Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle are the property of Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended. The characters and events in the Seasons Series and the Murder Mystery Series are the creation of the author.
As always, my gratitude and thanks to Lisa, Inga and Susan for their support as beta readers. Special thanks to Sharon and Pat for their technical assistance.
Note: The Seasons Series and the stories in the Murder Mystery Series all interrelate. It is best to start at the beginning.
Warning: This story is alternative fiction. Please do not read on if you are under age or if such material is illegal in your end of the swamp.
Special Warning: These stories deal with the practice of forensics in a fairly accurate manner, more sensitive readers might find some of the scenes upsetting.
Visit Anne Azel's World at < http://www.jes.com.au/~azel/ > or write Anne at <email@example.com> The Anne Azel Murder Mysteries Book 1 can be ordered through Amazon.com or Openbookltd.
Aliki's body stiffened to the danger she sensed even before she was fully conscious. She didn't move other than to open one eye a slit. Mac stood beside her bed. Aliki sighed both in relief and annoyance and in one quick, smooth movement rolled on her back and pushed herself up to a sitting position. She looked at the startled child with intense blue eyes.
Mac gasped in surprise. "I thought you were asleep!"
Blue eyes glanced at the clock. It was four in the morning. "I was. Now I am not. What are you doing up?"
Aliki frowned. She reached back and tossed a pillow to the end of her bed. "Okay, hop up here and tell me why we are having this sleep over," she organized, not unkindly.
Mac smiled happily and crawled up on the big four poster, settling herself comfortably on the pillow Aliki had provided.
"So what's up?"
Mac looked at her hands. "I was afraid," she admitted. "And I didn't want to wake Mom because she had a hard time getting to sleep."
Aliki frowned. She'd helped her father raise her two brothers but that was different from dealing with a girl. Still, she reasoned, kids were kids, best to be honest with her. "Mac, you could be in danger. That's why I brought you and your Mom here. This house has an excellent burglar alarm system and I'm a trained RCMP officer. The two of you are safe here."
Mac nodded and worried a loose thread at the edge of the pillow case. "Aren't we going to stay with you all the time now, Aliki?" the preteen asked with direct honesty.
Panic exploded in Aliki's chest. Oh shit! Now what do I say? "You know that your mother and I are very much attracted to each other. A lot has happened...we need time to develop those feelings and..."
"You don't think you can be my Mother's partner because she's rich and has a daughter," Mac stated, anger at the edge of her voice.
"What?" a shaken Aliki asked, brushing her fingers through her hair nervously.
"You don't like it that Mom is so rich and you're not and also I'd be in the way because the two of you are lesbians."
"No!" protested Aliki and then modified her statement. "Well, the money is a bit of an issue...but not you, no. Not unless you are still uncomfortable with how your mother and I feel about each other..."
Mac blushed and looked intently at the thread she was playing with. "I emailed Ryan Williams. You remember you gave me her address because her parents are lesbians. It doesn't bother her at all. I guess it doesn't bother me, just what others might think...you know, my friends."
Aliki felt a pain in her heart. Kids could be cruel to each other without having parents who were gay to live down. "If your Mother and I were to get together, we would be pretty discrete about it. Your friends wouldn't have to know."
Mac looked up. Her jaw set in a determined line. "I can handle it. Ryan said she doesn't give a damn and the bigots can get screwed. She's right, you know; if you don't let it bother you then it can't. She got beat up once though."
"No one is going to lay a hand on you!" Aliki growled protectively. "I'll see to that!"
Mac smiled at Aliki and the forensic scientist laughed. They went on to talk of many other things until they both fell asleep in the early morning.
Dawn had got up before the others and, after a quick shower, she dressed in cotton shorts and a t-shirt and headed downstairs to put the coffee on. A few minutes later, Aliki walked into the kitchen, wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt that read, "Forensics: You stab 'em, we tag 'em!"
Dawn looked at her and laughed as she leaned against the counter. "You know, Aliki, you have a very warped sense of humour!"
The taller woman shrugged and came over to stand in front of Dawn. She leaned forward and kissed Dawn softly. "Good morning," she whispered above soft warm lips.
A hand slipped through the hair at the back of her neck and drew her down for another, longer kiss. "Good morning," Dawn responded softly, pulling back slowly.
Aliki took the hint and stepped back, giving Dawn space. Slowly, this is the way you want it, she reminded herself.
Dawn seemed to be having similar thoughts. "If...if we are going to slowly move towards a partnership, I think, Aliki, that you have to show a little more discretion in the definitions you use for forensics. We will be raising a daughter together," Dawn explained as she tugged on Aliki's t-shirt and smiled up at the tall woman. Aliki raised an eyebrow and stepped over to grab a mug from the cupboard as she heard Mac bounding down the stairs.
"Hi Mom! Guess what? Aliki has this whole collection of really cool t-shirts and she said I could wear them if I want!"
Dawn turned to see her daughter sporting an over sized t-shirt that read, "Forensics: Tibia Pursuit!" She looked at Aliki, who smiled as she sipped her morning coffee, and then back at her daughter who looked so much like Aliki that she could pass for Aliki's child rather than niece.
She shook her head. "I can see that the two of you together are going to be a very dangerous combination! Mac, you may wear the shirt around the house but you are NOT wearing it to school!"
"No," she reinforced and Mac smiled and gave her mom a hug.
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Schools have a zero tolerance policy towards violence and my daughter shows up wearing a forensics t-shirt! I think not!"
