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A young woman meets a man from an internet adult dating site, but the meeting doesn't go the way he hoped. Next morning he is found naked and stripped of all identification in an anonymous hotel room. All surfaces have been wiped clean; no one on the hotel staff saw anyone other than the victim.

The detective in charge has to trace a murderer that has left no trace, and they don't even know who the victim is. The police soon find out how the internet leaves traces but also hides identities.
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Submitted:Feb 20, 2008    Reads: 93    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Julie was fuming over a note on her desk on Saturday morning. The press office had sent the CCTV extract to the national and local news broadcasters, and so far all had sent back variations on the same theme - thank you very much, we will take your case into consideration at our editorial review meetings. At this stage, however, we feel that the case is not of sufficient newsworthiness to warrant inclusion in our main broadcasts. The only ray of light was from the BBC. They had promised that it would feature prominently in their Crimewatch program scheduled for early evening next Tuesday. Clearly the butchery of another human being was not exciting enough for television these days, she thought bitterly.

Her phone rang. Hames was on the line requesting her presence at another local hotel. The case had unexpectedly progressed that morning with the discovery of a second body. Julie grabbed her coat and bag, and left.

The call had came in at 10:19 that morning. An urgent 999 call about a body and a lot of blood. David Halliwell and Mark Hames were already at the scene when Julie arrived. She parked her car amongst the patrol cars and those of the other detectives and guests, and stood aside as Dr Coffey drove in, closely followed by an ambulance. She waited and entered the hotel with the doctor.

Halliwell met them at the door of the room, Hames was about, ensuring cordons were in place, and record cards gathered. 'It's a real mess in there, Chief', he said as they approached. 'Worse than the last one. And the room is cramped, too, we won't all get in there.'

Julie remained outside with Halliwell as the doctor suited up and went into the room. They would let him complete his initial examination before entering. In the meantime, Halliwell brought Julie up to date. She was impatient, today. Not her usual calm self.

'The 999 call came in at about 10:15 this morning. Same pattern as last week almost to a "T". The cleaning staff came in to do the room, and found a body; lots of blood everywhere. Ran out screaming fit to burst, and then someone called us.'

'That it?'

'So far, yes. No one has gone into the room except to verify that there really is a body in there. Sergeant Hames and I did that, and the body looks to have been sliced open. Same as with Leo, but it was a different cut. We have sealed off the entire floor, and are interviewing everyone we can find. I don't anticipate that we'll find anything, though.'

'Not if this proves to be the same woman as killed Leo Sandford, last week. Do we have an identification for him, at all, yet?'

'Sergeant Hames is chasing round the registration documents downstairs.�He said he'd catch you as soon as you arrived. I'll give him a buzz on his mobile if he doesn't come up soon.'

At that moment, Mark Hames arrived. He had a printout of the registration document in his hand. 'Good morning, ma'am. We have a positive ID on the guest in this room' he started. 'He booked the room yesterday just after seven and paid for it with his credit card. He left quickly after checking in.'

'Just like Leo Sandford'

'Yes, ma'am, however this gent asked for directions to a restaurant in town. He was going to eat at The Bengali Star.'

'Good, get someone up there as soon as you can and get descriptions from anyone who was on duty last night.'

'I've been onto the card company, and they'll get back to me shortly. I wanted to confirm the address he put on the registration; no point chasing a false one. They can't just release personal details, though, without verifying who I am and getting a manager's go-ahead'

'They have to be careful about giving out personal info. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. They'll get back via the station?'

'Yes ma'am. I gave the switchboard number, and suggested they check it before calling, and told them to speak to Lynda. They'll be covered then'

Julie sighed, and moved her brain into high gear. If this was the same murder as the previous week, and she had a timetable of a weekly victim, there was no time to waste. 'Right we need a clean face shot of the victim - what's his name, by the way - David, you said its worse than last week's atrocity. How bad is it, really?'

'We can get a face shot, the injuries are all to the body. It looks like an abattoir in there. It really is far, far, worse than last week's'

'His name is Brian Mulwhinney, ma'am'

'Get a pic out of one of the SOCO photographers - and where the hell are they, anyway? They ought to be here by now.' The rest of the team had been delayed somewhere. Hames dug his mobile phone from a pocked and started to dial 'I'll find out and chase them up.'

'Good, tell them this takes precedence over anything else they are doing. And I do mean anything! I want a decent photographer here within five minutes. Remind me to carry a digital with me in future, I'll take my own pictures.'

'They're on the way, ma'am. Seems there was an accident in town and traffic is snarled up.'

'I want a good face shot of Brian Thingy, and then I want you, Mark, to get up to The Star and get me a description of his companion. Go personally, and take an identikit pic of last week's woman. Pound to a penny they recognise her as their customer from last night. If they aren't open yet find out where the manager lives and go get him. Drag him out of bed if you have to. We need to move as fast as we can with this one.

'David, I need an firm identification of Brian, and more importantly his address, and we need to get to his home today, this morning if at all possible.'

Doctor Coffey came out of the room at that moment. 'Well, initial very cursory examination done. Do you want to come in?'

