Into the Devil’s Reach


"Sexual Pleasure is Satan's Touch . . ."

"Hell awaits . . . 666 . . ."

"The Prince of Darkness rules..."

―scrawled in human blood at a confirmed satanic ritual site

(stated in a declassified FBI report dated August 20, 2004)



Early Summer, 2006


“You must realize that there is no earthly hope,” Sheriff Dwayne Wexler said. “You have been chosen by my Lord and Master to fulfill a divine destiny.” The sheriff, his lean, muscular frame bulging against his too-tight uniform, looked at the family that he had bound and gagged. They hung from hooks attached to the ceiling. The mother and father had fear and burning hatred in their eyes. The college-bound daughter and the high-school senior son looked at him with absolute terror. “I understand your emotions, but it’s best that you accept your destiny.”

Sheriff Wexler stepped over to the father. He looked the father in the eyes and whispered, “I realize this is embarrassing to you, not being able to protect your wife and kids, but find comfort in knowing that you won’t be here to see what awaits them.” The sheriff saw that the father’s eyes were pleading for mercy. “It’s not going to happen.”

The father struggled to rip the hook from the overhead beam.

Wexler chuckled. He ripped off the duct tape from the father’s mouth. He watched as the father fought for air.

“Please, let them go,” the father pleaded. “Do what you want with me.”

“Oh, I’m going to,” the sheriff said. “Believe me on that one.” He put a fresh piece of tape on the father’s mouth, then stepped back and looked at the family. The father, in casual slacks and a dress shirt, was overweight by about fifty pounds. The mother, in tight jeans and a blue blouse, was petite. Her blonde hair was cut short. She’s at least ten years younger than him, the sheriff thought. The daughter had long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. She took after her father with the weight. Her breasts compensated for the few extra pounds. The son, tall and athletic, was the typical jock. He had pissed in his pants. “The all-American family took a wrong turn and stumbled into a clichéd nightmare.”

“Dwayne!” a male voice yelled from upstairs.

Sheriff Wexler moved to the stairs. “Down here.” After a few seconds, the sheriff saw his brother come down the stairs. “How you doing?”

“What do you have here?”

“It’s the Clutter family,” the sheriff said, chuckling. He looked at his brother to appreciate the joke. “The Clutter family. From In Cold Blood.”

“I never saw it.”

“It’s a classic,” the sheriff said. “Never mind.” He looked at the family, knowing that they had a glimmer of hope that they could be saved. They don’t know my brother, he thought.

“This is my lucky day.”

Wexler smiled. “You’re going to appreciate this. He’s a minister,” he said, gesturing to the father.

“All the better.”

“Do you have time?” the sheriff asked.

“Not much. I want the kids.”

“They’re yours.”

Sheriff Wexler watched as his brother went to the nearby workbench and picked up a knife and two pairs of handcuffs. “I’m taking ‘em outside,” the brother said.

“It’s your sacrifice.” Sheriff Wexler helped his brother unhook the daughter and son and watched as his brother led them up the stairs. The sheriff unhooked the father.

“You just relax,” the sheriff said to the mother. He pushed the father to a far door. He unlocked it and pulled the father into a small concrete room. Another hook hung from the ceiling. He hooked the father back up over a drain in the floor.

The sheriff went back and looked at the assortment of knives on the workbench. He picked one and walked past the mother. He laughed as she wrestled to escape. “Save your strength.”

Sheriff Wexler closed the door and eyed the father. “Are you praying? Asking for God to help you? Praying for an avenging angel to appear and slay the evil ones?” He got inches from the father’s face. “I want you to know, I could have fucked your wife or daughter, or, for that matter, your son in front of you. But I didn’t. So you appreciate that. I have two choices here. Kill you fast or kill you not so fast.” The sheriff moved behind the terrified man. Slowly, he carved a pentagram into the father’s skin. Blood dripped. From behind, he ran the knife gently across the father’s throat. He moved in front and watched the blood slide down the front of the man. “Since I don’t respect you, I think slow is the way to go.” Suddenly, he plunged the knife into the father’s groin and stepped back, leaving the knife in. “You have, maybe, two hours to live. Pray, pray, pray,” he said mockingly, “for your eternal soul.” He ripped the tape off the man’s mouth.

The father started to gag and convulse. “I . . . forgive you,” the father said.

Sheriff Wexler smiled and said, “That makes me warm and fuzzy all over.” He reached down, gripped the knife, and turned it. He jumped to the side as blood erupted from the father’s mouth. “Well, that’s just plain rude. Sorry, man, I’m just fucking with ya.”

Leaving the father to die, Sheriff Wexler stepped in front of the mother. Looking her up and down, he thought, She’s really hot for a minister’s wife. Gently as he could, he started to remove the duct tape from the mother’s mouth. When he was almost done, he said, “Get ready. Here we go.” With a quick yank, he ripped the last of the tape off her mouth. He put his hand over her mouth to ease the sting. Better not bite it, he thought.

The mother gasped for air.

Sheriff Wexler stepped back and looked the mother in the eye. “I’m gonna tell you what you’re thinking. Or, what you should be thinking.” Wexler thought for a second and said, “My husband is probably dead. This asshole in front of me killed him. But I am alive. And my kids are alive. So, I need to do whatever it takes to get out of here. I need to save my kids. I will kill this fucker with my bare hands if I get the chance. I can survive this—”

“Where are my children?” the mother screamed.

“With my brother.”

“Why are you doing this?” the mother asked. “We don’t deserve this. We never—”

“No one ever does,” the sheriff interrupted. “It’s just the cruelty of the world we live in. Now, listen to me, lady. Your fat fuck of a husband was a waste of life. I had no use for him. But you, you can serve me. You need to get it in your head that you’re not going to die here if, and only if, you do as I say. Do you understand?”

“Promise me you won’t hurt my children,” the mother said.

The sheriff raised his right hand and said, “I promise I won’t hurt your kids.”

“And your brother won’t.”

Sheriff Wexler smiled. “He’s gonna have to have you himself.” He watched as the mother closed her eyes and started crying.

“Don’t hurt my babies,” the mother cried out.

He cut the mother down. “Make me not want to hurt them.”




Sheriff Wexler, naked, stood at the small window of the two-story cabin. The mother, with a thirty-foot chain around her ankle, was tied to a brass bed in the middle of the room. She was naked and curled in a fetal position. The bed was bolted down. A few feet away, a bathtub was bolted down. There were movable mirrors pushed off to the side.

The sheriff looked at the moonlight reflecting off the lake behind the cabin. His eyes shifted to a large fifty-foot totem pole and then to his brother tying down the daughter, spread-eagle style. He saw that his brother had already decapitated the son.

The sheriff smiled as he watched his brother take off his clothes. The mother will be so much better, he thought as he turned and moved the four mirrors around the bed.

“You can do this,” the sheriff said as he stroked the mother’s hair. “Please me, and you live to see another day. You live to embrace your children.”

“Promise?” the mother whispered.

“I promise.”

Sheriff Wexler stretched out the mother on the bed. Snuggling up to her, he started to kiss her softly. She did not respond. Lie there and I’ll gut you like a fish, he thought. His left hand cupped her breast. “You’re very pretty.”

The mother shrugged her shoulders. She kept her eyes closed.

The sheriff saw that she was working hard at controlling her breathing. “I said you’re very pretty,” the sheriff said, as he ran his middle finger over her nipples.

“What do you want me to say?” she asked.

“Thank you.”

“Thank you,” the mother weakly replied.

The sheriff leaned up on his elbow. “Open your eyes.”