"Your mom has a point..."Aliki started but stopped to pick up the wall phone. "Dr. Pateas," she stated and blushed as she saw Mac smile at her mother proudly.
"Aliki, it's Tom Bates. Are Dawn and Mac with you?"
"Yes," the scientist responded briefly, the tension seeping into her shoulders.
"I got a call from Volenni a few minutes ago. He's at Dawn Freeman's home. It burnt to the ground early this morning, and the fire marshal feels the circumstances are suspicious." Bates informed her.
Aliki listened with a face devoid of expression but the emotion crept in as a tightness in her voice as she spoke. "This is not good news," she responded, catching Dawn's eye with her own. The mother put her arm around her daughter's shoulder protectively, knowing immediately that something was wrong.
"You go meet Volenni on site before you come in. He's pretty annoyed with us for not notifying him right away that we knew who MacKennzie Freeman was and that we had moved her and her mother to safety."
"Just as well we did," Aliki snorted.
"We stepped on his turf, Aliki, you know that."
"Yeah, I'll go check the site out and soothe the ruffled feathers while I'm out there," Aliki responded, looking out the kitchen window with a frown of annoyance.
"We need to be working together," Bates reinforced, not unkindly. Aliki, however, got the message; she should have notified Volenni yesterday and she hadn't. In fact, she hadn't even talked to Dr. Bates, she'd just left a message at his service late last night. He wouldn't have known were the Freemans where until he had accessed his messages this morning.
"Sorry, Dr. Bates," she conceded, feeling the heat rise in her face as Dawn and Mac looked on.
"No real harm done and your decision most likely saved their lives. Just go out there and do a little damage control."
"I'll see you later this morning," Bates ordered.
"Yes, Sir," Aliki responded and hung up.
Dawn and Mac stood watching her, waiting for some sort of response. There was no use in being evasive about this one. They needed to know. "Your house burnt down last night. It looks like it might be arson."
"Oh no," whispered Dawn, holding Mac tighter, as if she could shield her daughter from the news.
"I need to be at the site," explained Aliki, as she dumped her coffee into the sink.
"We'll go too," Dawn stated.
"No, he might be there. You two will stay here, in the house, with the curtain drawn until I can get a better grip on the situation. I don't think it likely that your house burnt down last night by coincidence. I think we need to take this very seriously. Let us err on the side of caution and assume that the killer came after Mac."
"Oh God," Dawn whispered, burying her face into her daughter's dark hair. Mac was trying to be brave but her eyes were wide with fear.
Aliki tried to reassure them. "It is best to look at a worst case scenario and be over cautious. You'll be safe here. Promise me you'll stay inside."
Dawn nodded. "We'll do as you say, Aliki, until we know better what the situation is."
Aliki reached out and stroked Mac's head. "Don't worry. I'm going to check the site and then I'll come back and tell you what is going on. I'll need to get you to give a formal statement to the police today, Mac. I'll be able to tell you more once I talk to the detective in charge. His name is Volenni. Detective Joe Volenni. He's a good guy. I've worked with him before."
Dawn followed Aliki to the door as she prepared to leave. "Are you in trouble for bringing us here?" she asked.
The taller woman shrugged. "I should have notified Volenni." Impulsively, she drew Dawn into her arms and kissed her head softly. "Thank God, you are safe. Yesterday I thought...if anything had happened....well, just be careful until I get back," Aliki finished weakly.
Dawn snuggled into the body of the women she knew she loved. It was so hard for Aliki to express what she felt but Dawn knew that the forensic scientist was very protective of her and Mac. "You be careful too," she cautioned and Aliki nodded, and having set the window and door alarm system, she set off.
Joe Volenni was not a happy camper. The fire had been out for some hours before it had come to his attention that it might be connected to the Fire Clown case and it was only when he checked his faxes that he found Dr. Pateas' summary of her interview with MacKenzie Freeman that Dr. Bates had forwarded. The fax had ended by notifying him that Pateas had evaluated the situation and had moved the Freemans to a safer environment and that she would bring the two into the station for a formal police interview at his convenience.
Looking around the charred skeleton of the house, he frowned in annoyance. Just who did this Pateas think she was, a cop? He had worked with her on a number of cases and found her to be coldly efficient. Word had it, she made it clear to guys that she wasn't in the market. Some of the cops said she was gay. He didn't see how she could be when she was such a good looker. Still you could never tell these days, the whole world was back ass round. In his parents' day, people knew what sex they were and women stayed home and put the raising of their kids first. This was a sore point with Volenni. His wife had left him after she had got a job working at a department store and taken their two sons with her.
A gold Honda van pulled up and Volenni headed towards it, recognizing it as belonging to Dr. Aliki Pateas. "Joe," the tall, beautiful woman said as a way of introduction, offering her hand.
Grudgingly Volenni took the hand, surprised at the strength of the grasp. Women shouldn't shake hands like a man, he figured. "I'm sorry about the poor communication," Pateas went on. "I hadn't expected anything like this to happen."
"Yeah, well it was a real fuck up in communication," growled Volenni, pleased that Pateas had come right out and taken responsibility for the mix up, but not prepared to cut her any slack. "Ya must have expected somethin if you hid them away."
Pateas looked uneasy and she responded guardedly. "I know Dawn and Mac Freeman. Mac is my niece. They are very close to my family out in Alberta. I guess I was just being protective. Like I said, I hadn't expected anything like this."
