Killers Deception | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Mystery Bookmark and Share

Killers Deception

KILLERS DECEPTION BY: Dallas G. Releford On a chilly September morning a jogger found the body of a young woman in a park in Wichita, Kansas. Nude, the woman was positioned on her back with her legs spread wide, her eyes gouged out, her stomach cut open and her ears were removed. It appeared as if she had been tortured before death finally claimed her. Her radiant beauty—even though clouded by the terrible things that had been done to her—still shone in the pale morning light. Her wounds were so horrible that few could look upon her once beautiful face without breaking down in tears. The jogger, Joyce Wallace found it difficult to believe that the young girl was her sister who had been missing for more than a month. Shocked, terrified, she forced herself to lean closer to the corpse as she tried to imagine her as she once was. Was this unfortunate creature really her sister? Finally convinced that the young woman was indeed her sister Maureen, she fought back tears, struggled with knots in her stomach, and weak legs that wanted to crumble under her as she called the police on her cell phone. While she waited for the police to arrive, she turned away from her sister unable to look upon her mutilated body. Looking up and down the paved road that led through the main part of the park, she wondered if the killer were somewhere in those woods watching her. Shuddering, she suddenly felt her blood turn to ice and chilly hands touch her exposed neck. Pacing back and forth on the brim of the road, Joyce noticed two curious markings in the dirt near the pavement. She knew what the markings meant. They were unmistakable. Someone had dragged her sister’s body—through the dirt, grass and gravel—from a vehicle parked on the road and then carefully placed it where it would be found. The markings had to be made by shoes or slippers. Her sister was barefooted. The killer had taken the shoes—perhaps as a souvenir—or tossed them in the woods. Or perhaps not, she thought. It would take a lot of strength to move a corpse, she silently told herself. The killer had to be a man, or a very strong athletic woman. Her curiosity aroused, she resisted the temptation to glance at her sister one more time while she looked for clues that might tell her who did this terrible thing to Maureen. She had read enough crime novels to know that she shouldn’t go messing around at a crime scene, except this crime scene involved someone she loved very much. Rules may be broken, she said glancing around the area hoping to find the slippers. She had to know who did it? Joyce wanted to kill them, make them suffer the same way Maureen had suffered. That won’t bring her back, a voice deep in her mind told her. Nonetheless, for some vague reason she couldn’t understand Joyce simply couldn’t convince herself that she could let the killers go unpunished. While standing on the pavement where she thought she could get a better perspective of the crime scene, she saw something glisten in the sparse grass beyond the shoulder of the road. The sun was just peeping through trees behind her and a few rays of light caused something to sparkle long enough to catch her attention. Walking toward a dazzling object, she dropped down on her knees and surveyed the area. Finally, she saw it. A small ring, apparently a wedding ring, was exposed below a few blades of grass that was covered with dew. Picking it up, she held it in her hand knowing that she was tampering with evidence. It didn’t matter, she thought. She would put it back where she found it and point it out to the cops when they arrived. As Joyce held the golden ring with seven diamonds inlaid in it, she felt as if she had seen it before, but where had she seen it? It was clearly a woman’s ring, and expensive. She didn’t think it belonged to Maureen. Maureen had her engagement ring on her hand. No, this ring was familiar and she knew that eventually she would remember who it belonged to. Without thinking, she dropped it into her pants pocket as she heard sirens wailing in the distance. The city park where she had been on her usual morning jog was still within city limits. When the police arrived, they asked her several questions before taking her home. Joyce Wallace spent the next few hours mourning over the loss of her sister and calling her parents to let them know what had happened. Alone in her apartment, she couldn’t stop thinking about Maureen and what happened to her. The image of her lying on cold ground in the bushes made tears stream from her eyes, her blood turn as cold as ice and she felt like a part of her had just got up and floated away. She knew she could never rest until she found the person or persons responsible for her sister’s death. Kidnapped! Tortured! Murdered! Those three words described what had happened to Maureen Wallace better than anything else Joyce could think of. The killing had most certainly been sexual in nature because of the fact that she was nude, her legs were spread and Joyce was almost sure that she had been sexually violated. The pervert that had done this to her had probably enjoyed her humiliation as well as her horror. She knew it couldn’t be robbery. Maureen was still wearing her expensive engagement ring and a watch her father had given her for her birthday. No thief would pass that up. It was almost like the killer was only interested in her body. Forcing her pain into the back of her mind, feeling her hands trembling, she picked up the phone and called the police department. The dispatcher transferred her to Lieutenant Ben McGuire who had been assigned to the case. “I’m sorry about your sister, Miss Wallace,” he said, “but I’m afraid I can’t tell you much about what happened or who did it. I was only given the case this morning. I can promise you that we are going to find the person responsible.” “I hope so,” Joyce mumbled fighting back the pain that was making it difficult for her to talk, much less think. “Something is familiar about all this,” she said. “I’ve read about this before. Wasn’t there a serial killer that murdered twenty-four young women in Wichita back in the early seventies?” “Sure,” McGuire replied. “They called him the KTM killer because he killed, tortured and mutilated his victims. Most of his victims were young girls. They all were lesbians. The only problem with your theory, Miss Wallace, is that they caught him. He’s serving one hundred and seventy five years in prison without a chance at parole. The two cases are almost identical except the person that committed them is in prison. He must be in his sixties by now.” “I don’t care,” Joyce said. “Can’t you check and see if he is still there? What happened if they let him out early on some minor detail. It happens all the time, you know.” “I know,” McGuire said with a disgusted tone to his voice. “Well, why don’t you hang up and take it as easy as you can. I’ll call the state prison and make sure that he is still there. I’ll call you back as soon as I know something.” After ending the conversation, she sat on the couch in her living room thinking about the serial killer who had so viciously killed all those young women. His method of operation was the same, she was sure of it. Richard Dennis had terrorized Wichita and the surrounding area for years. She had been a college student then and the stories on television, radio and in the newspapers terrified her. Was her sister’s murder a copycat killing? Had they arrested the wrong person? She wasn’t sure except that she felt as if there was some connection between her sister’s death and Richard Dennis. The phone rang startling her. With shaky hands she picked up the receiver and put it next to her ear. “He’s still there, Miss Wallace. I’m sorry. I personally spoke to the warden just to be sure. Dennis has colon cancer. They discovered it too late. He isn’t expected to live much longer. It is possible that someone else is duplicating his crimes. Don’t worry, we’ll catch him and he’ll pay for what he did to your sister.” “I just want him off the streets so he doesn’t kill anyone else,” Joyce told him. “Of course, if they sent him away for a thousand years that would be an added bonus. I just want him behind bars, or something.” “So do we,” McGuire replied. “And, you can bet we will get him. When was the last time you saw your sister alive?” “It’s probably all in her file,” Joyce reminded him. “She went to the store to get a few things on August the fourth and never came home. She was living with me. Our parents only live a few houses down the street from us. I thought maybe she stopped there except when I called my mother, they hadn’t seen her for a couple of days. Uncle Ramon lives on Hanson Street a few blocks from my parents. I thought she might have visited him to check on him except he hadn’t seen her either. Maureen was very fond of him because he was always giving her these little gifts, you know, jewelry and things like that. He’s a great cook and used to be a butcher down at the meat packing plant. He hurt his back and had to retire early a few years ago. We always checked on him almost every day.” “When was the last time your uncle saw her?” “Three days before she disappeared,” Joyce told him. “He said she came over and had