'Yes we'd better.' answered Julie. 'Got a romper suit for me, or does that have to wait for the SOCOs too?'

'Nope, always have spares in my bag', replied the doctor, casually, finding a couple of polythene wrapped protective suits and handing them to Julie and Halliwell. They suited up and followed the doctor back into the room.

'Oh, my word!' exclaimed Julie, crossing herself in prayer,�'David this is far, far, worse than last week. Abattoir doesn't cover the half of it.' The room had blood spatter on the walls and most of the furniture was soaked in blood. What caused Julie to give her outburst was not the blood on the walls or on the floor; it was the state of the body. There was a deep gash, at least three feet in length running from one thigh, crossing the mans groin, abdomen and chest, ending near the opposite shoulder. It was deep, and bone, muscle, and even his intestine could be seen. Dr Coffey never made autopsy cuts so deep.

'I think I might be sick' said Julie, weakly.

'Are you all right ma'am' asked Halliwell worriedly, 'do you want to go out and sit down somewhere?'

'No, no. I'll be ok, in a minute, thank you' she said, before turning her attention back to the doctor. 'Can we get a window open, perhaps. Then give me the highlights, please; and then get this out of here.' She waved her hand at the body. 'I'll want a full PM as soon as you can. There won't be much, of course, but get onto it as soon as.'

'Main points then Julie, and don't hold me to any of these. They are best guesses at this stage.'

'I promise I won't. Change details later, just get the main headlines correct, for now.'

'One - death was between midnight and two this morning. 'Two - cause of death is same as Leo Sandford. Massive blood loss and trauma. Three - He was sliced open by a very, very, sharp knife; possible it was the same one as used last week. Murderer put some weight behind the cut too. Four - the cut probably started just above the right knee, and continued diagonally across to the left shoulder, rather than the other way round. - that's a weak guess, though

'He would have felt intense pain initially, but would have faded quite quickly. If my guess on the direction of the cut is correct, then one of the first blood vessels to be opened was the femoral artery. Sliced it again as the external iliac artery. Nicked a pulmonary, too. Along with a lot of minor blood vessels. Death would have occurred within maybe four or five minutes, and he would have started to lose consciousness after something like forty seconds or a minute.

'Five - there was a bit of strength there, or weight. But a woman could do it. And last, knowing this might be the same as last week's killing, I examined the wrists and ankles. There is no wounding of any sort on the ankles, so I don't think he was bound there. The wrists do display both cuts and bruises. On the other hand, there is bruising on the biceps, as if a weight had been placed there. Maybe part of the pinning him down?'

'Thank you, doctor. Let the photographers and others do their stuff, and then take him away. Get the PM sorted and get a report to me just as soon as possible.'

She turned to Halliwell . 'David, did she clean everything from in here, too?' She looked into the small bathroom as she spoke. The floor was smeared, as was the shelf above the hand basin and the basin itself.

'It looks that way, ma'am. There's no luggage or clothing here. And all the surfaces seem to have been wiped down. There's visible smearing just about everywhere. We'll have a good look when we can, but it's got to be the same.'

'Come on David.' She turned to leave the room, but stopped as she caught sight of something in the bathroom waste bin. 'What's that in there, David, in the bin?'

David bent to look, and gingerly put his gloved hand in the mess. 'Its material of some sort.' He pulled on it and a length of the material stretched up from the bin to his hand. 'Stockings, I think. Caked in blood too.' Julie was peering over his shoulder.

'Yes, they are. They'll be collected by the SOCO team. Well, she's left something behind this time. We might get sweat off them, get a DNA sample.'

David let the stocking drop back to join its mate in the bin, and stood up. They left the room, just as the SOCOs were coming in. 'Hey, you!' Julie shouted at one of the white suited officers, a young man armed with a camera. 'You have printers in the van, I take it? You can print off one of your digital pictures right away?'

He nodded confirmation and mumbled a reply. He was fairly new to the job and a DCI shouting at him was outside his training.

'Good, I want decent head and shoulders pictures in the next five minutes. Avoid the wound. I need a picture I can show people. Copies to both DS Hames and me. Downstairs in the car park.' The man hesitated, at a loss for the moment. 'Don't just stand there, man; get on with it. Four minutes now!'

She turned to Hames, who had been waiting outside. He had seen the body once and had no intention of re-entering the room if he could avoid it. 'Mark, as soon as that guy gets a photo to you, go off and get me those descriptions just as quick as you can. I'm going to chase that credit card company and get a confirmation of the address.' She took the registration paper. It contained the card used and the number, as well as Brian Mulwhinney's address. 'Get a copy of this for the file; I'm keeping this one. Failing their help, we might have to visit the address he gave. If he gave a true name, he probably did the same as with his address. We'll see you later. Your man there will get a photo to you in the car park, so wait by his van. I need access to Brian's computer. If we find that this one was a member of the Get-A-Mate web site, then that starts to be more than just an interesting lead'

She swept down the corridor, heading for the exit, Halliwell hurrying to keep up with her. Hames followed a moment later.