Volenni nodded. He was, by nature, a pretty conservative guy. He understood family obligations. Family, as far as Volenni could figure, was the basis of a good society. "Yeah, okay, let's just work together on this, okay? You guys over in forensics get us the scientific data and let us do the investigating."
Aliki nodded obediently swallowing her urge to deck the guy. Chauvinist asshole! she thought uncharitably. If Bates hadn't asked her to smooth the waters, she'd have had Volenni's ego skinned and stretched on a rack by now.
"So where are the Freemans?" Volenni asked, flipping open his notepad.
"My home. It seemed the safest place. What is your opinion on what happened here?" Aliki asked, partly to flatter Voenni's ego and partly to gather data. Her eyes scanned over the blackened ruins, taking in details.
"The fire marshall's report will take time but he thinks the source was the kid's bedroom upstairs. A bunch of stuffed animals were piled on the bed and the early evidence would indicate that an accellerant might have been used, like gasoline or something." They walked over to the cold, wet remains as they talked.
"The upstairs burnt out and collapsed down. The fire department didn't even try to save the structure with the other houses so close, they just worked to save them"
Aliki's eyes checked the damage to the houses on each side. Roof tiles were curled and blistered and would have to be replaced. The house on the north side was brick and although blackened by smoke the structure was sound, with the exception of a section of the roof overhang. The house to the south had vinyl siding on it. The stuff had melted and burnt, hanging in solidified, distorted shapes from the old clapboard siding underneath. The fire had caught here and spread up the wall. An orange tarp covered the damage to the roof. The house had been saved but the damage was extensive.
"This is the bed. You can see some of the stuffed critters still," continued Volenni, as he stepped over a fallen beam and pointed at a pile of burnt wreckage. Aliki squatted down and reached to pick up a water saturated stuffed bear that must have fallen from the bed and rolled underneath. The body and head were still intact although the limbs and ears had burnt off.. She forced her features to remain neutral although she was feeling anything but as she put a finger under the chin of the teddy and raised the head to see a white layer of stuffing pushing out. The teddy bear's throat had been slit before it had been added to the fire.
"Volenni, I think it was the Fire Clown," she said quietly.
"Yeah," Volenni responded sarcastically. "How come?"
"The burning of the teddy bear bodies and the fact that the bear's throats have been slit," Aliki responded seriously, showing the detective the bear in her hand.
"Shit, I was afraid of that! The question is, was he here to just kill the kid or do you think arson is his new gig?" the detective grumbled, as he pulled a plastic bag from his pocket for Aliki to drop the bear into. Volenni ran his thick fingers along the plastic seal and then reached into his pocket for a felt pen. Taking the top off the pen with his teeth, he wrote the date and location on the bag and signed his name.
"I think we'd better have a meeting of all those concerned and discuss what is going on," Aliki suggested. "I don't like this. I don't like it at all."
The figure stood off at a distance, watching those at the site through powerful field glasses. He had hoped the child and her parents would have come back to see their house in ruins but so far they had not. Child killers were not good people. Good people didn't kill children. But this time it would be okay. It was the child's fault for stopping to tie up her shoelace while he was weeding the flower bed. When he was a little boy, his mother always tied his shoelaces in double bows so bad things didn't happen. The girl's mother should have taught her that. Tracy could train the girl properly because Tracy had been raised right. Tracy would like to help the girl.
He had enjoyed setting the fire. He hadn't set a fire in a very long time. Not since he got in trouble at school and his mother had had to come to talk to the principal. She had told the principal that it wasn't his fault that he had been bad ever since his sister had been caught in the fire. "Why did it have to be Tracy?" she had asked the principal and cried. "Tracy was always a good girl!" He hadn't set anymore fires after that. He tried to be good like Tracy. But he had to set this fire, to send the girl and her parents a message.
The world, rounded by the lenses, moved off the crowd of police and firefighters that stood talking and joking near an emergency vehicle backed up to the burnt house. The site was a hole in a row of healthy houses. He was the dentist who had made the necessary extraction. Mama would have been proud of him if he had been a dentist.
The field glasses stopped and he felt the sudden impact of desire swell his manhood. She looked just like Tracy, dark haired, broad shouldered and beautiful. She even had the same cold, emotionless expression. The man squirmed with delight. This one was the best yet!
"Shit, that's sick," Volenni was saying as he looked at the burnt teddy bear in the bag. "We gotta get back to the basics around here. Ya know, family values. You've got family out west then, Doc?"
Aliki nodded absently, her mind on other things as she looked for anything that would give her a hint to the workings of the killer's mind. "My mom died young. I was the only girl. I had three brothers. My father and I raised the boys. I don't see them often but we are close," Aliki volunteered, surprised that her attitude towards her family had changed so much over the last year.
"Family is good," Volenni repeated. He'd decided that Aliki wasn't so bad after all, even if she was taking a good job from a man. She seemed to have the right values. Maybe she wasn't gay after all. Maybe she was brought up right and didn't play the field like most girls did today. Still, it was a strange career for a woman. "How'd you get in this business?" he asked.
Aliki turned to look at him in surprise. Lost in her thoughts, she hadn't realized she was having a bonding experience with Volenni. A caustic remark was on the tip of her tongue but she swallowed it, remembering that she was here to build bridges between the lab and the police department. "I knew a girl who killed herself because of what a guy did to her. I wanted to see that justice was done so I became a cop," she responded, surprised that she could now speak about that terrible guilt openly.
"You're a cop?!" exclaimed Volenni.
"I'm an RCMP Inspector but I went on to train in forensics. I've not been in active service for years."
