Jane rolled to the curb and parked the Mustang, sucking the last microgram of nicotine from the butt of her cigarette. Squashing it onto the street with the heel of her roughout cowboy boots, she flashed her shield to the cops standing at the periphery and ducked under the yellow crime tape that was draped between the two precision-trimmed boxwood shrubs that framed the bottom of the long, immaculate brick driveway.
Jane checked the front door. There was no sign of forced entry. Stepping back, she searched and easily found two security cameras. Property protected by S.O.S.—Security On Site the decal read. One camera was poised above the front door and the other located at the corner of the house directed toward the rear of the property. Entering the home, Jane gazed at the gleaming marble floor that gracefully skirted the entry. A French reproduction crescent-shaped walnut wood table stood to the left with a Waterford vase atop it filled with nine strikingly fragrant stems of Oriental “Stargazer” lilies. Jane leaned closer and took a deep whiff of the aromatic flowers. She figured they were damn near fresh due to the sturdy wax coating still remaining on the petals. The heady scent was alluring and certainly disguised the stink of death, urine and fear that awaited her up the magnificent marble stairway and in the master bedroom. Jane steadied herself, fastening her armor around her heart so she’d be able to view what she was about to witness without losing whatever was left in her stomach of the pad thai dinner from the previous evening.
“Evil requires the sanction of the victim,” she said to herself, recalling the line from Atlas Shrugged. It was a powerful statement and one that Jane was too often reminded of when she viewed the battered and often unrecognizable corpse at a violent crime scene. The way she interpreted Ayn Rand’s words, in order for a murderous act to take place, somewhere in the chain of events, there had to be compliance by the victim. That compliance didn’t have to be conscious. In fact, it was usually unconscious. But the adage that you attract to yourself what you put out rang true for Jane, no matter how politically incorrect that belief was. Whether it be naively allowing the wrong people into your life or putting yourself in situations that are rife with nefarious outcomes, the one who is labeled the “vic” on the sheet down at Headquarters, usually made some lapse in judgment that allowed evil to take them out of this world in a black body bag.
Sergeant Weyler met Jane just outside the bedroom suite door. Inside, she could see the flash of a camera documenting the crime scene. Several CSIs lifted prints. In the far corner of the room, a street cop sat next to a petite woman who looked to be in her early seventies. The moonfaced woman stared aimlessly at the carpet, seemingly detached from the grisly scene just twenty feet away.
“What do we know so far?” Jane asked Weyler.
“Not much. Except it sure as hell wasn’t a suicide.”
Jane was familiar with gallows humor, but Weyler wasn’t normally one to participate in it. When she walked further into the bedroom and saw the body, she realized his comment was meant more as a statement of the obvious.
There on the king-size bed was a woman, early sixties, nude, lying on her stomach and hog-tied. Her mouth and nose were taped shut with several pieces of duct tape. One eye was still slightly open and seemingly staring at Jane from across the room. The fear and understanding of death was still imprinted on the woman’s orb. Her body may have been cold but somewhere in that shell, Jane felt as if this victim was still transmitting the last impressions she took in before the specter of death choked her final breath. Jane could taste it in the air—the freshness of madness and chaos.