lunch with him. Ramon said she seemed just as she always did and never mentioned about going anywhere or about a new boyfriend or anything like that. In fact, he said she was in her usual good mood.” “Miss Wallace, I know you’ve been through a traumatic experience today, however I would like to come over and ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind?” Joyce felt the pressure of a hundred thoughts passing through her troubled mind, a hundred things that she wanted to do and many that she needed to do. Finding out who murdered her younger sister was at the top of her list. Sitting around in her living room talking to a cop didn’t seem to be one of her priorities. Nonetheless, everything else could wait such as making funeral arrangements, comforting her parents and buying a handgun. “Sure,” she finally answered. “I’ll be fine. I know I’ll never get over this, however I’ll try to answer all the questions I can. Nobody wants to find this killer more than I do.” Each time she said the word killer or the word murderer pain in her chest seemed as if it would explode out of her body. Her guts were as entangled as two grape vines in August. “Fine,” he answered. “Will it be all right if I come right over?” “That’s okay,” she said. “I’ll be waiting for you.” When Joyce Wallace answered the doorbell thirty minutes later, a young man with short blonde hair, sky blue eyes and a healthy tan stood on the porch with a grim look on his face. Joyce noticed his well-muscled shoulders, his thick arms and wondered if he worked out every day or if his physique just came naturally. Dressed in a light blue polo shirt and jeans, he resembled a sports fan more than he did a cop. Sighing, she invited him into the house remembering that detectives didn’t dress in fedoras, three piece suits and nice slacks much anymore. Thanking her for allowing him to talk to her on such a harrowing occasion, he glanced at her slim, well-formed figure and wondered if she kept herself in such good condition by jogging all the time. Her long brown hair, deep brown eyes and creamy white skin caught his attention immediately as she invited him to sit on the couch. She sat down in a chair facing him with the coffee table between them. “Would you like something to drink? I have coffee, soft drinks and milk.” McGuire smiled at the thought of drinking milk and wished he had something a little stronger. “Coffee would be fine,” he said remembering that he was on duty. “That is, if you already have some made.” “I do,” she said. “I don’t drink it much. I thought it might help to calm my nerves this morning. I don’t think anything will do that after what happened to me.” “I’m sorry,” he said. “There isn’t much I can do except catch the person responsible for this.” “I know,” she said as she walked to the kitchen and returned with two cups of steaming coffee. “Do you want cream and sugar?” “I take mine without either,” he replied. “Miss Wallace, doesn’t it strike you as odd that you were the one to find your sister? I mean, I’ve been thinking about that all morning.” “Yes, that thought had crossed my mind. Do you think it means something?” “I don’t know,” he answered taking a sip of his coffee and then sitting it on the coffee table. “It might. Do you jog along the same trail every day? Do many people know that you run in the park each morning?” “I suppose so,” she said. “I usually leave the house about six o’clock in the morning when the weather permits. I don’t jog much in the wintertime. I normally work out at the gym when the snow is too deep for me to run. My family and friends know of my activities.” “Has anyone else shown any interest in you? I mean, specifically, have you seen anyone watching you or anyone acting suspicious.” “Well, that early in the morning, I’m usually the only one out. I meet Mr. Ken Arnold sometimes. He lives across the street and sometimes he jogs with me and other days I meet him coming back because he leaves home earlier than I do. There isn’t any set pattern to our madness. Mr. Arnold is a nice man with a wife and four kids. I met him yesterday morning just before I found Maureen.” “I’ll have to talk to him,” McGuire said jotting a note in a note pad he carried in his shirt pocket. “Someone, the killer, must have known that you would be on that trail and put the body where you would see it. How come nobody else saw it? How come Mr. Arnold didn’t find her?” “How come nobody saw him put it there?” Joyce sat back on the couch and wrapped her arms around her chest. Staring at the floor, she knew that only the killer knew the answer to that question. “Maureen was lying on the side of the trail near the bushes. You would have had to look over the slight incline beside the road to actually see her. I usually glance at the woods as I run through them. I guess it’s just a habit. I’ve always been afraid of someone hiding in those bushes and jumping out at me. Anyway, I saw something white in the grass near the bushes and knew it was something unusual. At first, I thought it might be a dog or something. As I got closer to it, I could see that it was a person. The shock of seeing Maureen—” Her voice trailed off and she put her hands to her face as if she thought she might be able to stop the tears and the pain. She could not. McGuire leaned forward and wanted to tell her that it was all right, except he knew he would be lying to her. It would never be the same for her for a long time. “I’m sorry,” he finally said. “Take a break and have a little coffee. I know this is painful for you. We have to keep trying though. The longer we wait, the more chances the killer has to get away.” “I don’t think he is going far,” Joyce finally said as she rubbed tears from her face with the back of her hand. “This vulture knew me and he knew Maureen. I’m convinced of that. Whoever he is, he knew I jogged in those woods. He knew what time I went out there and he knew that I normally jogged alone. The big question is: why did he do this to me? It’s almost like he wanted to hurt me and my sister at the same time.” “If you truly believe that, then it means that someone in your past that has something against either you or your sister—or both of you—is responsible for this. We have to backtrack through your past until we find out who had enough reason to do this. Is there anyone that you can think of that might have had a reason to do what they did?” Joyce thought about what Ben McGuire had proposed. Was there anyone that might have a grudge against her, or her sister? “Maureen was engaged to Cecil Riley, Lieutenant McGuire. He’s an engineer and treated her well. That wasn’t her only boyfriend though. Maureen was beautiful and had many suitors. Before she met Cecil, she went out with one of my old boyfriends for several months. George Wilkerson was my boyfriend for about a year before he started going out with my sister. He didn’t like it much when she dumped him for Cecil.” “What was George Wilkerson like?” McGuire kept on scribbling notes as he directed his attention to what Joyce was telling him. “Moody,” she said. “He was a sales executive for one of the largest department store chains in the country. He traveled most of the time. That was the real reason I broke up with him. Another good reason was that he was … well … a little pushy. When he came home from a long trip, he would demand that I have sex with him. If I wasn’t in the mood or had other things on my mind, he became agitated, aggressive but never really violent. Maureen wasn’t comfortable with him either because of his temper and he acted like he was some kind of control freak, or something.” “What happened when you told him you didn’t want to see him again?” “He went berserk,” she told him. “He told me that I didn’t know what I was missing, that I’d be sorry and that he was going to kill himself.” “Did he?” “No,” Joyce said. “I suppose his threat of committing suicide was just a ploy to drag my sympathy into the equation hoping I would reconsider. He sent me flowers and things like that. He used to come over to my parents house a lot when he was around and that’s how he met Maureen. My mother liked him and we usually ended up there for one of her dinners. That was one of the problems, I think. He knew all the family and felt like he was already married to me.” “He became obsessive,” McGuire suggested. “Since he knew your entire family, he felt like he was part of it. When you told him to get lost, he felt as if his own family were rejecting him. He probably turned to Maureen for a shoulder to cry on.” “Exactly,” Joyce said. “I think Maureen started going out with him because she felt he needed a friend. Maureen was like that. In the case of George Wilkerson, I tried to tell her that she was going to be sorry, except she ignored me.” “What happened?” “Maureen finally broke up with him when he tried to get intimate with her. She started going out with Cecil. We didn’t see much of George Wilkerson after that. I think he still lives around here somewhere. I’ve seen him at the supermarket a few times. I don’t think he has ever seen me. I get a Christmas card from him every year. It just says that he still remembers me and wants to wish me happy holidays. It all seemed harmless.” McGuire took a sip of coffee, put the cup on the coffee table and glanced at Joyce a few seconds before saying