Volenni nodded. He liked this answer too. Women shouldn't be cops. Pateas had had the sense to get out and go to work in a lab. It still wasn't a job he'd want his daughter doing but at least it was mainly office work. His sour mood lifted. He figured he could work with Pateas after all now that he'd set her straight on a few things.
Aliki, having grudgingly done her damage control, had promptly forgotten Volenni, as she quietly and methodically worked her way around the fire site. She'd phone the fire marshal tomorrow and hear what he had to say. Then she'd know better as to what had happened here.
Saying her good byes to Volenni and promising to bring Dawn and Mac to the station after lunch, she headed over to the forensic labs to report to Dr. Bates. She wanted too, to re-examine the victims. A pattern was forming in her head. One that worried her considerably.
Dr. Bates watched from his small cluttered office as Dr. Aliki Pateas moved from on stainless steel gurney to another, examining and re-examining the remains of the women who had been killed by the Fire Clown. Now and again, she would straighten and wipe the grease from her gloved hands with a towel before she flipped through the autopsy reports or looked at the lab and crime scene photos. She seemed totally oblivious of those that worked around her.
Dr. Gilmore had just used an electric stryker saw to remove the bones of the top of the skull. He was extracting the brain of an old man who had died alone at home. The senior citizen's chest was peeled back and the internal organs already examined and samples taken for biopsy. There was no dignity in sudden or violent death. Carl Ling, their lab technician, leaned against the counter as he filled out the release forms for a baby that had died of internal bleeding due to abuse. The six month old had been sutured and the skull cap placed back on. It would be up to the funeral parlor to try and hide the evidence of their grizzly work. No doubt, they would recommend to the grieving family that they save some money and heartache by having a closed coffin.
It was not that the lab was not respectful of the rights of the dead, just the opposite; it was their job to see that the dead got justice and were buried with their names, and that the families found the closure they needed. A sudden or violent death, however, set a process in motion that was exacting, detailed and invasive. The victim's remains became lab fodder.
Pateas had disappeared into the locker room to change from her scrubs. Ling and his co-worker would see to the storage of the victims of the Fire Clown. Bates got up and, leaving his office, went over to the locker room. Aliki was stripped down to her bra and panties and was in the process of dumping her soiled scrubs into the appropriate bin.
"So what has Inspector Pateas discovered?" he teased, as he frowned sadly at his unlit pipe, clamping it back between his teeth with a sigh.
"That's Doctor Pateas," Aliki countered from half inside a locker as she pulled out her jeans and stepped into them. She didn't let herself feel annoyed. Bates had played this game ever since he had discovered that she had trained as an RCMP officer.
"Not when you get that look in your eye, you are not," argued Bates. "That was your police inspector look," he challenged, as he watched with pleasure as Aliki slipped a t-shirt over her head. She was a beautiful specimen of womanhood.
"Can we talk in your office? Then I'll head out to have lunch with Dawn and Mac and bring them back to the station to make a statement."
Bates nodded. "Let's work through what we can offer the police in the way of hard evidence and conjecture. Phil Koo wants a meeting at five to re-evaluate Fire Clown's profile in light of new developments."
Aliki nodded. She had a bad feeling about all this and the fear for Dawn and Mac's safety gnawed at her guts. After briefing Dr. Bates on her morning's findings, she headed back to her house feeling tired and worn out. A car followed cautiously behind and passed unnoticed as she pulled into her driveway and locked her car door carefully before heading to the house.
The car did a u-turn at the next intersection and slowly came down the street again. The driver parked several houses up on the opposite side of the road and picked up a newspaper to read. An hour later, he watched as three people emerged and got into the gold van. The man could not believe his luck. It was the child who had stopped to tie her shoelace. The one that he had picked to be Tracy's little girl.
Volenni looked on while Mac provided input to the police artist. "No, his nose was more this shape," she said, looking at the examples on the computer screen. Volenni had been as polite and caring as he could when talking to Mac and her mother. They seemed like nice people, kinda naive. He could understand why Pateas was protective of them. He kinda got the feeling that Dr. Aliki Pateas was like Mama, the final authority when it came to family matters. She was pretty young for that responsibility but he guessed she'd had to take that role on when her own Mama died.
He'd noticed that Dawn and Mac would look at her when they weren't sure what to say. Pateas had been real professional and had not butted in. She'd just nodded or smiled encouragement as she stood stiffly by the door. Volenni figured that the reason Pateas wasn't married was she'd had the family to mind. That sometimes happened in families if the Mama died young or was not up to the job. Hell, in his own family, he had a maiden aunt who ruled over the family still, back in the old country.
He respected Pateas for her role but he thought it a hell of a shame that such a beauty wasn't going to get married. She's not gay just too many family responsibilities and too much education to be appealing to most guys, he concluded contentedly. He could get on with Pateas all right he figured although she wasn't his type. He liked them petite, blond and fiery.
Phil Koo was a short round man of Chinese descent. His portly body, balding head and congenial smile made him looked for all the world like a store keeper. In fact, his father still ran a small family produce store in Chinatown not far from Nathan Philips Square. However, Koo's sagging, happy face concealed a mind that was logical, ordered and vast. Aliki knew that the police called him Encarta after the Microsoft Encyclopaedia software. Koo had an amazing knowledge of past homicide cases. His job with the Metropolitan Toronto Police was to profile, understand and outsmart the criminal mind.
"Since we last met, we've gathered a substantial amount of data," he was saying. "Mostly through the efforts of the forensic department. Dr. Bates, perhaps you could fill us in."