The mother shook her head no. She fought back tears.

“Open ‘em or I’ll open them for you,” the sheriff said. He saw the mother open her eyes and stare at the ceiling. “Look at me.”

She did as the sheriff commanded.

“Pretty green eyes,” the sheriff said. He looked at the reflections of their naked bodies. “We look good together. I want to ask you something.” He looked at his face in the mirror. “This sounds egotistical, but I heard the other day that the hot debate among some of the girls in town is whether I look more like Matthew McConaughey or Brad Pitt. What do you think?”

“I don’t know.”

“You must have an opinion.”

“Brad Pitt.”

“Really. I’d go with McConaughey. Everybody sees things differently.” The sheriff ran his hand slowly over her body. “Do you work out?”


“Did your husband?”

“No, he was too busy.”

“Was he good in bed?” the sheriff asked. His hand slid down between her legs.


“Are you lying to me?” He was starting to get aroused.


“You’re telling me that fat ass was a stud in—”

“He was a good, decent man,” the mother interrupted. “I was very happy with him.”

Fucking lying bitch, the sheriff thought. Then why are you getting wet? “Just pretend I’m him then.” He took her hand and put it on his semi-erect penis. “Do it.” She started to stroke him. “That feels good.” He started to kiss her and was pleasantly surprised when she returned the kiss. I know what you’re thinking, he thought, how can I kill this guy? Little do you know if you tried that, it would just turn me on even more.

“Do you like that?” the mother asked.

Sheriff Wexler felt her grip his penis more firmly. “Yes.” Suddenly, the sheriff lay completely down. “Sit on me.” He watched as the mother positioned herself over him. He eased into her. He saw her close her eyes and heard a soft moan. You know it’s good. He started thrusting into her. After two minutes, he moaned in frustration and slowed his rhythm.

“Do you want me to suck you?” the mother asked.

“No,” the sheriff mumbled breathlessly. Nice try, lady, he thought, but I learned a long time ago that a woman sucking your dick could bite it off if she so chooses. At that second, the sheriff felt the delectable sensation rising.

“Maybe a different position,” the mother suggested.

“I’m good,” Sheriff Wexler mumbled. His hands moved from her hips over her bouncing breasts to her neck. His hands caressed her throat. “Satan,” the sheriff moaned, as he reached under the mattress and pulled out a knife, “accept my sacrifice in your name and take her eternal soul into your arms.” He saw the mother open her eyes.

Be forever grateful that you have been chosen,he thought.

Stunned at her speed and ferocity, the sheriff realized that the mother had both hands on his knife hand and was sinking her teeth into his wrist. He smashed her face with his left hand, but like a wounded pit bull she dug in deeper. Wexler dropped the knife. It fell and stuck in the floor.

Wexler felt the mother roll off him. He saw her come up with the knife. Bitch isdangerous. He smirked when her eyes glanced at his erection. “We each have a weapon.” Be careful here, you’re playing with fire.

“I’ll kill you,” the mother snarled.

“Look out the window, lady. Your kids are already dead.” He was shocked when she lunged at him. He grabbed her wrist and smashed it against his knee. The knife dropped into the floor. Wexler grabbed it, threw the mother face down onto the bed, and drove the knife into her back.

The mother screamed.

Wexler pulled the knife out, threw it to the floor, and, using the woman’s blood as lubrication, pleasured himself as she sucked in her dying breaths. “Satan, accept my gift into the eternal fires of your kingdom.”

Minutes later, after unceremoniously dropping the body to the floor, Sheriff Wexler walked to the window. He looked down and saw his brother driving a knife into the daughter’s chest. The sheriff opened the window and listened as his brother sacrificed the daughter.

“Satan, Lucifer, Belial, Leviathan,” the brother’s voice boomed out into the night air, “I have chosen one to please you. Behold the mighty voices of my vengeance. I call upon the messengers of doom to come forth this night and take this sacrifice to the fires of Hell. Demon Lord, pierce her lungs with the sating of a thousand scorpions.”

Sheriff Wexler closed the window and looked at the body of the mother. You thought my brother and I were evil, but we send only the chosen ones to our Lord and Master.

The sheriff unlocked the chain off the mother’s ankle, picked her up, and dropped her into the bathtub.




Sheriff Wexler stood over the mutilated bodies of the daughter and son. He saw that the son’s arms were handcuffed to a chain around the totem pole. The torso and legs were a few feet away. Head went for a swim, I guess. He watched as his brother washed the blood off himself in the lake.

Emerging from the lake, his brother started to sing, “Show me the way to go home. I’m tired and I want to go bed.”

“Are you staying the night?” the sheriff asked.

“No, I have to get back.”

The sheriff picked up his brother’s clothes and handed them to him. “It was lucky that you stopped by. I’d have had my hands full here.”

“Bullshit. I’m surprised you let me have a couple.”

The sheriff laughed. “I didn’t want to be greedy.”

“Truth is, I just had one.”

“Really, how was it?” the sheriff asked.

“Very disappointing. Some piece-of-street trash. Called herself Lady Love. No time to do it properly.”

Sheriff Wexler looked at the mutilated bodies. “Well, you made up for it here.”

“Yeah, I suppose I did. Still feel the itch, though.”

The sheriff chuckled. “Next time you’re in town, we need to do one together.”

“Sounds good.”

“But you need to be careful. It sounds like you might be getting sloppy.”

“Never,” the brother said. “Listen, I need to be heading out.”

Wexler nodded his head. He hugged his brother, held him tight, and said, “I mean it. Be careful.” Love you, he thought, and I’d hate to lose you.





The next morning, the boat drifted to a stop. Sheriff Wexler stood up, raised his hands, and bowed his head. “My Lord and Master, please accept this sacrifice into your welcoming arms. They fulfilled their destiny here on Earth and now belong in your eternal grace.”

As always, the sheriff struggled to get the bodies over the edge of the boat. But he managed to do so. He dropped the mother’s body last. Wrapped in chains, it descended quickly. He swore the eyes opened. Creepy, he thought. He waved as the mother joined her family at the bottom of the watery grave.

Sheriff Wexler rowed back to shore. Suddenly, he remembered their name. They were the Ashbridge family. The sheriff smiled and thought, All they did was pull off the interstate for a quick dinner in my little town of Oakdale. How very fortunate for me. After reaching shore, climbing out of the boat, and securing it, the sheriff walked to the totem pole. He pulled out a pocketknife. With the tip of the blade, he carved four notches in it.


Chapter 1

Late Summer, 2006


“How can there be a God?” Jennifer Mueller mumbled as images of mutilated bodies flashed on the TV screen before her. The narrator explained that there could be between thirty and forty serial killers still unidentified across the country. “The devil goes down tomorrow,” she spat out. She picked up the remote, put it on pause, and grabbed the case file off the table.

Jennifer scanned the reports of Homicide Detective Don Marcotte. The detective was the man who figured out who the “the Devil” was. After a few minutes, Jennifer tossed the report on her desk. After rubbing her eyes, she looked across the station house room at Nick Streeter, her partner, who was flipping through books of mug shots of prostitutes. She smiled, but then her eyes drifted down to the frozen image of a butchered body. “We’re going to avenge ‘em, Nick.” Jennifer pushed the pause button, and the image quickly morphed into home movies of a young female forest ranger with a voiceover by a young girl describing how she never knew her mother.