anything. Personally, he had to admit that he might be a little upset if she had broken up with him. Nevertheless, he probably wouldn’t have held a grudge against her. George Wilkerson might have seen things differently, he thought. “So, we can assume he kept track of you, and probably Maureen also?” “I guess so,” she admitted. “At least he remembered my address. The cards came to my parent’s house. I bought this house shortly after Maureen broke up with him. I assume he didn’t know that I had moved out.” “Tell me about your uncle, Joyce. Did he know about Wilkerson’s association with you and Maureen?” “Uncle Ramon? He thought George was a freeloader and a no-good bum. Uncle Ramon didn’t have too much respect for him. I guess that was because George was on the road most of the time. Uncle Ramon told my mother once that a man had to have roots. Mom invited Uncle Ramon over to our house on several occasions and if he knew George was going to be there, he didn’t come. Uncle Ramon tried countless times to get Maureen to dump him. Maureen dumped George when she was ready and not until she was ready.” “Would you say that your uncle was protective toward you and your sister?” “Over protective would be a better choice of words,” Joyce said. “He didn’t like Wilkerson at all and didn’t hesitate to blast him every time he got the chance. Mom finally quit inviting them both to dinner at the same time. Uncle Randy loved both of us and still does. I don’t think he knows that Maureen is … uh … dead.” “Were Maureen and Cecil getting along okay? Did you get along with him?” “Cecil is okay, except he is sort of conceited. As far as I know, they were planning on getting married and nothing had obviously happened to change that. I talked to Maureen on the telephone a few days before she disappeared and she sounded like she was excited about getting married. We were close. We shared our secrets, our problems and our thoughts. If anything had been amiss, she would have told me.” “I see,” McGuire said rubbing his chin. He made a couple of notes in his book. “How old is your uncle?” “He will be sixty in November. Uncle Ramon doesn’t get around real well. His only health problems are his back, arthritis and he has diabetes. The doctors have him on a pill and he has the diabetes under control. He hurt his back at the meat packing plant where he worked. You don’t think my uncle had anything to do with this, do you?” McGuire looked at her and smiled. “Of course not,” he assured her. “I’m just trying to get a clear understanding of all those people that are involved, either directly or indirectly. As someone used to say, just the facts, Ma’am.” “Good,” she said. “For a minute there, you had me worried. The thought of our own uncle killing Maureen is absurd. He wouldn’t even have a reason for doing anything like that.” “Of course not,” McGuire agreed. “Like I said, I have to get all the facts before I can work on the case and find out who did do it. Your uncle has a bad back and couldn’t have possibly moved the body or probably wouldn’t have been able to even kidnap her. Maureen was young and probably strong. Miss Wallace, when did your uncle hurt his back at the meat packing plant?” “I think he got hurt about eleven years ago. I had just graduated from college and Maureen was still two years away from graduation. That was when all the murders were taking place in Wichita. My uncle always said that the killer was a woman.” Her sudden revelation might have startled him if he hadn’t heard just about everything in his line of work. With an open mind, he had considered the possibility a few times during the lengthy investigation that the killer might just be a woman, as had others on the police department. When Richard Dennis was arrested and eventually confessed, they all had breathed a little easier. Trying to find a woman serial killer was much harder than finding a man. Women could dress any way they wanted and would hardly be noticed in the company of another woman. Few cops would suspect a woman of being a killer unless they had a good reason to do so. “What made him say that?” “My uncle figured that only a woman could get that close to a woman so many times. A man would have to make their acquaintance, entice them to some place where he could kidnap them and then take the female to a secluded place where he did his, uh, work. He figured at some point, something was bound to go wrong. When nothing happened, he was sure that it was a woman. Does that make sense to you, Lieutenant McGuire?” “Yes, I suppose that it does, in a way. Except, we caught Richard Dennis and he confessed to all the crimes. So, that pretty well says that your uncle was wrong. Dennis is serving several life sentences for what he did. Did your uncle have anyone in mind?” Joyce thought about what her uncle had said. “Nobody in particular,” she admitted. “He did say that the killer was probably associated with the victims in some way. He thought that the killer worked with the victims.” “Uh-Huh,” McGuire acknowledged. “I guess that could be a possibility. Since he didn’t actually accuse anyone of doing it, I’m going to assume that he didn’t really know who it was. I’m sure that if he did know, he would have told someone.” “Of course,” Joyce agreed. “Uncle Ramon is a real citizens advocate. He believes in doing the right thing. Are you going to talk to him?” “I’ll have to interview everyone that may know something about what happened to your sister. Does your Uncle Ramon have a wife, Joyce?” “He was married to Ella Lawson until about eleven years ago when he hurt himself and had to quit work. Of course, her married name was Ella Wallace and she was my aunt.” “What kind of a person was she?” “Well,” Joyce replied before sighing and sitting back on the couch, “she had her ways. She was a waitress down at the Golden Fleece Nightclub for twenty-two years. She worked nights and Uncle Ramon worked days. That caused a lot of friction between them and their personalities brought them into conflict with each other for most of their married lives. Ella was a very demanding, strong-willed woman who always had to have her way. My uncle was the meek type that wouldn’t hurt a flea. The family believed that he let her run over him. She wanted control of the budget, bank accounts and things like that. We didn’t know how much control she exerted over him until my uncle retired from his job. You see, Lieutenant, my uncle was a very wealthy man. He managed to invest some of his hard-earned money in the stock market despite the fact that Ella controlled most of the finances. After he retired, he made out a will leaving Maureen and me over ten million dollars, each. The money was put into a trust until we turned twenty-one years old. Of course, that did not go over too well with Ella when she found out about it.” “Oh?” McGuire looked at Joyce as if she had just handed him a silver platter with an envelope on it that contained all the answers to today’s questions. In fact, he was sure of it. And now contestants, can you tell us who really killed Maureen Wallace? Can you tell us why they killed her? Thank you very much for your remarkable answers, but aren’t you forgetting a few little details? Maureen wasn’t killed for money. She was kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and murdered. That was what happened to her. If you will be so kind as to look in cubicle number one, you will see suspect number one. Here we have George Wilkerson, a salesman from Wichita, Kansas who was upset because Joyce dumped him and even threatened to kill himself if she didn’t change her mind. George was a close family associate before Joyce—and then her sister Maureen—told him to get lost. Look at that innocent face, those lines of worry on his forehead, folks. Do you really think this man is a murderer? Huh? Do you? If you will direct your attention to cubicle number two you will see suspect number two, Mr. Ken Arnold. While not a strong possibility, he does know the family and knew Joyce Wallace’s habits. He must have also known she was extremely wealthy. And now, if you will pay attention to cubicle number three you will see suspect number three, Mr. Ramon Wallace. While not a good contender for the Murder of the Week spotlight, he does have certain qualities that might make him a suspect. One thing you should keep in mind is that he was a meat cutter and a damn good one. Thank you very much. His weak point is that he is disabled. Would that stop him from killing his niece? What’s that? Why would he kill his own niece, you say? Well, audience that is for you and me to figure out, if we can. And now, our primary suspect is in cubicle number four. If you’ve been a Murder of the Week fan for very long, you’ve probably developed a sense of who the real murderer is. It’s not always the person in cubicle number four, now is it? It could be any one of the others or all of them. We also have cubicle number five to go yet. More about the famous cubicle number five in a minute. Right now, I want you to concentrate on cubicle number four. In this spot we have Ella Wallace. Does she look like a jealous murderer who wants to get even with her husband and his two nieces because he dared to give her money to his own two nieces? Huh? What do you say audience? Is she capable of murder? Are any of our suspects