"I'll leave that to Dr. Pateas," Bates responded. "Since we are dealing with skeleton remains here, this case has been her main focus."
Quiet, dark eyes shifted to Aliki. "Dr. Pateas," said Koo, giving her the floor.
"My observations of the skeleton remains of the four women, so far indicate a preference for a certain body type and colouring. All the woman have been fairly tall, ranging in height from 167 to 173 cm. They have all been athletic with broad shoulders and narrow hips. They were all dark in colouring. The victims' ages seem more varied. The youngest was thirteen and the oldest thirty-two. All the victims have been Caucasian except for Lily Chan, who was Oriental.
"The condition of the remains has made it very difficult to ascertain the cause of death but Dr. Bates and I feel we can make some conjectures. The skin and muscle tissue have nearly been burnt away and yet the bones generally do not show the severe cracking one gets with high temperatures. The victims might have been cremated slowly or the blood could have been drained from their bodies first, to make the burning of the flesh easier. We suspect the latter for two reasons. Two of the victims, Helen Rose, and Joyce Leadsen, had small scratches to the posterior, lateral edge of the left condyle. Under a microscope these nicks are v-shaped and smooth, indicative of a smooth, small blade perhaps a sharp jack-knife. We suspect the victims might have died from having their throats slit form ear to ear by a right handed man, then their bodies were hung to drain.
"This assumption, although purely conjecture, is supported by the evidence of the stuffed Teddy Bear found at last night's fire at the Freemans' house. The bear's throat had been slit with a straight-edged blade."
"Can we say for sure that the fire and the killings are related?" asked Koo.
It was Volenni who answered. "The kid seen him weeding the flower container that the bones were found in, then her house is torched. It's not likely to be coincidence."
"No, but it might be. The fact that a man weeded that flowerbed the day before the bones were found there does not mean he was the killer," argued Koo, playing the devil's advocate.
"Sir?" interrupted Sargent Hassan from the homicide squad. "We've checked and the company that handles the gardening for the firm that owns that flower container had not had anyone there for over a week. The gardener who handles that area is a woman too."
Koo nodded and made more notes on a yellow pad of paper. His writing was neat and cramped and he used a fountain pen and black ink. "Alice, could you just review the description provided by MacKenzie Freeman.," Koo asked the police social worker who sat quietly to his left. Rumour had it that Alice Niles and Phil Koo were more than co-workers.
"I was present when Detective Volenni interviewed MacKenzie Freeman, as were her mother Dawn and Dr. Pateas." Koo's eyes shifted to look at Aliki with interest and then returned to Alice. "MacKenzie is a mature and well behaved twelve year old. She spoke clearly and her fairly detailed observations were given without hesitation. The information she gave did not in anyway contradict the information that she had given Dr. Pateas the day before." Again the dark eyes shifted but Koo did not interrupt Niles by asking the questions that were clearly on his mind.
"It is my opinion that MacKenzie is a reliable witness. She stated that the individual was not short but not very tall for a man. She suggested he might be about 185 cm. His hair was light brown and cut like a military man's. She noted his eyes were chestnut, and he appeared to be almost cross-eyed. He might have a lazy eye," she suggested, then continued. "He was powerfully built and had an angry, abrupt speech pattern but did not appear to have an accent. The man was Caucasian and in his thirties. He wore black jeans and t-shirt, both very neatly pressed and clean. That's it."
Koo nodded and then turned to look at Aliki. "You questioned her?" his tone indicating he was not pleased.
Aliki blushed. "It was an unusual circumstance. I was upset....I..I thought it might have been Mac who had been killed because her wallet was found with the bones. Mac is my niece."
Koo nodded. "Do you feel you might have led MacKenzie in any way or suggested anything to her that might have made her formulate any erroneous memories?"
Aliki looked Koo straight in the eye. "No."
"Good," Koo muttered, as he stopped to make more notes. The only sound in the room was the scratch of his pen. Aliki could feel the heat of her embarrassment on her cheeks. She was relieved that Volenni had not said anything.
Bates, who had been studying his old pipe as if he had never seen it before, came to Aliki's rescue by filling in the silence. "So Phil, in light of this new data do you think you can give us a better idea of the killer's profile?"
Koo sighed and put down his pen. "I think we are clearly dealing with a psychopathic personality. He shows clear signs of compulsive obsessive behaviour, reflected in his need to present the victim's bodies in the appropriate setting and displayed in a specific manner. If MacKenzie did witness the killer preparing the site for his victim, his neatness is also indicative of that compulsive obsessive behaviour.
"It is interesting that his victims are a physical type. One would suspect that they symbolize an individual in his life that he has strong feelings about. The fact that he burns his victims is puzzling. It could be rooted in a past history of pyromania or it could be that he just has the means for depositing of a heavy, awkward body though burning. The fact that he resorted to fire in anger, I suspect, when he didn't find MacKenzie and Dawn home, indicates the former to me.
"I'll get on looking up arson cases," volunteered Volenni.
"You'll need to go back at least twenty-five years if the man's in his thirties. Pyromania might have been an early stage in his development to a serial killer."
"Got it,"responded the police officer.
"His use of a knife also indicates a need to feel the fear and pain of his victims. This is a very angry man and one who is very dangerous. MacKenzie mentioned that he looked powerful and fit. We have someone here who enjoys dominating and yet feels that life is threatening. He will lash out if he feels threatened very quickly and violently. Where are MacKenzie and Dawn Freeman now?" Koo asked, turning to look at Aliki.