Jennifer turned the TV off. Still dressed as a hooker, she wanted to shower and change clothes, but she felt it was more important to study Marcotte’s files than not appear sleazy before the legendary homicide detective. She pulled up her thick reddish-brown hair and started to reread the files. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nick lean back and stretch out his arms. Nick was slightly over six feet tall, with a thick torso and powerful arms from years of weightlifting. Casually, she watched as he ran his hands through his short, curly black hair with just a touch of gray at the temples. He then stroked his goatee. His thinking gesture, she thought. She recalled how Nick had been nicknamed Magnum when they first came onto the force because of his resemblance to Tom Selleck. They had flirted briefly when they were both in the academy, but lost track when they were assigned to different districts. She was married less than a year later, got pregnant, ended up losing the baby, and later divorced her abusive husband. Don’t go there, she thought. You have so much to be thankful for. Like that night that changed your life less than a year ago.




Jennifer was working the corner of 34th and Canal, a hot spot for action. It  was a rough neighborhood, but it was next to the expressway. Many businessmen who had the courage would cut through this section of the city to save some time getting home. Dressed in a red leather mini-skirt, a black nylon halter-top, and black leather knee-high boots, Jennifer drew the attention of every man who drove by her. It was only natural for these men to have thoughts and fantasies. Enjoy them, Jennifer used to think, but when you stop and offer to pay, you’re going down.

Down the block, Nick was sitting in the old station wagon. She was wired so he could hear her, but she couldn’t hear him. She knew he was there. Total trust. You had to have it with your partner. That was something Jennifer always liked about being a cop. Even if you hated your partner, thought he or she was a low-life, motherfucking piece of shit, you would always protect his back on the job. That was the code.

The chain of events started when the street preacher, obviously drunk, crossed the street to save the “hooker’s soul.”

“You need to repent for the abhorrent sins of your life,” he exclaimed, “and turn to our Lord Jesus Christ and ask him for the strength to redeem your pitiful existence. He is all-forgiving. So no matter what debauchery you have subjected yourself to in the past, he will find a place in his ever-loving heart to welcome you back into his good graces.”

“Remember something, preacher,” Jennifer advised. “Sometimes things or people are not as they appear.”

The preacher continued, “The repulsive, unclean lepers are before your very eyes, and you cradle them to your bosom every night. Until you see the light, you will never find true peace.”

“Wrap this up. You’re boring me.”

“You think I’m a crazy old man who don’t know nothing, but I see what I see and I know what I know. Look into the darkness of your existence and tell me this is the life you foresaw for yourself when you were a little girl. Confess to me that you dreamed about selling your body to any wretched soul who could come up with the money to pay you.”

“Actually, when I was little—”

“Divulge your innermost desires—”

“Shut up for a minute, and I’ll tell you,” Jennifer interrupted good-naturedly. “When I went to college, I majored in drama with a minor in literature,” she said, telling the truth about herself. “I wanted to be an actress. Not for film or television, but for the stage. I dreamt about—”

“You’re a lying whore,” the preacher snapped. “You’re mocking the messenger of Jesus Christ.”

“Listen, my soul is saved. After tonight, I’ll repent and become a nun, but for now, can you give it a rest?”

“You are blind, woman. Open your eyes.”

Jennifer saw a car slowly drive by, but it kept going. “You’re starting to hurt my business, preacher. You better move on before I get angry.”

“Violence is never the answer. The Bible said turn the other cheek.”

Shaking her head, Jennifer reached into her purse and pulled out a dollar and gave it the preacher. “Go away.”

Without missing a beat, the preacher snatched the dollar and put it into his pocket.

For five more minutes, Jennifer listened to this pitiful man lecture her about her “chosen profession.”

“You getting all this, Nick?” Jennifer whispered into her wire. “Maybe we should try a couple of blocks over.” I know what you’re thinking, Nick. Relax, be patient. He’ll move on. Of course, you’re no doubt laughing your ass off.

Eventually, the preacher moved on. With sympathy in her heart, Jennifer watched as he stumbled and lurched to a nearby doorway. Finding his bed for the night, the preacher fell to the ground still muttering his warnings about God’s wrath for those who ignore his teachings.

A short time later, Jennifer spotted the shiny new BMW heading her way. “Finally, we have some action,” Jennifer informed Nick. The car pulled over and stopped. She always let them call to her first; that way she could never be accused of entrapment.

“Excuse me, miss,” the elderly man called out.

“You talking to me?” Jennifer shot back. She always felt bad about busting these kinds of guys. They usually were just lonely old men looking for companionship.

“How are you tonight?” the man asked.

“Good,” Jennifer replied casually.

“I’m looking for some fun.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Good, clean fun.”

“Better hurry, Great America will be closing soon.”

“How much?”

“How much for what?”

“Keep in mind I’m on a tight budget.”

Jennifer laughed. “I can tell by the car.”

“Looks are deceiving—”

“Don’t I know it, mister. Tell me about the fun you’re looking for.”

The man smiled. “I want you to deep-throat me.”

“Really,” Jennifer replied.

“And I won’t pay more than twenty-five.”

“I’m worth much more than that.” Jennifer started to move around the front of the car when a gunshot rang out. Less than fifty feet from her, Jennifer saw three gangbangers standing over the street preacher. “Shit,” she muttered. “Nick, we need backup, now.” She jumped out of the way as the BMW raced away. Pulling her revolver from her handbag, she screamed, “Police! Don’t move!” She saw the punk turn and fire off a shot. Ducking behind a mailbox, she felt the bullet rip into it. Two more shots whistled past and tore up the sidewalk. Where are you, Nick?

Out of the corner of her eye, Jennifer saw the station wagon screech to a stop. Gun already out, Nick emerged from the car, taking aim. She saw Nick, without warning, fire and kill the first punk with a shot through his right eye. Seeing the second kid grab the fallen pistol, she thought, Don’t do it. She was grateful the third kid took off running.

“Don’t make me,” Nick warned.

Jennifer watched as the kid took aim at Nick. For a second, the kid froze, and she knew Nick had him in his sights. Enough killing. She saw a weird, macho smile cross the kid’s face as he put the gun in his mouth.

No, don’t, Jennifer thought, but then she saw him pull the gun from his mouth and fire two shots at Nick. She fired and hit the kid in the stomach, but Nick’s shot hit the kid in the chest and sent him sprawling back. She was certain Nick could have gunned down the fleeing kid, but was relieved when he didn’t.

“Jenny, are you all right?” Nick asked. “Are you hit?”

Jennifer finished her silent prayer as she got to her feet. One of the most dangerous things about undercover work was the fact that you never wore a bulletproof vest. Looking to see if she was hit, Nick touched her body for the first time. She looked into his eyes and knew at that moment. Love . . . possibly. Lust . . . without a doubt.

“I’m fine. What the hell went down?”

“I don’t know. I was watching you, waiting for the bust.”

Jennifer and Nick moved to the dead punks’ bodies. Avoiding the blood, they stepped over them to the dead wino. “Called home . . .” Jennifer said.

“A thrill kill. Nothing but a goddamn thrill kill. Probably wanted to see how his new gun worked,” Nick mumbled under his breath.

Jennifer heard something, turned, and saw the third street punk reappear between two parked cars. He was brandishing a sawed-off pump shotgun. He took aim at Jennifer’s head. Instantly, Nick dropped down and leg-swept Jennifer off her feet.

Jennifer went down hard as the shotgun blast fired off into the air where her head had been less than a second ago. Nick was back on his feet in less time than that. Instinctively, he put the punk on the path to join his buddies with an open-handed chop to the throat.

The kid’s windpipe was crushed as he dropped to his knees and clutched his throat with both hands. Death would not come instantly.