guilty? Well, let’s not be too hasty here, huh? Let’s do a little more investigating before we expect ourselves to come up with an answer. As our regular viewers well know, cubicle number five does not contain an actual living person as it is reserved for an unknown suspect. After all, none of our suspects may have committed the hideous crime that appalls us every time we think about it. The person that we are seeking could be a serial killer or your next-door neighbor. What do you think, audience? Is it possible that suspect number four is a killer? Is she? McGuire played the game in his mind like a poker player wondering if the next card he pulled would be an ace or a child trying to put together a picture puzzle with some of the pieces missing. Finally, he knew the answer to none of the questions the game show host had asked. All he could think of was more questions. “So, what happened between your aunt and uncle?” Joyce sighed again and thought about the troubling times her uncle had endured for four long months. “We didn’t actually know about the will until his lawyer called my father and told him about the arrangement. A few days later, Ella called my mother and bluntly told her that Maureen and me were not going to get one cent of her hard earned money despite the fact that most of it belonged to my uncle. My mother told her that we didn’t really want it, except that Uncle Ramon had given it to us and that it was none of her damn business. I never heard my mother curse before, except she did that day. My mother never liked Ella since the first time Uncle Ramon introduced her to the family. Ella hung up on my mother. A few days later, we learned that Ella had retained a crooked lawyer and was suing Uncle Ramon for a divorce and that she was trying to get all his money on the basis that he was insane and unable to take care of himself. She claimed that he had been mentally ill for years and told the lawyer that she had even had to take care of the finances because he couldn’t add two plus two. The case went to court. Since my uncle had been smart enough to keep his stocks and his major wealth in a bank account in his name, he was able to hire good lawyers. They proved that he was perfectly sane and that he was able to handle his own affairs. The court granted Ella a divorce and ten million dollars for her services as his wife. It was an unusual case and my uncle only won it because he had a good reputation in the community. Nobody liked Ella.” “What happened to her? Did she leave right away or did she fight the court’s decision?” “Her lawyers fought it for many years. They appealed several times and lost. Ella moved into an apartment here in Wichita while she was appealing. After she knew she didn’t have a chance of winning, she just sort of faded away. Nobody ever heard from her again, except someone told Uncle Ramon that she was living in Kansas City. I don’t know if that is true or not.” “So, did you and Maureen actually inherit the money he willed to you?” “Of course,” Joyce said. “At first, we didn’t know what to do with it. We gave some of the money to our parents and spent a little on ourselves. Maureen bought a house out in the country although she spent most of her time at our parent’s house. I bought this house and Maureen stayed with me some of the time because she was lonely. That was before she met Cecil Riley. We both bought new cars and put the rest of the money in the bank and invested some of it. I never did want a lot of money and I don’t think money impressed Maureen very much either. We were happy to be financially independent, however we did not let it go to our heads. We both got jobs and worked because it gave us something to do.” “How did your uncle take all this?” “He lived with it,” Joyce said. “Uncle Ramon always said that woman was a real devil, meaning Ella of course. He said that she would steal the robe from Jesus, if she got the chance. I always believed him. None of our family cared much about her because of the way she treated Uncle Ramon. She had a lot of friends down at the nightclub that she ran around with. Some people thought she might like them, or some of them, just a little more than is normal, if you know what I mean?” “Lesbian?” McGuire looked at her with a puzzled look on his face wondering why Ella Wallace would have married Ramon if she were a little off the ordinary path. “Perhaps,” Joyce said. “Nobody ever proved it and nobody cared. We were just concerned about Uncle Ramon. After she left, Maureen and me took turns going over to take care of him. You know, going over to see how he was, fixing dinner for him occasionally and things like that. He was always giving us gifts even though he knew we could afford anything we wanted.” “Do you think that Ella was jealous of you and Maureen?” “Of course,” Joyce said. “It is as clear as day. She hated both of us. Ella was the bad sheep of the family and most of us ignored her. I can’t see her being a murderer though.” “And why do you say that?” His statement stumped her. Why didn’t she think that Ella could have possibly killed Maureen? She wondered. Ella could most certainly have been angry enough with Maureen to kill her. Ella was known to have a bad temper, pride that had caused her problems before and she was known for her tendency to seek revenge against those who she perceived as having done her wrong. Joyce knew that Ella considered herself as the rightful owner of everything they had including the millions Ramon had hidden from her. She supposed that Ella might have thought that Ramon had been enticed into giving part of his fortune to his nieces. She didn’t understand anything about the love that existed between uncle and nieces ever since the nieces were young. “Well, I thought that maybe Ella was happy with the money my uncle gave her, except she did try to get it all. Failing that, she might have been angry enough to seek revenge against us. Yeah, I think that might be possible.” McGuire studied her face trying to detect any sign that she really did believe that Ella was the guilty culprit. He knew that her intuition might be an important factor in the case. Women could often sense things about people and he considered that to be a valuable tool in his investigations. “I’m just trying to get a good profile on your aunt, Joyce. We don’t have any proof of anything we suspect her of doing despite the fact that she may have had reasons for killing Maureen. Revenge can be a strong impetus for committing a crime. So can jealously and a few dozen other emotions. You suspect that she was resentful toward Maureen and you. Most people don’t carry out their threats or their aspirations, however many people do. I’ll talk to Mr. Arnold and then I’ll see if I can locate your aunt. Would you have any idea where we can find her, like maybe an address or something?” “Like I said, the last I heard, she was somewhere in Kansas City. There is one other thing you should take into consideration, Lieutenant McGuire.” “What’s that?” “Aunt Ella would be in her late fifties now. Could she do those things that would be required of her if she did kidnap and kill my sister?” McGuire shook his head. “Good point,” he admitted. “I guess she might have managed it. We’ll have to wait until we get more facts. Meantime, I’d like you to keep all the things we discussed between us.” “I’m going over to give my uncle the bad news,” she said with a sad expression on her face. “I don’t want to call him. That might cause him to have a heart attack or something. I’ll deliver the bad news personally.” “That’s fine,” McGuire said. “While I’m taking care of business Miss Wallace, I want you to be careful about letting anyone into the house. You should be aware of your surroundings. Be cautious, but don’t become paranoid. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Joyce looked at him with a troubled expression on her face. While she knew that someone might have something against her and her sister, the stark reality of it, the horror of the possibility that she might be the target of a serial killer had not struck her with the impact of a sledgehammer until Lieutenant McGuire mentioned it. The thought that her aunt might be involved worried her even less. After all, she had known her Aunt Ella all her life. Even though she thought she might be capable of such a thing, she just couldn’t make herself believe it. “Oh? Do you really think I’m in danger, Lieutenant? Should I buy a gun or something?” McGuire didn’t want to frighten her. Understanding that she had already had a nerve-wrecking experience, he hoped to instill caution in her without terrifying her. “No, nothing like that,” he assured her. “Getting a gun permit could take several days. You’ll be safe as long as you don’t let strangers in or walk on dark streets without an escort. I’ll have a patrol car come by your house occasionally. We don’t have all the facts yet, and until we do, I just want to make sure that we use caution in everything that we do. This is just another one of those precautions. The killer might not have even known your sister. The people we have discussed might not even have anything to do with it. This could just be a coincidence. I’ve seen similar cases many times. However, I have to find the killer before he, or she strikes again.” “Do you really think I’m in danger? I mean, if he killed Maureen, he might come for me too.” McGuire felt as if he had stuck his foot in his mouth and was choking on it. His choice of words, so carefully chosen that he hoped they would suggest caution to her without terrifying her, had done just the opposite. Now she knew exactly what he was thinking. Someone was out to make her suffer for some reason that neither of them understood. The killer had murdered her sister to get to her. The killer might come for Joyce Wallace just as he had come for her sister. McGuire knew that he would have a cop stationed across the street watching Joyce. That was the one opportunity he might have for catching the killer, if he came for Joyce. Just in case he did come, he would be ready for him. “No,” he finally said, “I don’t think that he will come here. Just in case he should do that, I’ll have a plain clothes cop across the street watching the house twenty-four hours a day. All you have to do is call his cell phone if you need help. Does that make you feel better?” “A little,” Joyce admitted. