Intimate Bondage

Intimate Bondage

John L. Flynn

June 2014 $14.95
ISBN; 978-1-61194-462-4

Book 1 of the Kate Dawson Thriller series

Someone has a fetish for murder.

Our PriceUS$14.95
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Detective Kate Dawson is willing to go undercover to catch a serial killer.

But this time, undercover may be exactly what the killer wants.

A rich, politically connected CEO dies in his private dungeon on a foggy San Fran night—beaten and castrated by a mysterious sex worker he hired. Detective Kate Dawson and her partner are assigned the case. Their only lead is a provocative email from "Crystal Rose” and an IP address at the University of San Francisco.

Before long, Kate’s on the trail of a serial killer who uses the seedy underworld of porn shops, Internet sex sites, and S&M clubs to target victims. She knows the only way to catch the killer is to become part of that world. 

John Flynn is the Hugo-nominated author of multiple non-fiction titles including Cinematic Vampires: The Living Dead on Film and War of the Worlds: From Wells to Spielberg.


Coming soon!



THE "ANGEL OF DEATH” came to Pacific Heights to claim her third victim.

Twenty-three minutes earlier, Stephen Collins greeted the redhead at his door, naked, and welcomed her into his house. His home was more a mansion... kept dark, much too dark to see anything clearly. Light from the exterior street lamp illuminated just enough detail for his late-night visitor to see that Collins enjoyed the luxury of a bygone era. His living room was lavish, beautifully decorated with floral patterns that gave the old Victorian mansion a sort of Gothic elegance. An original painting titled The Garden of Versailles was centered on one wall, framed by expensive drapes on either side. Fine antique couches, tables and chairs reflected style and sophistication in the highly-polished, Bolivian rosewood floor. Every detail of the room was perfect and meticulously in place, except for a small mirror with lines of cocaine on a side table.

Collins wasted little time in taking the woman’s classic belted trench coat from her and draping it over a chair. He then knelt in humble servitude before her, lowering his head and turning his gaze to the floor. He knew better than to look her squarely in the eyes, much less than to admire how her hourglass figure filled out the black leather corset, leather panties and fishnet stockings she’d concealed.

His manhood swelled with the desire to take this woman, and to take her without asking permission, but he knew the rules all too well. His role was a submissive one, and as a slave to her, Collins had to do everything she demanded. Everything. They had discussed a safe word over the telephone, but he had forgotten its simplicity just as soon as he had put the receiver down. He didn’t need a safe word. He lived for potent drugs and destructive women, and actually got off on the adrenaline rush of what his latest anonymous hookup would do to him.

He was not at all disappointed when the redhead placed an obedience collar around his neck and had him lead her on leash to the basement door and down the stairs to the dungeon he had constructed for sadomasochistic play.

As with the first floor of his home, he had spent a great deal of money on elaborate decorations and expensive furnishings for the basement. But these particular appointments more aptly fit the style of a medieval torture chamber than that of a genteel Victorian mansion. The serene face of an Iron Maiden with its horrible, larger-than-life-sized casing followed them down the winding wrought-iron staircase to the basement floor. Thumb screws, chains, leg irons, cages, and brands cried out silently for a world long past, while the medieval-inspired music of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana—O Fortuna played softly in the background.

Unfortunately, Collins could barely hear the music he had selected because his heart was pounding so loudly. He felt an orgasm welling up deep within him, and he tried to slow himself down, to hold it all in. First, he tried to focus on his surround­ings. Then he forced his mind back to one of their earliest discussions online, and recalled how interested she seemed to be in his personal dungeon. He believed that was one of the reasons why she had agreed to come over to his home for a first meeting. Those were usually conducted at local clubs where there were plenty of people around, and safe words were in abundant supply. Second meetings tended to be more private, where just about anything could and did happen.

The redhead led Collins to the center of the room where a pair of iron shackles hung from the ceiling. From behind him, she raised his hands above his head, and locked each one in turn into a shackle. He strained against his bonds, his eyes closed in ecstasy. She then gagged him with a Bishop’s leather head harness that nearly covered his whole face, and pulled the back strap secure. Collins felt the exchange of power shift from him to his dominant guest, and he drank it all in.

For a brief moment, the woman paused and looked at Collins, then walked around him and surveyed his body. He was very nearly immobilized, naked and totally at her mercy.

She reached up and pulled a clip from her hair, the long red tresses splashing across her bare shoulders. Her breasts, pushed up by the tight corset, heaved a sigh of relief. She untied a leather whip from her corset, and let its length unspool on the floor.