"Downstairs waiting for me in the police cafeteria. They have been told not to move from there nor to go with anyone who is not me. They stayed at my home last night. I am a trained RCMP officer and my house has an excellent burglar alarm," Aliki answered.
"We should operate on the assumption that they are in grave danger," Koo stated and Aliki tried not to show the cold fear that shot through her gut at that thought. "Our killer hides a deep feeling of inadequacy behind a veneer of megalomania. We need to proceed cautiously. He now knows he can be identified and that will worry him greatly. On the other hand, his increasing use of locations that are public and in the heart of the city indicates that he is taunting the police.
"If we play our hand too obviously, he is liable to bolt, lay low as long as his urges will let him, and then start his vicious murders in another location. On the other hand, if we sit back, he will feed on the notoriety and fear the press is generating and kill again and soon."
"I think we owe it to the public to release the sketch we have of him. Women have a right to know,"Alice Niles stated firmly.
Koo frowned and sighed in exasperation. "Yes, you are right. We'll ask the press to run it on tonight's news. It might cause him to panic and leave the area, but we'll just have to hope his conceit is enough for him to stay and over-play his hand. Then we'll have him.
"There is one more element we need to follow up on. The need for the our killer to lay the victims out near flowers. Let's get a team out there checking florists, garden centres, landscape companies, et cetera, to see if anyone recognizes this man. He might work with flowers."
"Yes, Sir," responded Hassan.
"What I am particularly intrigued by is the clown noses. That, I am sure, is the key to this man's psychopathic behaviour. So far, we have nothing that would indicate why he leaves these plastic noses on his victims."
Volenni shifted. "We've checked the clown union and their membership files and local circus groups. Now we've got an artist sketch, we'll do the rounds again. We've been trying to track down where the noses were bought too. No luck so far."
"Your house is secure?" Koo asked Aliki.
"It has a very good alarm system," she responded.
Koo nodded. "There is no way the police can afford round the clock protection for the Freeman's. That would tie up three officers. The only other choice would be applying for a witness protection program. I think they are better off where they are if you are willing to take on the responsibility."
"They are fine with me," Aliki agreed quickly.
The meeting adjourned shortly after and Bates and Aliki headed down to the cafeteria to find Dawn and Mac working on a newspaper crossword puzzle in a quiet corner. After, Aliki put it down to the strain of the last few days, but whatever the reason she never regretted her introductions.
"Tom, I'd like to introduce you to my family. This is my niece, MacKenzie and..and my girlfriend, Dawn Freeman. Mac, Dawn, this is my boss, Dr. Thomas Bates."
"A pleasure to meet you. I am sorry it could not be under better circumstances. But Aliki has promised to have me over for dinner one evening when this is over so that we can get better acquainted."
Aliki slipped one arm around Mac's shoulder and the other round Dawn's waist and smiled shyly but proudly. She felt them move closer to her and knew that they were happy to be introduced as her family.
"Nice to meet you, Dr. Bates. Aliki often talks about you," smiled Dawn, offering her hand.
"Aliki talking, dear me, you are good for her! We have bets in the lab as to how many days she can go without uttering a word," the mischievous doctor teased.
"Not true!" protested Aliki. "I say hello to people every morning!"
Bates rolled his eyes and they all laughed. "So this is MacKenzie. You have done very well in identifying the man you saw. You have helped the police greatly!"
"Thank you," stated Mac, shyly snuggling close to Aliki's side.
"Can you tell us what is going on?" Dawn asked, "and what shape our house is in?"
Bates looked at Aliki. She answered. "Yes, I can tell you more but not here. Let's head home and we'll discuss it there." They headed out to the police parking lot and said their good byes to Dr.Bates.
"You be careful," he warned Aliki, quietly before he left and the forensic scientist frowned and nodded.
Aliki had cooked dinner that night. They had new potatoes, fresh corn on the cob, and barbeque spare ribs cooked in her home-made sauce. For dessert, Aliki served an apple pie that she had made last fall and placed in her freezer. She topped each piece with a thin slice of old cheddar.
The Freemans had sat in the kitchen and talked as she had prepared the meal, telling her all about their adventures on the circuit as Dawn promoted her book. They laughed a good deal and sat for a long time over their meal, rebuilding their friendship. Aliki was surprised that it wasn't hard. The three of them just seemed to naturally get on well together.
A walk to settle the digestion was out under the circumstance and yet they were all suffering from a restless energy. After they had finished washing the dishes and the floor had been mopped from the ensuing water fight, Aliki had taken them into her exercise room, and turning on the stereo, she gave her family a beginner's lesson in karate. Dawn was strong and flexible but lacked the aggressiveness to be really good at the sport but Mac took to it like a duck to water.
A few hours passed by very quickly and then Mac had asked Aliki to show them one of her shinto routines. The music that Aliki chose was slow and sultry and had a vaguely eastern sound. Behind Aliki, the wall of glass that looked out over her Japanese rock garden became a backdrop to her warrior's pantomime. The sky changed from blue to pinks as the beautiful woman moved through a series of intricate, graceful moves, the blades in her hands highlighting the flowing lines of force with the brilliance of the setting sun. Aliki's body moved with controlled force and poetic grace, her routine part war, part dance. It was both terrifying and mesmerizing to observe, beautiful and deadly. Mac watched with hero worship written all over her face, Dawn with raw need.