“Dispatch, I need an ambulance at 34th and Canal. I repeat, 34th and Canal,” Nick said into his walkie-talkie.

Dropping next to his buddy, the kid curled into a fetal position. Squirming and fighting for breath, he was dying in his friends’ blood.

Nick knelt beside him. “Hang in there,” he said flatly.

Jennifer looked down at the kid. Her emotions were mixed. She hated to see a human being suffer like this, but the kid had had no qualms about blowing her head off thirty seconds ago. She asked, “Is there anything we can do?”

“To save him?”


“No,” Nick answered. “But I can end it.”

Jennifer saw the kid’s eyes bulge out while his face turned blue. Even if they saved him, at this point the kid probably had permanent brain damage. “Do it.”

With the sounds of sirens in the distance, Nick interlocked his arms around the kid’s neck. Nick’s powerful arms snapped his neck instantly.

“May God have mercy on all of us,” Jennifer said, knowing that the kid would have suffered another two minutes if Nick hadn’t done what he did.

“Amen,” Nick said as he gently laid the body next to the other two.

To her amazement, Jennifer realized that Nick’s actions had sexually aroused her.




When her cell phone rang, Jennifer was startled out of memory lane. She looked at the caller ID and saw that it was Nick’s mother. “Nick, it’s your mother,” Jennifer said across the squad room. Since it was close to 10:00 at night and nobody was there except them, she knew he wouldn’t be angry that she had announced that his mother was calling.

“Tell her I’m not here,” Nick said, never looking up from the mug shot books.

“Hello,” Jennifer said into the phone.

“Hi, Jenny. It’s Anita,” Nick’s mother said. “You sounded excited about something.”

“No, not really.”

“Is Nick there?” Anita said. “I can’t reach him.”

“He’s not around at the moment. I’ll tell him to call you first chance he gets.”

“Please do, dear, it’s very important.”

“I gave him the message yesterday and earlier today when you called.”

“I can never reach him at home.”

“Trust me, Anita, if he’s not calling you back, it’s because we’re overwhelmed here. We have a ton of long-overdue paperwork.”

“I only need five minutes of his time. He can spare that for his mother.”

Jennifer bit her lip trying not to laugh. She looked at Nick and saw him give her the finger. Tonight, honey, she thought, tonight. “Anita, I will personally make him call you in the morning. Talk to you soon. Good night.” Jennifer hung up the phone. Dear God, I love her, but give me patience with that woman, she thought. “Call her tomorrow morning, Nick, or I’m going to tell her you’re avoiding her.”

“She would never believe it,” Nick said. “Not her golden boy. She thinks—”

“There it is,” Jennifer screamed, pointing to a giant rat running along the far wall. She saw Nick jump up from his desk, grab a wastepaper basket, and try to capture the rodent. The filthy creature ducked into a hole in the wall. This fucking station house should have been burnt to the ground ten years ago, she thought. It really pisses me off that all the uniformed cops, the high and mighty Robbery-Homicide and gang units are already moved to the new station house, but us low-lifes in Vice are still busting ass in this urine, feces, rodent-infected hellhole called Wentworth Street Station House.

“Did you see the size of that monster?” Nick said.

“Yes, I’ve seen it for two weeks,” Jennifer declared. “Listen, I don’t care if Bennett and Detective Marcotte have to wait a minute for me. I have to get out of these clothes and into a shower.”

“Okay,” Nick said. “I’ll be in the conference room.”

“Back in ten.” Jennifer headed out of the squad room. She passed undercover vice officers Salisia Jackson and Hector Gonzalez as they brought in a large, handcuffed Hispanic male.




Nick sat back down at his desk. He smiled and waved when Detective Jackson made eye contact with him. He nodded his head yes.

“Sit down, Angel,” Detective Jackson ordered. She was a small, African-American woman, but she slammed Angel into the chair at her desk. She said to Detective Gonzalez, “Start the paperwork.”

Nick smiled and saw her mood change as she moved to him. He reached into his leather coat pocket.

“Tell me you got it,” she said, relishing every word.

Nick pulled out a ring box. He opened it for Salisia.

She gasped. “Three grand?”

“Five,” Nick said. “She’s worth every cent.”

“Oh, Nicky, you’re killing me.” Salisia took the box and held it under the desk lamp. “It’s gorgeous.”

“Thanks.” Nick smiled as Salisia admired the ring.

“So when are you proposing?”


“Does she have any idea?”

“None,” Nick answered. “We’ve never even talked about it.”

Salisia snapped the box shut, gave it to Nick, blew him a kiss, and headed back to her desk. Nick admired her ass. Toughest thing I ever did was pass that up, he thought. Before Jennifer had been transferred to Vice, Nick had been partnered with Salisia for over two years. She was very aggressive in trying to get him in bed, but Nick knew they’d both regret it. Thankfully, he always passed on her offer. Since nothing happened, Nick figured Jennifer never needed to know about Salisia’s advances. He appreciated the fact that she was genuinely happy for him and Jennifer. Since Jennifer had no sisters and no close girlfriends, Nick wondered if she’d ask his former partner to be her maid of honor.

Nick stood back up, secured his weapon, shoved the engagement ring deep inside his leather coat pocket, and walked into the bordering conference room. He hung his coat on the back of the plastic chair. He double-checked his pocket to make sure the ring hadn’t fallen out. Relax, he thought, everything will be okay. Don’t change your behavior, and she’ll never see it coming.

“Detective Streeter . . .”

Nick turned to see District Attorney Michael Bennett, whom he recognized from the news, and Homicide Detective Don Marcotte, who was famous in the department for being one of the detectives who had helped identify John Wayne Gacy. Bennett was dressed in a three-piece pin-striped suit. His coal-black hair was slicked back, and it looked like he had just shaved.

“Sorry, Detective,” Bennett said. “I know it’s late. Michael Bennett.”

“Middle of my shift,” Nick said, shaking Bennett’s hand. “Nick Streeter.”

“Nick, I’d like you to meet Homicide Detective Don Marcotte,” Bennett said.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Detective,” Nick said, shaking his hand. He tried not to smile as he looked through the detective’s black-rimmed glasses at his brown eyes. Even for a man of Marcotte’s age, the glasses were out of date. He stood an inch or two shorter than Nick and had a firm handshake. His hair was gray and thinning.

“Good to—” Marcotte started to cough violently, “. . . meet you, Nick.” He turned away as his body spasmed. “Sorry.”

“You okay?” Nick asked.

“Fine.” Marcotte turned back, wiping saliva from his mouth. “I just forgot to take my pills.” He eyed Nick for twenty seconds. “You grew into one helluva man.”

“Thanks, but I don’t understand—”

Bennett interjected, “Detective Marcotte believes he knew your father back in Vietnam.”

Nick smiled. “Is that right?”

“George Streeter. Served his country in sixty-nine. If my memory is correct, and it usually is, your mother’s name is Anita. Am I right?”

“Yes, you are.”

“A very attractive woman.”

“Yes, she is.”

“Loved animals.”

“You’re right on the money.”

“How’s your dad?”

“Good,” Nick said.

“Last I saw of him, I was being airlifted out. What’s he up to nowadays?”

“He’s a captain with the state police.”

“Good for him. I knew he was going places.”

Bennett looked at his watch. “Listen, gentlemen, I’m on a tight schedule. Why don’t we have our meeting, and then I’ll let you guys catch up on the old days.”

Marcotte looked at Nick and shook his head. “You and I are going to put him on the front page in the next two days, and now he’s giving us attitude.”

“Detective, don’t break my balls.”