In rhythm with the music, the woman arched her back, pulled hard on the whip, and let it strike across his back. Thwack! The sound of the crack of a whip against bare flesh broke the elegant tranquility of the room. Thwack! He responded by bucking and writhing to each stroke. Thwack! As the music built, the strokes came faster and faster... Thwack... Thwack...Thwack... He was caught in the moment, trapped in between those ticks on a clock by the overwhelming narcosis that pain and lust produced together.

Collins felt his orgasm welling again from deep within, and this time, he went with it. He threw his head back, his mouth open in a silent scream beneath the mask, his eyes turning back into their sockets. He felt the delicious torment of the moment as he tore and strained against the shackles that bound him to the ceiling. He was about to explode.

She continued to strike him with her whip.

Then, as the medieval cantata reached its climax, the woman arched her back one final time, but she did not follow through with the whip. Instead, she pulled on its leather hilt and produced a long, thin blade. Sharp and deadly, the sliver of steel flashed in her left hand as she brought it down across his throat. Suddenly, the cold steel was awash in the red of his blood.

Stephen Collins convulsed, shot through with the pain of sudden, violent death, while his body exploded with one, final overpowering orgasm.



Chapter One

HOMICIDE DETECTIVE Kate Dawson drove through the early morning traffic to the scene of the crime, angry that the "Angel of Death” had struck again in spite of all of her department’s best efforts to catch the perp. On that first cold morning in early September, most people in the City by the Bay had not yet heard the news about the serial killer’s third victim. They were waking up to the local weather forecasters repeating Mark Twain’s droll comment about "the coldest winter” he ever spent "was a summer in San Francisco.” It was a great quote, and it certainly described the weather patterns for that day. It was cold and damp with a thick fog that blanketed the city in a perpetual twilight. Too bad Samuel Langhorne Clemens never said it.

When he lived in San Francisco in 1864 and 1865, Twain uttered a great many memorable lines about the weather, including the quip that "Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” But he was far better known for the dispatches that he wrote as a journalist for the San Francisco Daily Morning Call, the Sacramento Union, and Alta California. Had Twain been alive that day, he would have been among the crowd of reporters that had gathered on the sidewalk opposite the Victorian house in that affluent neighborhood, looking to break the story for the early edition.

As Dawson made the left turn at Divisadero, she noticed that patrolmen had cleared the street of local traffic, and were only allowing official vehicles to make the turn into the crime scene. Uniformed police officers kept news reporters and other interested bystanders behind a makeshift barrier, while dozens of plain-clothed detectives and specialists descended upon the house. The red and white flashing lights atop the police cars dispersed along the 2200 block of Divisadero acted like beacons that guided her and the other emergency vehicles through the fog to the scene of the crime. The City’s only forensics van rounded the corner at Clay Street in front of her, and pulled into the space behind the ambulance in the driveway, moments before it dispatched its team of crime scene investigators. The air was thick with the crackle of police radios that echoed through the quiet Pacific Heights neighborhood.

Kate edged the four-door sedan with no markings of any kind up to the driveway, and one of the uniformed police officers directed the car to a parking spot on the adjacent lawn. She and her partner got out of the car and looked up at the elegant façade of the Victorian house.

Frank Miller nodded his approval. "Now that’s what I call a house,” he told Kate. "They just don’t make them like that anymore, do they?”

"You’ve got to be kidding,” she replied. "I’ll bet it’s drafty in the winter and hot as hell in the summer. Probably costs a fortune just to maintain a steady temperature throughout the year.”

"It’s got character,” Miller added.

She could see that he really liked the house. "Yeah, you’re probably right,” she said, without feeling. "It’s going to need every bit of its character to weather this storm. I can’t think of too many people who would be anxious to buy an old Victorian that was the site of a homicide.”

Miller shook his head in disagreement.

The two detectives could not have been more different. Like the four-door sedan he drove and the six-shot, .38 Smith & Wesson snub-nosed revolver he carried on his hip, Frank Miller could never have been mistaken for anything other than an inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. At sixty-two years of age, a few months short of his retirement, the African-American man had served longer than most of his peers, and was still a formidable detective. His dark features looked weathered and worn, much like the wing-tipped Oxford loafers that he had worn on his feet for the last forty years, but he was still sharper than most in the Homicide Bureau. He may have grown a bit older, become a bit slower, and still wore the same rumpled trench coat that had gone out of style twenty-five years earlier, but no one on the force knew his way around a crime scene better than he.

In contrast, Kate, twenty-five years younger, felt like a greenhorn, with less than seven years on the force. She carried a twelve-shot .9 millimeter Beretta in a triple-draw holster under her left arm, and drove an expensive 5-series BMW when it wasn’t parked in the finance company’s impound lot for back payments.