After Mac had gone to bed, Dawn and Aliki had done some very heavy petting on the den couch, only just stopping short of making love. It had been Dawn who had gently slowed the pace and Aliki had fought for control as she responded, pulling back and letting Dawn rearrange both her own clothes and Aliki's.
Dawn went to make tea and Aliki tried to slow her raging need through force of will. I told her I wanted to move slowly. I can hardly complain that she doesn't want to sleep with me. Oh God! I think I'm going to explode with need!
Their conversation was forced over tea and soon dissolved into an awkward silence. Aliki desperately thought of something, anything she could say. "Robbie Williams is my half sister," she blurted out.
"What!?" Dawn asked in surprise.
"Robbie Williams is my sister...I think," Aliki repeated, surprised herself that she was telling Dawn this.
"Does she know?"
"No!" Aliki responded quickly, feeling her face warming with embarrassment.
"Well, don't you think you should tell her?!" demanded Dawn. "I know you look a lot like her but, well, are you sure? What makes you think this?"
Aliki frowned at her cup, swirling the remaining tea around. How much should she tell Dawn? Everything. There was no other way. "It's complicated. I think you know that I helped Janet Williams prove that Robbie did not kill her father. That was before I went out west and met you," Aliki clarified quickly. Dawn nodded.
"Aah, it was a highly charged time and Janet was living here. Robbie wasn't handling things very well and Janet was feeling really isolated. Aaah, we...I..."
"You slept with Janet Williams?" Dawn asked, trying not to show the hurt in her voice.
"No!... I kissed her,...she turned me down..." Aliki answered honestly, feeling about two inches tall.
"She was the one you thought you loved? You told me about her when you were out west last year."
"Do you still love her?"
"No, I don't think I ever did. It was an emotional time and well, it just happened."
"That's going to be difficult," Dawn sighed, trying to be calm and supportive while inside her guts were churning with emotion.
"It gets worse. Robbie's mother, Alexandria, as you probably know, was charged with her husband's murder and disappeared but she came back to kill Robbie."
"I read about it in the American papers while I was on tour," Dawn said.
Aliki sighed. "I was the arresting officer. She shot me and in order to save my life I had to kill her."
"You were shot! Where? Are you alright?" Dawn asked, reaching over to bridge the distance between them on the couch and touching Aliki's arm.
" It just grazed my hip bone. I was lucky it didn't break the ilium."
"Let me see," Dawn ordered, reaching to undo Aliki's shorts.
"Hey!"protested the surprised scientist.
Dawn stopped, her hands wrapped in Aliki's, and looked Aliki straight in the eye. "I'm the woman that you have let inside you. Both into your body and soul. I hope to be the woman that you spend the rest of your life loving." Without farther protest, Aliki pulled off her shorts and lowered the corner of her panties so that Dawn could see the angry red scar. Dawn leaned over and kissed it and a groan of desire escaped from Aliki's lips.
Dawn slipped between Aliki's naked legs and rested her back against the taller woman's chest. She pulled Aliki's arms around her and kissed her long strong finger tips. "Tell me what happened," she asked gently, now she was safe in Aliki's arms.
Aliki told her everything, finishing by explaining that Alexandria had taunted Robbie with the fact that she was not really a Williams and then explaining how she had confronted Baba, Aliki's father. She had checked Robbie's birth date after, to verify that it was likely that Baba had sired Robbie before he had married and raised the Pateas' children.
"I don't know what to do. Baba wants to meet Robbie and I guess she has a right to know her father but I've made a pass for her wife and killed her mother..."
Dawn absently rubbed Aliki's hand. "How did she react to those issues?" Dawn asked.
"She doesn't like me anywhere near Janet. I think she'd like to flatten me. She was upset but not angry at me for killing Alexandria. I think on one level she was relieved that her mother would not have to stand trial for murder and attempted murder."
"You have to contact her, Aliki. Then it will be up to her how she wants to deal with the issue," Dawn stated quietly but firmly.
"Yeah, well, you tell me how you work something like that into a conversation?" muttered Aliki in frustration, as she kissed Dawn's ear.
Dawn thought for a minute in silence, snuggling deep into Aliki's arms. "Now would be a good time. She is a volunteer firefighter isn't she? You could phone to ask her some technical questions about my house burning down and then tell her why you really phoned."
"Yes, you can! You need to deal with this issue, Aliki. It has obviously been bothering you or you wouldn't have blurted it out like you did when you were feeling uncomfortable."
There was a beat of surprised silence. "Am I that transparent?"
"Only to me, Sweetheart," Dawn reassured, turning to kiss the woman she loved. "Now go and do it. I'll be here to kiss your rattled nerve ends better when it's over," Dawn joked.
Aliki leaned back, pulling Dawn with her. "I like it here better," she sighed.
Dawn bounded from her arms and pulled the reluctant scientist to her feet. "Go! You big wuss! Really, you can face down criminals without a bat of an eyelid and you are afraid of your own sister. Go on!"she lectured as she shooed Aliki over to the phone.
Robbie sat at her desk in her den in Toronto. Since coming back from England, she had spent many hours here dealing with the financial and business end of film producing. There were, too, the various other companies in her large business empire that needed time and attention.
Janet and Ryan had filled in their time touring Toronto's many attractions. They had been to the Science Centre, Toronto's world class zoo, over to the Toronto Island on the ferry for a picnic in the park, up the CN tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, and to the Skydome to see the Blue Jays play a baseball game. Tonight, they were at the Roy Thompson Hall with Elizabeth and David to hear a jazz concert. Little Reb had been taken along on most of their adventures but tonight the three year old was asleep and Robbie was baby sitting.