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful. I’ll lock all the doors after you have gone.” “Well, I guess I better get to it. Before I go, is there anyone else that you can think of that might want to harm you or your sister?” Joyce wasn’t sure that any of the people she had mentioned could have had anything against her or Maureen, except that George Wilkerson had threatened to kill himself. He hadn’t actually carried out his threat and he hadn’t exactly threatened her, or her sister. Her uncle was an old man and couldn’t have harmed them if he wanted to. His name had been entered into the conversation haphazardly and she would never have brought it up except for the fact that he was one of the last people to see Maureen alive. Her Aunt Ella might have been mad enough to do something drastic, however she doubted that such a thing had happened. Cecil Riley was engaged to Maureen and she was sure he wouldn’t kill her. As she thought about who could have killed her sister, another name came to mind. “There was a man called Errol Sweet that caused us some problems when Maureen and me were still in high school. We were walking home from school one afternoon when he burst out of a store with a gun in his hand. We were able to identify him in a police lineup and they sent him away for twelve years for armed robbery. We were as surprised as everyone else, including our parents, when he stopped in the hallway at the courthouse and threatened us. Two deputies were escorting him back to his cell when that incident occurred. Of course, they hustled him away, but the damage had already been done. We never heard from him again and soon forgot about him.” “I’ll check on him, too,” McGuire said scribbling more notes in his notebook. “I’m sure he will have a record and the police will know where he is, if he isn’t still in prison.” “I wish our little chat was under better circumstances,” Joyce said arising from the couch—an indication that she had other things to do and wished to end the visitation—and offered her hand to McGuire. “Maybe you should give me your business card, just in case.” McGuire fished around in his shirt pocket, then in his billfold until he found one and handed it to her. “I’ll check all this out and get the department to work on it. You be careful, Miss Wallace. Keep me informed and if you need help call me anytime or dial 911.” Actually, he was hoping she would call him. Joyce Wallace was an attractive woman and as he said goodbye, walked down the sidewalk toward his car, he wondered if there might be a possibility she would go out with him. He thought his chances might be increased slightly if he caught the person that killed her sister. A sudden urgency developed in his mind as he realized that he had to find the murderer before they had a chance to harm or kill Joyce Wallace. Standing near his white Corsica, he pulled out his cell phone and called the Wichita Homicide Department. Someone needed to keep a close watch on her. That someone would have to make sure that if the killer did return, that he got the killer before he got Miss Wallace. Playing his mind game with the imaginary game show participants, Ben McGuire tried to figure out who had the opportunity, the motive and the best reason to kill Maureen Wallace. His mind kept going back to cubicle four, Ella Wallace. Could she be the killer? Joyce took a quick shower, dressed in white slacks and a light blue blouse before locking the door behind her as she got into her maroon Mustang and drove to her uncle’s house. Making sure her cell phone was on and ready for use, she put it on the seat beside her. Pulling into the driveway, she took her cell phone, put it on her belt and locked the car as she usually did. Her uncle lived in a large white frame house that sat back off the street on a two-acre tract of land. Underground sprinklers kept the grass green during the hot summer months. A neighbor boy kept the grounds in good shape. Her uncle loved flowers and his roses had won several national awards. She stopped to smell the pleasant fragrance of large pink roses growing near the steps that led up to the porch. Joyce didn’t know the name of the roses. She did know that they were beautiful and she loved to smell them. Ringing the doorbell, she waited until someone opened the door and then stepped across the threshold as her uncle held the door open for her. Hugging him, she gave him a quick peck on his cheek. While he fumbled with the double locks on the door, she studied him looking for any indication that he was ill or that he had changed since she last saw him. Standing almost six feet tall, his once dark hair was now gray. He still had color in his cheeks, his eyes were still a light blue—just like a fall sky—and his shoulders were still as broad as those of a wrestler or lumberjack. When he turned around to greet her, his face was solemn and his eyes were watery. “Good to see you again, Joyce,” he said as his voice quivered. “Come on into the living room and we can talk.” Joyce wondered if he were sick or if someone had already told him about Maureen. Her parents had promised they would not tell him. They would come over later after Joyce had an opportunity to break the news to him as gently as she could. “Are you doing okay, Uncle Ramon?” she asked as she followed him into the living room. He never answered and as she walked into the living room, she understood why. Her stomach quivered as her guts became entangled like two snakes wrapping themselves around each other. A cold hand caressed her neck and a cold chill ran up and down her spine like two confused mice with icy feet. All she could do was stare at a woman standing by the fireplace. The woman with a forty-five automatic in her hand had eyes as cold as polished chrome and the expression on her face made her look a little like Jack the Ripper must have looked after killing one of his victims. Joyce could smell her anger and it made her sick. It was like smelling a polecat infected with maggots on a hot August day. “Ella,” she finally managed to mutter. “What are you doing here?” Unconcerned, Ramon Wallace walked over to an old high-back easy chair and sat down. The upholstery was faded and the flowers that once were beautiful were as vacant as the look on the old man’s face. Resting his elbow on the arm of the chair, he placed his chin in his palm and stared at Ella. “She came to kill me, didn’t you Ella? Isn’t that the reason for your visit?” Ella ignored him. With her eyes fixed on Joyce like a snake eyeing a bird, she walked slowly toward her with the barrel of the weapon pointed at her. “Of course, Ramon,” she said as an evil grin developed on her mouth. “I guess I get two for the price of one. You cheated me, betrayed me and now I’ll deprive you of the things you love. You will pay for your deceit. I warned you, except you didn’t listen, now did you?” Her voice was cold and as satanic as some thing from hell might utter on a cold, foggy night. As she watched his face, she threw her head back and laughed. Her laughter was fanatical, almost as insane as anyone from a mental institution might release upon society. “You got it coming Ramon, except I’m going to make you suffer first. You’re going to watch Joyce die just like you watched Maureen die in that basement. Do you remember that, Ramon? Huh? Do you, you old codger.” “Ella, what’s going on here? Put that gun away so we can talk. What do you mean that Maureen died in the basement?” Joyce wasn’t quite sure she understood what she was talking about, except that it seemed like Ella had killed Maureen in the basement and that Uncle Ramon had watched the entire thing. Her mind felt numb, her heart was attempting to win the Kentucky Derby and she felt as if her legs might crumble under her like salt crackers under the foot of a twelve-foot giant. Maybe McGuire had been right. Perhaps Ella was the murderer. She most certainly had the wildest eyes she had ever seen and her voice was as cold as a snowman in January. “You really think your old uncle loves you? Do you really believe that garbage, Joyce?” She was closer now and only the couch and a coffee table separated them. “Of course Uncle Ramon loves me as much as he loved Maureen,” Joyce insisted. What the hell was Ella getting