“All right, all right, let’s just have our meeting. It’s getting late.”

Bennett tossed his briefcase on the table and plopped into a chair. “You both know that only three people, besides ourselves, are aware of this sting operation.”

“Yeah,” Marcotte acknowledged.

“I know shit,” Nick said to Bennett. “You got me and my partner’s name from my lieutenant, and all we’re told is that we’re part of an operation to bring down some scumbag.”

Bennett exhaled. “We hear you and your partner are the best. So be flattered that you’re here. And that makes me wonder, where is your partner? Jennifer Mueller, correct?”

“She’s cleaning up,” Nick said. “She’ll be here in a minute.”




Jennifer entered the conference room in jeans, running shoes, and a black tank top. She had no makeup on and her hair was in a ponytail.

“Gentlemen,” Nick said, “my partner, Detective Jennifer Mueller. Jennifer, District Attorney Michael Bennett and Homicide Detective Don Marcotte.”

“Nice to meet you both,” Jennifer said, shaking their hands. She sensed that Bennett was disappointed with her for some reason. What’s that about? she thought.

“Here is the situation,” Bennett said. “The ‘scumbag,’ as you call him, the ‘Devil,’ as Detective Marcotte calls him, is in town—hhhh”

“Can we have a name?” Nick interrupted.

“You a rock-and-roll man, Nick?” Bennett asked. “You, Jennifer?”

“Music has never been a real passion of mine,” Nick answered.

“I’m more into movies,” Jennifer said, thinking for a second how her father took her to all types of films from when she was a little girl. Rest in peace, Dad.

“Ever hear of Eric Kyser?” Marcotte asked.

“Yeah, I’ve heard the name,” Jennifer said.

Nick said, “He’s a burned-out wannabe who never hit the big time. Cut from the same cloth as Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson. Puts on a bullshit show by letting his fans think he’s in league with the devil.”

“You seem to know quite a bit about him,” Marcotte said.

“My head’s not in the sand. I can’t name you one song that he sings.”

Bennett cracked his knuckles. “Here’s the deal, Nick. He’s back in town for a few days.”

Fuck you, Bennett, Jennifer thought. I’m a police detective, same as Nick.

“He’s a Chicago boy?” Nick asked.

“Yes,” Bennett said. “He’s back in town, and we figure there’s a good chance he’s on the prowl. Our plan is a simple one. We put a very alluring female on the street.”

Jennifer didn’t appreciate the way Bennett just casually gestured to her. Tell this pompous prick to go fuck himself, Jennifer thought. Relax, Jen, this is not the man you want as an enemy. Hear him out.

“We let our boy spot her, get him hooked, and we reel him in. The takedown apartment on Southport is all set and ready to go. Jennifer brings him back there—”

“Detective Mueller,” Nick interrupted.

Thank you, Nick, Jennifer thought. She saw the contempt in her partner’s eyes for Bennett.

“Of course,” Bennett said. “Kyser goes for the jugular, we film it, and we nail his ass.”

Fuck, that’s risky. Real risky, Jennifer thought. “I’m going to have to walk a tightrope.”

“We hear you’re the best,” Bennett said. “We know you can do it.”

This is big time, Jennifer thought. “Okay.” She was amused when Bennett let out a deep breath.

“Then we’re set to go,” Bennett said. “Detective Marcotte can fill you in on anything else you need to know. I’m out of here.” Bennett closed his briefcase. “I’ll talk to you in the morning,” he said to Marcotte.

“All right.”

“Goodnight, gentlemen, Detective Mueller,” Bennett said before leaving the room.

“Interesting fellow,” Nick stated.

“Yeah, I know,” Marcotte said with a shrug of the shoulders. “But what can you do about it?”

Jennifer noticed Marcotte staring at Nick. Don’t worry, Detective,we’ll get the job done, she thought.

“What?” Nick asked.

“You look a lot like your father,” Marcotte answered.

Nick laughed. “I have a few questions—”

“Wait a minute,” Jennifer interjected.

“Detective Marcotte knew my father from Vietnam,” Nick explained.

“Is that right?” Jennifer said. “It’s a very small world.”

“I’d like to ask you a few questions about that, Detective, if you have some time to kill,” Nick said to Marcotte. “But first, we need to know how you figured Kyser was ‘the Devil.’”

Marcotte leaned back in his chair. “It’s a long, complicated story.”

“Give us the short version,” Nick said.

Jennifer sat down. This should be good, she thought. This was the man who had helped nail John Wayne Gacy, whose father helped put the handcuffs on Richard Speck, and, according to urban legend, his grandfather was one of the first detectives at the garage the day of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Marcotte put his briefcase on the table. “Off the top of my head, I’d say in the last six, seven years, seventeen prostitutes have been murdered.”

“Really,” Nick said. “That seems—”

“Like something the media would have jumped all over,” Marcotte said.


“A dead hooker is soon forgotten.”

Jennifer appreciated Marcotte looking at her. She sensed he was telling her to be careful in her everyday assignment. Thanks for your concern, but I can take care of myself.

“Ten had been strangled. Four had been stabbed and/or had their throats cut. One of those—”

“Was beheaded,” Nick finished.

“I remember that one,” Jennifer said.

“Two were shot to death,” Marcotte continued. “One was beaten to death with what the coroner suspects was a lead pipe or a tire iron. Six of these killings took place in my precinct. I pretty much knew I had a serial killer on my hands. I put the word out to the other homicide units that I wanted all info on similar killings. Bits and pieces came in over the years, but nothing substantial.”

“If you don’t get the perps in the first few days . . .” Nick said.

“Yeah, that’s true most of the time,” Marcotte replied.

“But look at the Country Cousin’s Ribs thing in Mokena,” Jennifer offered.

“Exactly,” Marcotte said.

“Seven years later, they nail ‘em,” Nick said.

“I even caught the break sooner than later,” Marcotte said. “About four months ago, a stripper with the stage name of Cherry Candy was picked up by some guy who seemed to want to spend some money on her. Now, in Miss Candy’s warped little mind, she wasn’t a hooker, but a working mom with a young son to raise. She didn’t mind . . .” Marcotte used his fingers as quotation marks. “. . . ‘dating’ the guy.”

“They never do,” Nick said, chuckling.

“Anyway, this guy takes her over to some warehouse on the West Side. Not far from the United Center. They go inside, and she sees that there are video cameras, lights, and film stuff. She figured they’re making a cheap homemade porno. At this point the guy tells her he’s gay and not into her, but that his boss is. So out of the next room comes a guy in a leather outfit and an S&M hood. The second guy tells her it’s not a porno and that he just wants a ‘memento’ of their night together. So they throw some money at her, and she figures what the hell.”

You throw caution to the wind when it comes to putting food on the table for your kid,Jennifer thought. She saw Nick shaking his head. Wait till you’re a dad.

“The first guy sets up the cameras,” Marcotte said. “He’s got three of ‘em filming from different angles, and a fourth shooting down from the ceiling. This guy says straight sex makes him sick and then disappears. Candy and Leatherface start to go at it. He has trouble getting aroused until—”

“It gets rough,” Nick finished.


“And you’re saying Kyser is Leatherface?”

“Without a doubt. It turns out our Miss Candy was a tougher little cookie than our man thought. She knees him in the balls and makes a break for it. She’s trapped in this gigantic, abandoned warehouse. Eventually, she ended up in the basement. There’s a leftover piece of pipe that she used to pry open a window. She escaped and came to us.”

“You specifically?” Jennifer asked.