In the car park, she called the station. 'Lynda Parker, please'. She stood and waited, tapping a foot. 'Hello, Lynda! Has VISA come back to you after Mark Hames' enquiry?….What, they're on another line, now……Good, Talk to them. I'll hold' She turned to Halliwell . 'Progress at last, it seems. Ah, Lynda, Get the address?…. Good, give it me….. yes….yes….yes, OK I've got that……...They've done what?……. All right, I am going over to Stockport now. I'll talk to Mann en route. Thanks'

'Right David, we're off to a place called Romiley, it's near Stockport apparently. The address is Green Lane. Got the SatNav system working in your car?'

'Yes ma'am. Got a postcode?'
'SK6'

The photographer hurried over to them with freshly printed off images. He had made his five minute deadline with time to spare. He gave Julie several, and hurried away.

As Halliwell opened his car to get in, a man standing at the hotel car park entrance started to shout at her. 'Chief Inspector, Chief Inspector. Is it the Slasher again? Is there another body? Do you have a clue?' Julie looked at him in annoyance. He had picked up the alerts from police radio traffic and had arrived at the hotel only to be barred from entering. 'No Comment!' she shouted back, and turned to get into Halliwell 's car'

He was persistent 'Chief Inspector, Chief Inspector, can you tell me anything about this activity.' He recognised her; her hair always flashed out it's me! It's me! 'What is the ambulance for? Why if the Chief pathologist out here? Do we have another hotel murder on out hands?'

Julie did not have time to talk to him, and in any case did not want to tell the press anything that might harm her investigation. 'No Comment! And get out of the way, before you get run over! Constable!' she called to a constable standing to one side, directing the pedestrians. 'Clear us a path, we're leaving, and get him out to the way!' Halliwell had programed the SatNav system for their destination, and read back the instructions 'Just under 40 miles. Mostly A roads. Right across the National Park. Nice ride. Blues and Twos?'

'Yes, let's get going!'

One thing was sure now. The CCTV tape would be promoted to a major interest story.

They headed off, and Halliwell picked up the Chatsworth Road, heading for the Peak District National Park.

Julie telephoned Superintendent Mann at his home. Another Saturday disturbed for him, she thought.�Tough for him.

'Sir, have you already been advised of this morning's discovery, at the Acorn Hotel?'

'Yes, Julie, I have. Does it look like the same killer as last week?'

'At the moment every indication points that way. I am on my way to Stockport now, to the victim's home. There's a wife, and I will have to break the news to her. I'll need to liase with the Greater Manchester Police as its on their turf.'

'I'll get in touch with them and get someone to meet you at the house. I'll get the address from the station. How soon do you expect to be there?'

'About forty minutes, Sir'
'Apart from breaking bad news, what are you hoping for?'

'Sir, as you know, I believe that Leo Sandford met his killer through that dating web site. If that's the case, then Brian Mulwhinney, today's victim, quite probably did the same. I need to get hold of his computer to prove that, of course, and with luck I'll get a username for him. That way in Holland, I'll have two names to go for, and we stand a better chance of nailing whoever it was they met. And if we have the same killer, that's two in two weeks. Damn rapid. No real delay. It may be that she's a Friday night killer, which means we have to be ready for next week, just in case.'

'OK, That's a nightmare and we can do without that, so its get all stops out now. If needed, we go national on a major manhunt. In the meantime, I'll brief GMP on your arrival. Good Luck.'

'Thank you, Sir'

She rang off and Halliwell glanced at her. 'Do you really think that? About them both meeting her through this web site, and a weekly murder, I mean?'

'It's the only real lead we have. I'm willing to bet that Mark Hames comes up with a good description of the woman. I bet she's very tall, she's slim, and dark. No distinguishing marks'

'Exactly what we already know, then.'

'Yes, and that's why I need that computer. We need to track her down. Today's body is far worse than last week's. I'm no psychologist, but there's bound to be something about that. And it's definitely a Friday night thing. She may kill again next Friday. And then, every Friday until we catch her. That's a staggeringly quick interval. I've never heard of or read about serial killers like it!'

'She might make a mistake.'

'Yes, there might be trace evidence that forensics can find this time. The stockings are a bit of a break. But so what? Before we can match DNA or fingerprints to a killer, we need to catch the damn killer. We need to catch her before we can use it! And if she is on a weekly killing spree, how many more are going to die before then? I'm worried about those stockings, too'

'How so? It's a break for us, no?'

'Yes, it is. But last week, she cleaned everything out. This week, she leaves something behind. It's as if she doesn't care, but if that's the case why take all his clothes?

'Maybe she's not worried about herself, and just wants to strip the victims. We need a psychologist to tell us. I only did history at uni.'

' Well, I'm no psychologist, either, so I'll give up on that question for now.'

They drove on in silence for a while, each lost in his own thoughts.

'What did the credit card company do? You seemed annoyed on the phone to Lynda earlier.' asked Halliwell suddenly.

'I was a bit. They phoned Brian Mulwhinney's home and queried a credit card payment - a hotel in Chesterfield. Apparantly they got the wife, who knew nothing about it. Now she's panicked about where her husband is and what he's up to, why he hasn't called, and why she can't get him on his mobile, all those sorts of things, I expect, and we certainly aren't going to help matters in the least when we turn up.'





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