped it into his
“I want to
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
a uniform, “Hold him in the doorway so he can see and let him make a call with
your comm link.”
“I want my
confiscated as evidence.”
Detective Fox and
gum-chewing DeSodo supervised the gloved uniforms. Everyone was wearing glasses
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.
speak with you?”
not sure, but
this guy looks everywhere but at the light fixture in the middle of the
"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
this. “Your room light doesn’t work, Mr.
nothing. It’s broke.
I’ve meant to put a work order in, but it's not that
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.
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
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.
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!”
that stuff, Mark! I never saw any of
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
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.
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
"I have your
motions and have read them. Let’s keep
it simple today. I’ll start with the
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.”
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.”
jewelry the detectives found?” DA Twohorse injected.
Smithson gave the
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
“What do you
answered in his place. "We have
supporting evidence, video of Mr. Ranholt in the neighborhoods shortly before
their kidnappings and murders.”
The judge nodded,
“I’m inclined agree with that.”
“He has access
spray used to destroy DNA evidence.”
“So do the
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.
to look down at her notes to find his name, “Dr. Cargill. What is it?”
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.”
flipped through the files on her EDM pad and opened one. "Yes, I see. This will take a little study, I think."
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
"What do you
have to say about that?" Smithson
was looking at Commander Crumrin.
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.”
your Honor,” injected Southfield.
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.”
have a chance
to discredit her to the jury, Mr. Southfield.”
The judge checked her calendar.
"Two months from today? Are
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
Southfield. I did that yesterday,” Judge
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.
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.”
"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
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.
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
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
When he didn’t
line-up to rollcall, one of the guards entered Ranholt’s cell.
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
was tired of being told how much she had improved. After being dead, any improvement
phenomenal in her mind. Dr. Cargill had
offered her a position here at the clinic, as resident test rat. No new experimental
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
She was still working
on her strategy when DA Arlene Twohorse walked in. Maria read Arlene’s
body language and knew
something was wrong.
“I have bad
Maria. There will be no trial.”
… I mean
what does that mean, Ms. Twohorse. Maria
dropped into formality, fueled by the betrayal she felt.
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,
That seemed like
news to Maria until the thought occurred.
“He’s not in Re-Life, is he?”
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
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.
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.
the hollows of Kentucky, John Sowder divides his
spare time between creating art for Sugar Skull Press and working on various
cryptid-themed projects. He illustrated GEORGE THE HOLIDAY SPIDER by Rick
Powell, which is due November of this year. You can see more of his art