at? “Oh, yeah,” Ella said. “Have a seat, dear and let me tell you about your uncle Ramon, the fine gentleman that loves his family and his wife. Let me tell you about the torment and torture I have endured from this man for the last thirty years. Have a seat and before you die, you will at least know the truth. You won’t believe it, however you will know what makes him tick.” “No, Ella,” Ramon pleaded. “Let her go. Don’t do this to her and to me. Why are you doing this?” Attempting to arise from the chair, he dropped back down into it as his arthritis tightened its painful grip on his back, arms and legs. Breathing hard, gasping for breath, he sat staring at her. The evil smile on Ella’s face was gone now as Joyce sat down in a nearby chair as she was told to do. Ella’s lips were thin and tight. The last thing she wanted was for Ella to shoot one of them, or both of them before she found a way to stop her. She was much stronger than Ella and she had little doubt that she could overpower the old woman, if she could get close enough to her. For a woman in her late fifties, Ella Wallace was in amazingly good shape. She had retained her slim figure except for a slight bulge in her stomach that was hardly noticeable from the front. Her red hair—that she wore hanging down to her shoulders—showed very little sign of aging and her eyes were as clear as a spring rain. Her face and forehead were free of wrinkles and her pale skin was blemish free. “Let me tell you about your uncle, Joyce since you think so much of him. When we married, I never knew I was marrying a monster and a murderer. That’s right, a murderer. Can you believe that?” “No, I don’t think so,” Joyce admitted watching for a chance to sock the old bag in her mouth and take the gun away from her. Her hopes drained from her mind like water running from a bucket with a hole in it as Ella moved around the couch and sat down. Going to be a long talk, Joyce thought. Good, got to keep her talking. The longer she talks, the better the chance I can overpower her. “I don’t know what you are talking about, Ella. But, if I know you, you’re going to tell me all about it. Maybe you should tell the cops about it, too?” “The cops don’t have nuthin’ to do with this,” she said pointing the gun at Joyce. “This is between Ramon and me. I guess you expect me to say that I’m sorry you girls got dragged into it, but I’m not. In fact, I kind of enjoyed your uncle’s horror when I sliced, cut and carved your sister’s body until she couldn’t scream any more. I only killed your sister to get even with her because she took my money. I’ll do the same thing to you, dear. Of course, nobody will know about that and your uncle will go to prison for killing all those other women after I tell the cops what he did. I intend to make sure he gets the blame for killing you and Maureen as well.” “You bitch,” Joyce yelled and jumped up from the chair as Ella stood up and hit her across her face with the barrel of the gun. Dazed, Joyce fell back down into the chair. Blood streamed down her face from a long slash on her cheek. “There, see what you’ve done. Now just sit there and listen. Next time, it will be worse, so don’t make me hit you again.” Joyce couldn’t say anything. Her head was throbbing so bad she could do little except fight the desire to black out. Maybe I’m in more trouble than I thought, she silently admitted to herself. The truth rushed into her mind like a freight train running full throttle down a steep incline. Her aunt was as crazy as any person could be. She could see insanity in her eyes, on her face and it was well represented in her slurred speech. “Well, now that you understand the circumstances, mostly that I’m in command here and I won’t put up with your crap,” Ella said while looking directly at the old man. “Let me tell Joyce what I’ve been through on account of you, the most worthless monster that ever existed.” Turning her attention toward Joyce, she remarked, “Like I said, if I had known what he was really like, I would never have married him. He did all right—we did all right—for the first ten years of our marriage. Ol’ Ramon was a butcher at the meat packing plant, you know and my how he loved to carve meat. He had an eye for young women, too. Did you know that Joyce? Well, I guess not. You were too young to know such things. I caught him in bed with one of his young women—my bed—one afternoon when he thought I was working and he was supposed to be working. I threatened to divorce him if it ever happened again. That young woman, Miss Patricia Long was found a few days later out in the woods with her throat cut, her sexual organs removed and a few other bizarre things that would make your skin crawl. When I confronted Ramon about it, he denied it and beat me until I couldn’t even go to work for a week. I was working down at the nightclub and it was a damn good thing that Bob Denning liked me a lot or I would have been out of work on account of that uncle of yours. The beatings intensified. Every time something in his life went wrong, he blamed me for it. Eventually, I sought and found solace in having friends. He accused me of being a little too friendly with my friends. Since he accused me of it, I tried it and really liked it. I found myself in a dilemma. I was married to a monster and a murderer. I couldn’t leave him because I found out he was hoarding our money, making investments and things like that. While I slaved at the bar all night long, he was out playing with young women. More and more of them turned up dead.” Joyce sat back and put her hands in her pockets. Her arm touched something she had completely forgotten all about, her cell phone. If she could just push it up so it fell on the couch next to her, she might be able to dial 911, she thought with a ray of hope about the size of light from a birthday candle. Any hope is better than none at all, she thought as she managed to dislodge the phone from her belt. Watching Ella carefully as she spoke, Joyce put her hand on the phone so Ella could not see it. So far, so good, she thought. “It’s all a lie, Joyce. Don’t you believe a word of it,” Ramon said. Pointing his finger at Ella, he replied, “She’s making it all up, trying to confuse you and setting herself up to get all that money. That woman is the murderer, the killer not only of all those women, but the murderer of your sister also. She’s telling you all this because I discovered what she was doing a long time ago. I loved her too much to turn her in to the law. That’s why I was investing all the money that I could, so I could have enough to get away from her when I got the chance. After I got hurt, I was unable to defend myself or do much else. She took advantage of my bad health and continued to kill her lovers. She enjoyed enticing them to this very house, right under my nose, making love to them and then torturing them to death in the basement. Afterwards, she would dump them somewhere else where they would be found.” With a slight movement of her fingers, Joyce had the phone in the palm of her hand, pressed against the couch. A flick of her finger would open it allowing her to dial a number. Her only chance was to somehow distract Ella long enough to dial 911. “Uncle Ramon, why did you let her do you this way? You know she never loved you in the first place. When did you first discover that she liked other women?” Ramon Wallace was staring at Ella with eyes that could have burned through a brick wall if they were laser beams. Hate dwelled in the heart of the man who once loved Ella Wallace. Poised to spring at her if she came close enough to him despite his painful arthritis, he attempted to get to his feet. Failing in his attempt to stand, he dropped back into his seat breathing hard. “When we married, I loved Ella more than anything in this world,” he said. “She was often visiting friends even before I got hurt. After I got hurt, she was still working at that bar and started bringing them home with her. Ignoring my needs, my suffering, and me she would take them to her bedroom to spend the night. Sometime during the night, she would entice them into the basement where she would use her sadistic powers to torture them and kill them. I never suspected such things from her before I got sick, even though I read about the murders of the young women in the papers. I guess she was killing them before I got hurt. When she knew I was helpless, her true colors came through. She realized she could torture me as well as the young women. I was a prisoner in this house and she was the warden.” Joyce managed to find the number nine and pushed it hoping Ella wouldn’t hear the noise of the phone when she dialed the final digit. “Don’t listen to that old bastard,” Ella screamed. Standing, she walked over to him and slapped him across his face. Joyce dialed the final two digits and pushed the dial button. She could barely hear the voice on the phone telling her she had two hundred and ten minutes left. Ramon attempted to shield his face from her vicious blows with his elbow. Ella slapped him on top of his head several times. Ramon screamed at her and grabbed her left arm before she could strike him again. Joyce lunged forward hitting Ella with the full impact of her body. Ella fell to the floor as the weapon fell on the carpet a few inches from Ramon’s