After speaking to Ellen Henry’s mother, I arranged a meeting with Fairbanks. This time without any surprises, without any pretenses. I needed answers, and she needed to give them to me — whether she understood that or not.
The woman showed up on time, being driven in a large black sedan. She rolled down her window but stayed seated in the car.
“Let’s talk quick,” Fairbanks said.
“What was Ellen Henry doing at your club?”
“Punishing herself,” Fairbanks said.
“Because she was molested as a young teen, as a part of the dirtier end of Chris Martin’s sex trafficking. She blamed herself, especially since most of the other girls were runaways, captives, kidnapping victims — they hadn’t been groomed as she had, they didn’t live at home, they didn’t have parents. She blamed herself, because she didn’t tell.”
“Who did that to her?”
“Several men, as I understand it. One of them you helped arrest — the pervert who kidnapped his own daughter.”
A memory jarred loose. “Why would Chris Martin think sending me to you would help him? No bullshit — I want the truth.”
Fairbanks smiled. It was not a pleasant sight despite her pleasing features. She appeared like a snake prepared to pounce on a scared mouse. “Martin took a lot of blame for what happened. But several clients — especially some of the worse — got away with it. You never went after his customers, just the conspirators. He’s hoping to expose some of the former, especially if they let him rot when they could have helped. He’s a vengeful man.”
“He just wants to spread the stink around? Why not name the names himself?”
“It looks better if you do it,” Fairbanks said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…” She rolled her window back up, and the driver started pulling away.
I began to wonder if perhaps Chris Martin set the entire thing up to help hurt his former clients, but the only way to verify it would be a solution. And with my next few hours I would need to investigate the other young woman murdered.
Abigail O’Donnough had a great deal of things in common with Ellen Henry. They were in several of the same classes, they did all the same extra-curricular activities. They shared several physical features — hair, eyes, height, close on shape and size. If this were a serial killer he had a type.
Abigail’s parents were more help than I expected, willing to talk to anyone with any detail in order to catch the killer. They didn’t believe the cops would follow up on the case enough. The most pertinent information came at the end of our discussion.
“Mr. O’Donnough, I have to ask you both a few rough questions. Did anything in her past make you think Abigail might have been hurt before this — stalked, assaulted, anything?”
The grieving father shook his head. He had a face too young to have a daughter of eighteen, as did his wife. It didn’t make sense for these two to face this tragedy.
“Nothing, no change in behavior or mood?”
“The only time she became truly upset,” Mrs. O’Donnough said, “Was when Jake Creeel broke up with her to date her best friend Ellen.”
“She was best friends with Ellen?” I asked. “And she dated Jake Creel?”
“Briefly,” Mr. O’Donnough said. “I never liked him, but I hated him when he did that to her.”
“When was this?” I asked.
“About six months ago,” Mrs. O’Donnough said.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I stood. “I have to go — this could be the break I’ve been looking for.”
“You think it was Jake,” Mr. O’Donnough said.
“Perhaps,” I said. “I’ll let myself out.”
On the drive back to Creel’s hhouse I played it all over in my head. Either the murderer wanted to frame up Creel, was Creel himself, or had some other connection that the little man kept hiding.
When I came to a stop outside his driveway, both the car for Jake and Dorothea Henry were gone. But the front door hung wide open, kicked in from the outside, the top hinge nearly giving way.
I drew my gun and went in, clearing the house room by room. It had been tossed from top to bottom — even the silverware drawer had been turned upside down. But there was no sign of Jake or Dorothea.
After checking every room I made my way back to the kitchen and pulled the phone from the hook to call the cops. As I dialed I noticed movement in the backyard. Dorothea Henry was crawling away from the house on her stomach. She was still naked, and covered in blood.
The police officer at the desk finally answered.
“This is Ron Cavanaugh,” I said. “I need police and an ambulance at the Creel house right now!”
I left the phone hanging down near the floor and ran out the back door to Dorothea. She let out a fearful sound somewhere between a moan and a scream as she heard me.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” i said. “It’s me.”
She left a ridiculous trail of blood in her wake. When I reacher her, I had her roll over. Blood oozed from cuts on her breasts, thighs, and neck. I ripped the sleeve from my shirt and wrapped it around one would on her thigh, then removed the rest of my shirt to cover her. With my hands around her neck, applying pressure, we both waited for help.
“Took him,” Dorothea said.
“Took him where? Who?” I asked.
Her eyes stopped moving, she stopped blinking, and I knew that Dorothea Henry was dead. The sirens approaching would be too late for her, and our killer had claimed a third victim. All connected to one young man. If he was involved I resolved there and then to kill him myself.
Detective Leiutenant Elmira burst through the back door first, followed by two uniforms and then the paramedics. Elmira and the boys in blue had guns drawn.
“She’s gone,” I said.
“Ron, you’re going to have to come with us,” Elmira said. “We’re going to talk to you down town.”
“I didn’t do this,” I said. “You know that.”
“I know, but we can’t avoid the reality here. I won’t cuff you — you aren’t under arrest… yet.” Elmira knelt and took my discarded 1911 and the shoulder holster I’d worn it in. He holstered the weapon and slung it over his shoulder.
“Come on, Ron. Let’s clean you up before we go.”
I nodded, glancing back only once to see the paramedics trying to bring Dorothea back. They rushed past us as I washed my hands in the kitchen.
“Did she tell you anything?” Elmira asked.
“Nothing I can use.”