“No, just the local station house. Detective Ed Ksiazek, an old buddy, knows immediately that this sounds just like the Devil’s M.O. He gives me a call. I’m heading over there when they call me and tell me that the warehouse is going up in flames.”

“This is incredible,” Nick remarked.

“Oh, it gets better,” Marcotte said. “I rush to the warehouse. At this point the place is going up at a pretty good pace, but my gut tells me I need to at least get a look inside. Even if it’s just for a minute.”

“Did they let you go in?”

“After bitching and screaming for two minutes. The battalion leader let me throw on some gear and escorted me through. Smoke was horrible, but we came across a back room. Computers and boxes of stuff all around. We break a window and start pushing boxes out the window.”

“That took some real guts,” Jennifer said.

“First and last time I ever want to be in a burning building,” Marcotte said. “It felt like the building was coming down on us at any time. I don’t mind telling you I was scared.”

“Who wouldn’t be?” Nick asked.

“I guess,” Marcotte said. “So anyway, the building goes up in flames. Destroyed. Burnt to the ground. We try and find the owner. We find out it was bought by some nonexistent movie production company. The law firm, and I say that loosely, that owned the building told me that some guy walked into their office with a suitcase filled with cash. They asked no questions. They took the money, and the guy bought the building. They know nothing. It’s a dead end.”

“That’s amazing in this day and age,” Jennifer remarked.

Marcotte shrugged his shoulders. “We went through the boxes that we saved. We had tons of pornography, tapes, DVDs, magazines, dirty books, some unbelievable stuff. But then we hit a box of personal goodies. It turns out to be the mementos our man liked to keep of his conquests. So we got tape after tape of some guy in an S&M bondage mask having sex with a variety of women. It turns out that ten of the women were unsolved cases on my desk. I have twenty-three legitimate snuff films in my possession. A variety of women—black, white, Asian, Hispanic—but all young and pretty.”

Nick whistled. “It’s hard to wrap my mind around this.”

Sure is,Jennifer thought.

“After seeing this garbage, it’s hard to have any faith in humanity,” Marcotte said. “I’m a straight arrow, Detective. Dealing with this has made my days in Nam almost a pleasant memory. So anyway, I’ve been studying these tapes. I know the boys at the station are saying stuff behind my back about me going over the edge, getting off on them. I’m a good Christian man and my faith is who I am, so there’s nothing further from the truth. But, I knew the answers were in there somewhere. I just had to find it.”

“And did you?” Jennifer asked.

“The good Lord from above blessed me.”

“How?” she asked.

“I’m a widower, and I’m raising my teenage son by myself. We had him a little later in life, so there’s much I don’t understand about him. I’m forbidden from entering his bedroom, but this one day, little less than a month ago, he invites me in. And out of the blue he asks me if I want to ever get remarried. It was . . . unusual. He was watching TV and he turned it down as he asked me the question. I have to say I was a little embarrassed at first, so I glanced at the mute television.”

Jennifer saw Marcotte shake his head. Imagine what he has seen in his lifetime.

“Don’t leave me hanging, Detective,” Nick said.

“On the TV,” Marcotte said, “he’s watching some underground tape of music videos. And I’m watching a video of a longhaired, goofy singer thrashing around on stage with a bondage mask over the head of a woman who he pretends to be strangling.”

“Unreal,” Nick declared.

“Three times during the video, the camera zooms in and out six times. Well, seeing that almost gave me a heart attack. Every one of the snuff films has the exact same thing. And what does this mean?”

“Three sixes,” Jennifer said. “The mark of the devil.” She looked at Nick as he shrugged his shoulders. “The movie The Omen.”

“Exactly,” Marcotte said. “My son tells me the guy is called Open Cut. Real name, Eric Kyser. I’ve done nothing for three weeks but learn about him.”

“What have you found out?” Jennifer asked.

Marcotte opened his briefcase. He took out some police reports, two yearbooks, CDs, a book entitled Open Cut Bleeds, a screenplay entitled Die Slowly, and some heavy-metal magazines.

“What’s with the script?” Nick asked.

“Supposedly Kyser was going to star in this low-budget flick.”

“Where’d you get it?” Nick picked it up and started thumbing through it.

“It makes me sick to my stomach to say, but this garbage belongs to my kid. He ordered it on-line.”

Nick put the screenplay down. “Looks stupid.”

“It is. I couldn’t even finish it. Question: have you ever heard of . . .” Marcotte flipped through the magazines. “Megadeth, Guns and Roses, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith . . .”

“I’ve heard of them,” Jennifer said. She looked at Nick as he nodded his head yes.

“So have I,” Marcotte agreed. “How about Saliva, Dragpipe, Papa Roach, Godhead . . .”

“No, not them,” Jennifer said.

“Korn, Slipknot, Murderdolls, Slaves on Dope, Biohazard, Dry Kill Logic, Anthrax, Savatage, Mushroomhead, Spineshank . . .”

“No,” Jennifer said. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Nick shake his head no.

“The Slaughtered Vikings, Brides of Destruction, Twisted Nipples, Psycho Biker Chicks from Hell, The Demonic Foot Soldiers, Nocturnal Emissions, Soccer Mom Whores. The list goes on and on.”

“What can you do?” Nick asked.

“These guys are heavy metal. They’re not so bad.” Marcotte opened another magazine. “Listen to this. There’s another off-shoot of heavy metal called Black Metal. These guys are Satanists. The real deal. Their music calls for ritual sacrifices. Were you by any chance at the seminar run by the bureau?”

“Yeah, we were there,” Nick said.

Here we go, Jennifer thought.

“It was a waste of time,” Nick said. “Listen, Detective, a lot of this stuff is just to feed the kids the garbage that they’ll eat. The shit sells. So they sell more of it. That’s all. Tell us where Kyser fits in.”

“Sorry, Nick,” Marcotte said. “It just scares me to death that my son listens to this. It’s awful to say, but I’m eternally grateful that his mother is not around to see how he turned out.”

“I understand,” Nick said.

“I mean, he puts on eye makeup.”

Jennifer saw that Marcotte was fighting tears. Lives for his son, she thought.

Marcotte opened one of the magazines. “Kyser is interviewed in this one. I checked out most of his answers and it seems he embellished most of them. They ask him where he went to school. He answers that he grew up in a whorehouse in Bangkok, Thailand.”

“A total lie?” Nick asked.

“He was born in a small town ten miles east of Springfield. His family moved to Chicago when he was two years old. Attended a Catholic grammar school. He graduated with honors from an all-boys Catholic high school on the south side.”

Jennifer saw Nick chuckle. Great . . . Nick always said going to an all-boys high school warped any guy’s teen years, she thought. Ammunition for his argument.

“His mother was a school teacher and his father owned a bunch of sporting good stores. He comes from bucks. Big bucks.” Marcotte opened one of the yearbooks. “His senior year, Kyser was a member of the soccer team, chess club, drama club, and the leader of the school’s youth ministry.”

“He was going to be a priest?” Jennifer asked.

“Who knows. It says the group helped with a variety of charitable causes in the community. He was undefeated in a few of the chess tournaments he entered. Co-MVP in soccer with some guy named Matt. Played Danny Zuko in Grease.”

“He’s a Renaissance man,” Jennifer said.

“He was a good-looking kid, but he had dead eyes. I don’t want to say you can see evil in them, but . . .” Marcotte showed Jennifer the picture of Kyser in the yearbook. She was looking at a normal, handsome teenager. “This was him two years ago.” Marcotte handed Jennifer another picture. Looking at the photo, she saw that Kyser had long black hair, a goatee, and deep, dark rings around his brown eyes. He was wearing a black tuxedo. She focused in on the pentagram tattooed on Kyser’s neck. She handed the picture to Nick and pointed to the symbol.