feet. “You’re making a bad mistake,” Ella yelled as Joyce wrestled her on the rug. With little effort, Joyce managed to straddle Ella and sat on top of her. “If you move, you bitch, I’ll knock your teeth out,” Joyce yelled. She had both of Ella’s arms pinned to the floor. Ella finally stopped struggling as if she realized that it was all over. Her eyes were wide, her face was pallid and she was staring over Joyce’s shoulder. “You should have listened to her, Joyce,” a familiar voice said from behind her. Joyce glanced over her shoulder. Ramon Wallace was standing behind her with a cane in one hand and the weapon in the other. The cane was resting on the carpet. The mean barrel of a forty-five was pointed at her head. “I killed all those women,” he admitted with tears in his eyes. “I killed them because Ella left me for them. For years, I secretly sought her lovers and killed them. One night when one of her friends spent the night with her, I couldn’t stand it anymore and took her young woman to the basement and killed her. You see, I’ve never been completely disabled. I had a little mobility, enough to allow me to get around. My back seemed to heal rather quickly after the accident. Oh, I was in a lot of pain sometimes, however the pain wasn’t so bad after a while that I couldn’t seek out her lovers and kill them, one by one. Determination, jealousy and revenge are powerful motivators. Desperate, Ella told Maureen all about me after she moved away. Maureen confronted me about it. I denied it. Maureen didn’t believe me. I knew I had to kill her or suffer the consequences. You see, after they caught Dennis, who was nothing more than an imitator looking for publicity, I tried to quit my bad habit but as you may know, I was unable to do so. Maureen brought back the fear that I would be discovered and I didn’t have any choice except to kill her. Leaving her body where you would find it was a stroke of genius because I thought that you would think that a serial killer had killed Maureen. I was just trying to throw suspicion away from me. I’m sorry, Joyce but you and Ella have to die now.” Before Joyce could react, Ramon pointed the weapon at Ella who was sitting up on the floor. Squeezing the trigger, he smiled as a bullet exploded from the barrel striking Ella between her eyes. As blood, flesh and fragments of bone splattered against the wall behind her, Ella’s body jerked and twitched a couple of times before coming to rest a few feet from the window. Joyce froze as Ramon turned to face her. With her arms numb, her stomach trembling like an earthquake and cold shivers developing between her shoulder blades, she knew she was going to die. How could her uncle kill her? The old man didn’t look anything like the killer that had murdered over twenty young women and he didn’t resemble the monster that had murdered her sister. Dennis was the killer, not her uncle. Dennis had confessed to the crimes and had served time in prison. Unable to accept the fact that her uncle was the killer, she started to plead with him for her life, to convince him that Ella was really the guilty one, not him. She supposed that Ella had brainwashed him into thinking that he really committed the crimes. “Uncle Ramon, please, let’s talk this over. I know that Ella did those things to you and that she convinced you that you did it. It had to happen that way, didn’t it?” Ramon smiled at her. “No, Joyce. What she said is the truth. Now, I must finish this up and get it over with. I’ve suffered for too long. As painful as it must seem, this will soon be over for you. I have to suffer for eternity for what I did, however your suffering will soon be over. Goodbye, Joyce. You and Maureen will be together some day.” “No, Uncle Ramon, you must not do this. Please, don’t kill me. We can still work this out.” Ramon pointed the gun at her. Smiling, his finger tightened on the trigger. Joyce closed her eyes. A shot rang out and Joyce waited for the darkness to come, for the light at the end of the tunnel except she only heard the explosion of the gun followed by a thud as something heavy hit the coffee table sending it careening into her legs. Opening her eyes, she put her hands to her face and screamed. Joyce Wallace was still screaming when the cops arrived. Her Uncle Ramon had shot his wife and then turned the weapon on himself. His brains were scattered all over the ceiling. * * * Three days later, in a quiet restaurant on the south side of Wichita, Ben McGuire sat at a table in the corner of a dining room looking at Joyce Wallace. Dressed in a fabulous dark green dress with her hair resting on her shoulders, she was the most delightful woman he had ever been out with. “So, do you think your uncle really killed all those people, or did your aunt do it?” The steak was tender and well done, just the way he liked it. However, he wasn’t thinking of steak as he studied her face wondering if she really liked him or not. The case had gone as cold as ice. He had walked into a brick wall and nothing he did seemed to stop his nose from bleeding. Nobody could decide which one of the suspects had actually killed all those women, or if they had killed anyone. With a grim expression on her face, Joyce carved a piece of steak and popped it into her mouth as she thought about the question. Before she stopped chewing, before she swallowed, her eyes widened and she reached into her purse and pulled out a long, white envelope. “This is for you,” she mumbled between bites. “It might shed a little light on what happened.” McGuire took the envelope and looked at it. It wasn’t sealed. Opening the flap, he looked inside. Shaking the envelope, he let a small object fall into the palm of his hand. “A ring,” he said thoughtfully looking at Joyce for an answer. “Where did this come from?” “I found it by Maureen’s body the day I found her,” she explained. “I had intended to give it to you and forgot.” “Who does it belong to?” “My aunt,” Joyce said staring at McGuire. “It was her wedding ring. As far as I know she never took it off, for any reason. Just as she still had her engagement band on when she died, she never took either ring off. That means that she probably killed all those women and blamed it on my uncle. She must have lost it while struggling with the body of my sister.” “There is another possibility,” McGuire offered. “Your uncle stole the ring and left it there.” Joyce put her fork on her plate and stared at McGuire. “I suppose that could be possible,” she agreed, “except for one small detail.” “What are you talking about?” “Well, Mr. Detective, if you had run a background check on my uncle, you would have found out that he doesn’t have a drivers license.” “Why not?” “He has diabetes. Remember? About two years ago, the disease damaged small nerves in his eyes. He has had double vision for a long time. He couldn’t drive and he didn’t even own a car. My aunt did drive and owned a van and a car. I had a friend check on it. The van was at my uncle’s house. I never noticed it parked on the street because I didn’t know she was there, until later. I’m sure your men must have told you about that or at least put it in their reports.” “Of course,” McGuire replied, “except that I never—” “Put two and two together,” Joyce finished the sentence for him. “It took me a long time before I remembered that he didn’t drive and that the person that dumped my sister’s body in the park did drive. Remember the marks on the ground where someone dragged the body from the road. When I found the ring in my pocket, I started thinking about all that. My aunt had to be the one because my uncle couldn’t drive. Obviously, she was a lesbian and killed all those women. Don’t ask me to explain everything because I don’t know what caused her to do it, except she must have gotten some kind of maddening satisfaction from it. She was a sadist. That’s why she treated my uncle like she did. She dominated him and he was telling the truth when he said that he was hoarding money so he could get far away from her. He was terrified of her. She killed Maureen because she hated Maureen and me. The woman was crazy. There is little doubt about that. You found Maureen’s shoes in Ella’s van. You thought that Maureen had left them in the van except Maureen would never have gone anywhere with Ella, willingly. She kept the shoes as a memento of her gruesome activities.” “Now, those black slippers did raise a few eyebrows,” McGuire said applauding himself and the homicide division. “You have to give us a little credit for having brains. We are still trying to find out how they got there and how Maureen came into contact with your aunt since nobody seemed to know where your aunt lived. We thought that maybe Maureen had found out where she lived and went to her house. We were willing to bet that your uncle knew exactly where she was. I was on my way to your uncle’s residence when the 911 call came in. They traced your phone to the exact location where your uncle lives. For some strange reason, I knew something was wrong. We hustled as fast as we could. I really wasn’t surprised to find both of them dead.” “I was still in shock when you knocked at the door,” Joyce admitted. “It took me several minutes to pull myself together enough to even let you in. Come on, Lieutenant McGuire,” she pleaded, “you know Aunt Ella did it. Uncle