Robbie's private phone line rang and she was quick to answer it in case it was Janet. "Williams," she identified herself.
There was a beat of silence and then Dr. Aliki Pateas's voice came over the line. "Good evening, Robbie, it's Aliki."
One of Robbie's eyebrows went up in surprise and she leaned back to focus on what the police officer and scientist had to say. Concern gnawed at her guts. She sure hoped that this wasn't about Alexandria and her father's murder. The press had had a field day over that and they were just starting to leave her and her family alone again. "What's up?"
"Aaah, I know you work for the Bartlett Volunteer Fire Department, I had some technical questions I needed to ask, about an arson case I'm working on."
Robbie frowned. This didn't seem to ring true. After all, Pateas was closely associated with the police, she should be able to get such data easily from far more expert firefighters than Robbie. "Well, I'm no expert, but I'll tell you what I know," she offered.
"I was at an arson site this morning. A two story, old clapboard with a second floor. The arsonist had piled stuffed toys on a bed upstairs and used lighter fluid as an accellerant. The fire department was there in a few minutes but they let it burn and concentrated on saving the houses on either side. I want to know why."
Robbie knew just the sort of fire Alberta was talking about. Bartlett trained for them all the time because it was a common house design in the north and fires often started on the second level due to people using secondary heating sources. "They call that type of construction dome shaped. The fire would heat up pretty quick and gut the upstairs but because of the shape of the roof the heat and smoke is going to rise into the attic. Downstairs, it would be fairly cool and clear. You might not even be aware of the fire upstairs.
"You could tell from the outside though. Firefighters are trained to look for the puffs of smoke being released around the roof edges. That's a good indication that you've got one hot fire upstairs. You are not going to send firefighters in to something like that. Within about twenty minutes or even less, the floor joists are going to burn through at the walls and a burning ceiling is going to fall down on anyone below. There have been a lot of firefighters killed or hurt that way. No, the department did right, working to save the houses on each side and letting the structure burn out. It would have had to be torn down anyway."
"I see," Aliki responded, genuinely interested in what Robbie had to say. "Look, Robbie, there is another matter...aaah...you ever look into who your...aah..father might be?"
Robbie felt suddenly threatened. Hell, her mother was a murder, wasn't that bad enough? "I have my lawyers investigating. Why?"
"Would you want to know?" Aliki clarified.
Robbie's temper surfaced on a wave of resentment and deep feelings of rejection. "Of course I would! I've got a kid and God knows what genes I've passed on to her! I fucking well worry about it! Wouldn't you?"
There was silence for a second. "I think we might be related," Aliki said in a quiet, hesitant voice. She heard Robbie's chair thump forward, then waited, listening to the hollow silence on the line.
"What?" Robbie finally said.
"I became suspicious that our bone structure and colouring were so similar. When I learned that Alexandria had insisted that Philip Williams was not your father, I started to put one and one together. I knew that...my father had had an affair in Winnipeg before moving west. Last fall, when I went home for my brother's wedding, I questioned him further.
"Robbie, he'd had an affair with your mother and the time is right to coincide with your birth. That is not to say that there couldn't have been someone else but we do seem to have the same physical characteristics. My father is anxious to meet you. He is willing to have blood tests to establish if there is a genetic relationship."
The silence was longer now and Aliki thought that Robbie might be crying. It certainly was a rough voice that responded to her. "Are you sure about this? It sounds like bullshit."
"I'm sure. I think there is a good chance that you are my half sister."
"Look, I know you need time to deal with this. Why don't you bring the family over to my place tomorrow and we can talk some more. My niece Mac has been emailing Ryan on a regular basis and would like to meet her. Dawn is here as well, I....I'd like you to know her."
"Ten, for morning coffee, if that is okay," responded Aliki, hearing the strain in her own voice.
During the conversation Dawn had come over and wrapped her arms around Aliki's tall frame. Aliki was holding the phone in one hand while the other arm was wrapped tightly around Dawn for support.
"Okay," came the abrupt reply and Robbie hung up.
"Well?" Dawn asked, as she looked into started eyes.
"She is going to come over tomorrow with the family, I guess. She sounded pretty abrupt and upset."
"Wouldn't you be?" Dawn asked, soothingly.
"Yeah, I guess so. I don't like having to deal with things like this," she grumbled.
Dawn laughed. "No kidding?" she teased. "It will be all right, Aliki, I promise." But the scientist knew she wasn't going to sleep much that night.
Miles away, Nathan Garwen carefully sharpened the blade of his jack-knife on a wet stone. He was excited and was finding it hard to sleep. On the table in front of him were two clown noses, one for the girl that he was giving to Tracy and one for the woman who seemed to work for the police. His sister, Tracy, had loved clowns. She had a whole collection of clown dolls that she kept sitting on her bed. They had gone with Tracy. That was good. It made him feel better knowing Tracy had her clowns with her in heaven.
Garwen smiled. Killing someone that worked for the police was going to be so good. That would show the cops just how powerful he was! It had been the cops, he was sure, that had put his mother against him. They had told her that he was a bad boy and needed to be treated in an institution. Cops were very bad people. There was no need for them. If everyone just raised their children right, like his Mama had, then no one would break the law. He had never broken the law. He had just done bad things to bad people or helped Tracy to find friends. There was nothing wrong with that.
On the other side of the city, Robbie sat staring at the wall. She felt shocked and scared. She wished Janet would get home, she needed her. This was not something that she could face alone.
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