“I don’t think,” Nick said, “that real Satanists run around advertising themselves.”

“Probably not,” Marcotte acknowledged.

Nick tossed the picture into the briefcase. “It’s like we’re after the chick from The Addams Family.

“Look at him now.” Marcotte handed a picture to Jennifer.

Jennifer felt Nick touch the small of her back as he looked over her shoulder. She saw a very muscular, naked Kyser holding his hands over his genitalia. Kyser had a big smile on his face.

“So he got pumped up,” Nick remarked. “That has to be steroids. He’s still a midget in my eyes.”

“Get this,” Marcotte said. “When I talked to the principal of the school, he acknowledged that they do not approve of what Eric Kyser stands for today, but he admitted that they cash a check every year from him for twenty-five thousand dollars.”

Nick shook his head. “Heaven is for sale.”

“Kyser bought a piece of land near the school. He paid to have it turned into a soccer field for the team. Two years ago, he went to a game and he was mobbed. He’s widely admired.”

“Money talks,” Nick said.

“After high school, he enrolled in Columbia College film school for two years. He eventually dropped out. I don’t have much info for the next two years. Probably was a waiter or something, and then he surfaced as lead singer for a band called Tooth Ache.”

“I remember them,” Jennifer said.

“He played and toured with them for a few years before he disappeared again for a couple of years. He resurfaced as the leader of a new band called Certain Death.”

“That’s the group he’s with now, right?” Jennifer asked.

“Yes.” Marcotte closed the yearbook and opened one of the heavy-metal magazines. “They ask him how he got into music. They ask about his parents. He answers with, ‘My mother is hate and my father is fury.’”

Unsurprised, Jennifer shook her head. “The guy is basically someone who had it all from birth.”

“I’d say so,” Marcotte agreed.

“He’s a cliché,” Nick interjected. “A white middle-class fuck-up.”

Marcotte pulled out three Certain Death CDs. “Get these song titles. Kyser wrote or co-wrote all of them. ‘Blood and Pus,’ ‘The Dark Heart,’ ‘Chopped-off Fingers,’ ‘House of Pain,’ ‘Broken Bodies,’ ‘The Symbolic Power of Mutilation,’ ‘Skin Hunger,’ ‘Cadaver,’ ‘Corrupt my Flesh,’ ‘Hot and Raw,’ ‘Rape Me’

“I get the idea, Detective,” Jennifer interrupted.

“‘Eat My Vomit,’ ‘Swallow the Blade,’ ‘Snaking Through My Existence,’ ‘Flying Feces’—”

Nick started to laugh. “Enough.”

“‘The Choreography of Death,’ and my personal favorite, ‘Speck, Bundy, and Gacy.’ That’s the actual song title. Are you aware of my father’s history with Richard Speck?”

“Yes,” Jennifer said. He’s proud of his father, she thought. “And we know of your involvement in catching Gacy.” She saw Marcotte give a thankful smile.

“Here’s some of the lyrics he’s written,” Marcotte said.

“Do we have to . . . ?” Nick started.

Jennifer gave Nick a look that said, Let him talk, he worked hard. He’s proud of his good police work. She saw Nick smile, and his eyes said he received the message.

“This is from ‘Cold, Dark Hole.’” Marcotte read from the liner notes. “‘Cold, dark hole, swallow it whole, swallow it whole, swallow, swallow, swallow . . . Cold, dark hole, take my eternal soul . . . Thrust, thrust, thrust . . . take my lust.’ What do you think that was about?”

“Oral sex,” Nick guessed.

“No. Try again.”

Jennifer mumbled the words and answered, “Someone’s soul is ascending into Heaven . . . or descending into Hell?”

“Good guess, but no,” Marcotte said. “It’s about a guy sodomizing another guy with the barrel of a pistol.”

“You’re kidding,” Jennifer said.

“Sick. There’s also subliminal messages buried in the music. You listen over and over, and you can hear stuff like ‘kill women, kill women,’ or ‘rape, rape, rape, penetrate, penetrate.’ Then to top off everything, at some concerts, Kyser has let rats loose, thrown live snakes into the crowd, or fed live mice to a pit bull.”

“Oh, no.” Jennifer glanced at Nick. Yeah, I know, honey, you hate snakes.

“He once butchered a dead goat with a chainsaw and threw its body parts into the crowd.”

Jennifer saw Nick chuckle and shake his head.

“And these numbskulls fought over a goat’s kidney like it was a home-run ball from Babe Ruth. It’s beyond my comprehension.” After taking a deep breath, Marcotte tossed the CDs into his briefcase. He pulled out a yellow legal pad. “Moving on. I have a friend at the IRS, and he did some checking for me.”

“Very thorough,” Jennifer complimented.

“Yes, Detective, this is outstanding work that you’ve done,” Nick said.

“Thank you. It’s all part of the job. This is going to make you sick. The first year of being lead singer of Certain Death, Eric Kyser grossed slightly more than one million dollars.”

I’m in the wrong business, Jennifer thought. She heard Nick let out a soft whistle.

“He peaked four years later when he claimed income of four point two million through recording and touring. He’s been in the two- to three-million range ever since.”

“Who do you think he’s going to leave it all to after the state fries his ass?” Nick asked.

“Actually, I have an answer for that,” Marcotte said, flipping though some pages of notes. “Kyser has twin girls, five years old, from a one-night stand with a groupie. He pays fifteen thousand dollars a month in child support.”

“Does he ever see them?” Jennifer asked.

“The mother told me that he sees them a few times a year. She seemed pretty happy with the arrangement.”

“Probably got what she went after,” Nick said.

“That’s the feeling I got. She probably was going to be a victim, and the good Lord took care of her that night.”

“It seems—” Nick started.

“Did you hear that?” Marcotte interrupted.

“I didn’t hear anything,” Nick said.

Jennifer said, “Me neither.”

Marcotte got up, opened the door, and looked down the hall. “Just my imagination, I guess. Listen, Detectives, I’m ready to call it a night.” He started to gather up his materials.

“Can I ask you something, Detective?” Nick asked.


“How’d you know my father?”

“He saved my life,” Marcotte replied.

No way, Jennifer thought. That is so cool.

“Can you tell me about it?” Nick asked.

“Sure,” Marcotte said, sitting back down. “It would have been the summer of sixty-nine. I was a platoon sergeant of a recon unit. Your dad was in the country about two weeks when he was transferred to my unit. I didn’t know him well, but he did show me some pictures of you and your mother. Anyway, we were sent to search and destroy any NVA that we encountered near a village called Trung Hoa. The choppers dropped us about a klick from our objective. We made our way there with no resistance. We formed a skirmish line and were about to start sweeping the village when the you-know-what hit the fan. These guys started coming out of tunnels all over the place. Our superior firepower was nothing compared to their knowledge of the land. It was like being dropped into a meat grinder. I mean, it was a slaughterhouse. I saw my boys get their faces blown off, limbs blown off. It was Hell on Earth.”

Jennifer, out of the corner of her eye, saw Nick listening, nodding, and absorbing it all. This has to remind him of his time in Desert Storm. I wonder if Marcotte knows Nick is a decorated war hero. I hope he doesn’t have nightmares again.