Ramon was incapable of such a thing, especially after he was injured. You saw the coroner’s report that confirmed that he had spinal arthritis and a bad back on top of it. The coroner said that he had been that way for several years. If I did my mathematics right that means that he was in bad shape at least back to the time he was injured at the meat packing plant. If anyone done any killing after that, it had to be Ella. Uncle Ramon rarely left the house without one of the family escorting him. I know that to be a fact.” “There are several confusing issues involved in this case,” McGuire said taking a sip of black coffee. Putting the cup down on the table, he glanced around and noticed several people at other tables who seemed to be taking an interest in their conversation. Leaning forward, he lowered his voice so it was only audible to Joyce Wallace. “For one thing, Ella claimed that Ramon did it. She admitted that she killed Maureen for revenge, however we already assumed that. Ramon claimed, at first, that she did it and at the end, he took credit for all the murders himself. He insisted that he did it. Am I to assume that Ella caught Ramon in bed with one of his girlfriends and that Ella killed that woman? Am I also to assume, without proof, that he beat his wife? Was Ella guilty of the crimes implied by your uncle? How will we ever know the real truth?” Joyce sighed. Pushing her plate aside, she rested her chin in the palms of her hands. Looking at McGuire, she spoke, “All difficult questions,” she admitted. “There were rumors in family circles that Uncle Ramon had an eye for younger women. We never saw anything out of him though. My mother cautioned Maureen and me to be careful around him. In all the years we knew him, he never said or did anything to imply that he was sexually interested in us. Most of the time he would hug us and that was about it. Nothing abnormal ever happened. The young woman that Ella spoke of was found dead, murdered horribly and mutilated. If you’re looking for a common denominator, you have to look at the fact that all the victims either worked at the same nightclub where Ella worked or they hung out there. Not one of them worked at the meat packing plant. How would Uncle Ramon have met them unless Ella introduced them to him?” “That is another good point,” McGuire said. “You might make a good detective, someday. So, do you think that in the end, Ramon Wallace took all the blame on himself to keep Ella out of it because he actually loved her? Why would he do something stupid like that?” “He was old. When you get older, your mind sometimes becomes fixated on the past. He probably remembered her as she was when they first got married and couldn’t let go of those memories. He decided that it was better for him to take the blame than to let her suffer. He killed her and himself hoping they would be together in death. I’m not saying that Uncle Ramon is completely innocent of any crimes. I believe that he did have an affair or two with other women. I could see it in his eyes when he looked at Maureen and me. A woman notices these things, you know.” “I thought you said that he wasn’t sexually attracted to you and your sister,” McGuire inquired. “He didn’t make any attempt to approach us is what I meant,” Joyce told him. “It was in his eyes. I’m certain of that much.” “Great,” McGuire said. “What do you see in my eyes?” “Lust,” Joyce replied trying to stifle the smile that burst forth on her mouth. “I think you have the ability to control yourself though.” “You bet,” McGraw said. “Mostly because I hope to get another date with you.” “Tell me what you really know, what you’re holding out on me and I might make your wildest dreams come true,” she promised. McGraw looked at her not believing that she was bribing him, intimidating him to give out confidential information. “You’re a hard one to deal with,” he admitted. “What do you want to know?” “Exactly what you found in that basement at my Uncle’s house?” “Not much,” McGuire confessed without disclosing much else. Shocked, Joyce looked at him as an expression of amazement covered her face. “Mr. McGraw, if you want to go out with me, you’re going to have to work harder at it than this. You must have found something.” McGraw forced a slight smile and cleared his throat. “I wouldn’t want to keep you in suspense,” he said. “We did find blood on an old dining table in the basement. The blood belonged to Maureen. We believe that someone killed her in your uncle’s basement.” “That’s all? What about Ella’s house? What did you find there? I know you found something because you’ve been picking my brain for the last two days and not telling me anything. Is this any way to start a friendship?” “I thought we were already friends,” McGraw said. “You make it sound like this might be a long term affair.” “Not a all,” Joyce said quickly. “I just think you were stalling until you got up enough courage to ask me for a second date. Withholding information from a potential girlfriend can be a deadly sin.” “I’m beginning to see that,” he said. “Heaven knows I wouldn’t want to do such a thing.” “So, confess and be done with it,” Joyce demanded. “Okay, I guess I know when I’m whipped. What we found in your aunt’s basement would fry the brain of a maggot. Your aunt was a rich and deadly mistress. She had a complete dungeon down there hidden in a secret room. We almost missed it. However, one of our prying detectives happened to lean against a wall that turned out to be a secret entrance to a human torture chamber. She had all the accommodations for her guests, whips, sharp knives and even a hospital-operating table complete with sturdy restraints. In a file cabinet, we found pictures of her victims at various stages in her operating procedures. All were tortured before they were slowly mutilated and then dumped in some part of the city. She also had kept a detailed journal telling about all her exploits. She admitted that she caught your uncle with a young woman and killed her. After your uncle got hurt, Ella kept him drugged up so he couldn’t do much. That’s why he never told anyone about her. He was dependent on her for the drugs. After the divorce, she occasionally visited his house dressed as a nurse. She would give him drugs and tried to force him to make out a will leaving all his money to her. Failing that, she told him she was going to kill Maureen and you if he didn’t do it. He didn’t think she had the gumption to kill you girls, so he refused. Ella came to the house when Maureen was there and captured her. Taking both Maureen and Ramon to the basement, she drugged him and made him watch while she did her work. Yes, dear Joyce, it seems that your aunt was responsible for the entire violence. There is something else that you should know.” Shocked from the revelation, Joyce fought back streams of tears that flowed down her cheeks. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “How could all this happen to someone like Maureen and me?” “Bad things happen to good people,” McGuire said as he leaned forward and attempted to wipe away her tears with a napkin. “Do you want to wait until you’re feeling better for the rest of it?” Brushing her long hair from her face, Joyce rested her elbows on the table while staring at her plate. “No, I want to know all of it. I want to know why someone would do something like this. Thanks to Ella Wallace, dozens of families have been made to suffer and an innocent man spent most of his life in prison. Why did she do it?” “Money, for one thing,” he said. “But, that wasn’t the only reason. Ella had a tumor the size of a quarter on her brain. The doctors, especially the coroner, think that it has been there since she was a child slowly growing and changing her perception of life and just waiting to turn her into one of the worst killers of all time.” Pushing her plate further away from her, she turned to Lieutenant McGraw. “Let’s go,” she said. “This case is closed as far as I’m concerned. We’ll give some of our money to Dennis’s family. It’s the least we can do.” “Where do we go? We still have the trial you know.” “I know,” she said. “Except, who are they going to convict? Nobody will be convicted because the killer has already met justice at the hands of one of her victims. Let’s go to the park and talk, Mr. McGraw. Let’s talk about baseball, football, flowers, life and us. I have been thinking about writing murder mysteries in my spare time and you and I might have a lot to share.” “Oh, I’m sure we have a lot to share,” he said. “I could spend the rest of my life just getting to know you, Joyce Wallace.” “It might just take you that long, too,” she said as he paid the bill and they walked out of the restaurant and up the street toward his car. “I have lots of time and I know lots of things we can talk about,” he said taking her hand in his. “Lots of things.” “I bet you do,” she replied. “I bet you do.” As a red sun lowered itself toward a dark bed on the horizon, she knew the world would never be the same without Maureen and her uncle, except she knew she would always have a new companion to share her life with. Maybe he could take away some of her pain and keep her from remembering these horrible times every minute of her life. Maybe he could do just that. The End
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