“The Hueys came ripping through, trying to give us some cover so we could make our way back to the LZ. But we were pinned down. Twenty-two of us went in that day. After a two-hour firefight, eight of us were left. I gave the order to head back, ‘cause it was only a matter of time. The eight of us busted ass trying to get back. Your dad was one of ‘em. Four hundred yards from the LZ, we were hit again. I caught a bullet in the leg. I was down, blood pouring from the wound, when two more of my boys got killed. One guy, black kid, Herb Robinson, always bragging about how well-endowed he was. What a ladies’ man. He got half his head blown off no more than two feet from me.”

Jennifer sensed Nick holding his breath. He’s hearing this for the first time. What is better than to find out your father is a war hero? His father never told him about any of this. Of course, Nick probably hasn’t told his dad about the time he saved twenty other Army Rangers when they were caught in an ambush in Iraq.

“So, one chopper comes down, but he’s taking fire. He lifts off, but is back in two minutes. The door gunner is providing cover fire along with the second chopper. At this point, I can’t walk. Your dad put me on his shoulder and carried me. Carried me four hundred yards in an open field under heavy fire, while returning fire.”

Nick took a moment to absorb the information. “He never told me that story.”

“That’s the kind of man he is,” Marcotte said softly. “I was surprised he was in the bush. As I recall, he was a well-educated man.”

“That’s right,” Nick said.

“He was a damn good soldier. Did what it took. Not afraid to get his hands bloody, if you know what I mean.”

“I’m very proud of—”

Suddenly, Jennifer heard yelling and screaming outside the conference room. Instantly, she followed Nick out the door, pistols drawn, into the squad room.

Jennifer saw that Angel had his arm around Detective Jackson’s throat and was holding a pen inches from her right eye. Jackson’s pistol was on the floor.

“This ain’t justice,” Angel yelled. “She entrapped me.”

Detective Gonzalez had his revolver out and was taking aim. “Angel, let her go. Let her go. You’re making this worse.” He started to yell at him in Spanish.

Jennifer saw Angel eyeing the pistol on the floor. Jennifer felt Marcotte behind her. She heard him draw his gun.

“You three stop right there,” Angel ordered Jennifer, Nick, and Marcotte. “I’ll blind her. I swear.”

“Don’t do it, Angel,” Detective Gonzalez commanded in English. “Think, for God’s sake. Your beef is solicitation. It’s a misdemeanor.”

“Yeah, but she was waving her ass up and down the street,” Angel protested.

“Then next time, just let her be. Go home, throw one in the wife,” Detective Gonzalez said. “Drop the pen now, and we’ll get this all straightened out.”

“No!” Angel screamed. “I want out of here.” He put the tip of the pen in Detective Jackson’s nose. “I’ll put it in her brain, goddamn it.”

Jennifer watched as Nick stepped over in front of Angel. Game over, she thought.

“Stay back,” Angel demanded.

“Do you remember me, Angel?” Nick asked.


“But you will,” Nick said. “One of two ways. You’ll remember me as the guy who calmly talked you out of this insanity you put yourself in. Or, if you hurt that officer, as the man who broke both your arms, both your legs, six or seven ribs.”

“You a tough talker, gringo,” Angel interrupted, sliding the pen another half inch in.

“Listen to me, Angel.”

“You a bad motherfucker, right?”

“You have no idea,” Nick replied. “Now listen. And I do mean listen. Don’t just hear the words. I am a sixth degree black belt in karate.”


“And judo. I’ve studied aikido, juko-kai, Gracie jiu-jitsu—”

“Big fucking deal.”

“Years ago, when I was at U of I, I was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion at one hundred eighty-four pounds. I missed making the Olympic team because of an injured shoulder muscle.”

Slowly, Jennifer moved to her left to get a better shot.

“Do you follow the UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championships? I’ve sparred with Nicolai Avilov, the ‘Russian Beast.’ I’ve submitted him.”

Jennifer could see Angel thinking. Give up, Angel.

Nick continued. “I was an Army Special Forces Ranger for five years. I saw action in Desert Storm. Killed my share of men.”

“Get out of my face,” Angel declared, “you lying pig.”

“You’re talking and not listening, Angel,” Nick said. “There are maybe five guys in this city who can kick my ass. And I know for a fact you are not one of them. Here is the deal. You may blind Salisia, you may kill her. In a minute she may be brain dead, I don’t know. But this I know: you are not walking out of here. I should let these guys put a bullet between your eyes. But, then you’ll have gotten off easy. If you don’t drop that pen in twenty seconds, I will ensure that you never walk again, feed yourself, wipe your own ass, get an erection, or fuck your wife.”

Jennifer had a clear shot, but could see Nick had Angel on the ropes.

“You have kids?” Nick asked.


“You will never hold your kids again,” Nick said, “or play ball with them. Now, let’s not ruin two lives here. Drop the pen, turn around, put your hands on the wall, and I guarantee that you won’t regret it.”

Jennifer saw Angel looking at Nick, Detective Gonzalez, Marcotte, and herself. Lot of firepower all aimed at you, she thought.

“Shit,” Angel muttered.

Jennifer, out of the corner of her eye, saw Nick hold his arms out to keep Marcotte, herself, and Detective Gonzalez back.

“She got to promise not to wave her fine ass in my face,” Angel whined.

“Angel, don’t push me,” Nick said. “You’re down to about four seconds.”

“You better be a man of your word,” Angel said as he removed the pen from Detective Jackson’s nose. Gently, he pushed her away.

Slowly, Nick removed his handcuffs. “Turn around.”

Angel did as he was told.

As Nick cuffed Angel, Jennifer heard Nick whisper, “Why didn’t you go for it?”

“The shit about the kids,” Angel answered.

“Good call,” Nick said, slapping him on the back. “Just so you know, you ever touch another law enforcement officer, I will show no mercy. Understand?” Nick turned Angel over to Detective Gonzalez. “I want my cuffs back.”

Jennifer saw Marcotte pick up Jackson’s gun and hand it to her. Never lose your gun, Salisia, she thought.

“Thanks,” Detective Jackson muttered. Suddenly, ferociously, she punched Angel in the nose.

Nick grabbed her in a bear hug. “That’s enough, Salisia.”

“Oh, I’m just getting started,” Detective Jackson said. “Let me go, Nick, before I kick your ass, too.”

Jennifer stepped back and let Nick hold Salisia until she calmed down. After thirty seconds, Nick let her go.

Detective Jackson walked a few steps away and then came back to Nick. “Next time, fuck that psychological shit, you bust that motherfucker up.”

Nick smirked. “Sure, Salisia.”

Jennifer let out a deep breath as Jackson gave Nick a hug. Jennifer heard her whisper, “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” Nick said.

Jennifer holstered her weapon and watched as Detectives Gonzalez and Jackson escorted Angel out of the room. She saw Marcotte holster his weapon, his hand shaking.

“Impressive, Detective,” Marcotte said.

Sure was, Jennifer thought. I can’t wait to fuck his brains out.

Nick waved his hand. “I spent a year in Psycho Ops at Fort Bragg. Just had to make him feel there was no hope. Besides, truth be told, I didn’t want to do the paperwork.”

Marcotte laughed. He put his hand out. “It’s been a pleasure, Detective. I will see you tomorrow.”

Nick shook his hand. “Thanks for everything. I can’t wait to tell my dad I met you.”

“Have him give me a call sometime,” Marcotte said.

“It was nice to meet you, Detective,” Jennifer said, shaking Marcotte’s hand. “I look forward to working with you.” She saw Marcotte look at her and smirk. “Have a good night, Detective. Enjoy yourself, but get plenty of rest.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck, Jennifer thought. He sees right through me. Damn, he’s good.