Though Kate ensured her image was professional, her expensive haircut, cosmetics and designer suit just barely masked an urban woman living on the edge. A few years earlier, she had come unglued when her ex-husband shot and killed their daughter with Kate’s own service pistol during a domestic dispute, and she’d spent the next two years on administrative leave, binging on self-destruction. Now she was very much aware that she could no longer afford to make any mistakes.

Kate and Miller pushed their way through the cops on the front lawn, and headed for the front door. At the top of the steps, they bumped into Jorge Ramirez hurrying out the door. The young detective’s face was as pale as a white linen shroud, and he looked like he was about to hurl his breakfast.

Miller greeted him with a paternal smile. "Jorge, are you okay?” asked the older detective, pulling him to one side.

"We’ve got another bad one, Frank,” Ramirez replied, hand cupped to his mouth. "They’re calling it another ‘Angel of Death’ killing.”

"So I’ve heard. Third one this month.”

"I just got a look at the body. I—I can’t believe somebody would have the stomach to do that to another person.”

"Yeah, sex crimes are the worst,” Miller said in a matter-of-fact tone. "If it’s like the other two, we’re chasing one sick bastard.”

"No shit,” Ramirez said, his voice an octave higher than it normally would have been. "It’s just that, when you’re cramming for the detective’s exam, nobody bothers to prepare you for the real stuff.”

"I bet that old patrol car of yours looks pretty good right now.”


"You’ll be okay,” Miller said, patting him on the back. "Just get away from this house, take a couple of deep breaths, and clear your head. Think about that pretty wife of yours and that newborn you got at home.”

"Thanks,” Ramirez replied. He took a couple of steps down the stairs of the house, and turned around. "I just want to know one thing, Frank...”

"What’s that?”

"Does it ever get easier?”

From Kate’s experience, that answer was no.

Frank shrugged. "Every time I think I have that one figured out,” he said, with a distant look on his face, "I walk into a new crime scene, and then I find myself asking that same question all over again.”

"That’s not exactly what I wanted to hear.”

"I know,” Miller said, flatly. "But it’s the truth.”

Ramirez nodded his acknowledgement, and continued down the stairs.

The two detectives pushed their way past the police at the front door. As they entered the Victorian home, Miller took a deep breath, and drank in the smell of that lost and forgotten era of San Francisco gentility. He had encountered that smell before, first as a boy watching his parents toil as household servants for a wealthy couple from New Orleans, and then again as a young man hired to do domestic chores for a wacky old spinster who left a multi-million dollar estate to her cats. Now, Miller did not consider himself to be an expert on the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but he was smart enough to know what the smell represented.

"Old money,” he said, under his breath. As he took in the lavish, beautifully-decorated surroundings: the fine antique chairs and tables, the inlaid floor, the classical painting, the expensive drapes and the floral patterns of elegant découpage that adorned the walls, Miller was already formulating his thoughts about the crime scene. The owner of this home was no first generation millionaire who had made a bundle in Silicon Valley before the market went belly-up. He was more likely to be someone very well connected to the city because of his parents or grandparents.

As they walked past several uniformed officers, forensic men and coroner’s investigators, Kate said, "Ramirez seems pretty shaken up.”

"He’ll be all right. He’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders, and if he can keep it centered on what’s most important, he’ll make a fine detective.”

"Still, I’m surprised he lost his cookies at a crime scene.”

Miller grinned. "Not that long ago, I remember watching a scraggly kid puke her guts out the first time she ever saw a dead body.”

"Hey, you got that all wrong,” she replied defensively. "I was hung over and sick to my stomach from celebrating my promotion the night before.”

"Yeah, that’s right. Too many Wild Turkey chasers.”

He flashed Kate a big, toothy grin that let her know that he knew the truth of the matter, as they started down the stairs to the basement.

Kate swallowed a retort. It didn’t matter what he thought—she knew the truth. She followed Frank into the blood-spattered dungeon. They made their approach to the body through a handful of forensics investigators, pausing only momentarily to give the police photographer time to snap several more pictures of the crime scene. Anything that Miller may have felt personally about the gruesome sight was hidden beneath a mask of total indifference, while Kate was shaken by what she was seeing. It was hard for her to imagine the kind of rage or madness that would have provoked anyone to commit such a heinous murder, but there it was right in front of her.

The victim’s severely beaten body hung from shackles in the center of the room over a pool of blood. Not only had his throat been cut, but the man’s penis had also been severed at the base of the shaft and shoved into his mouth. His lips were crimson with blood. The horrible and degrading image seemed less like a crime scene, and more like a glimpse of Dante’s lowest circle of Hell.

"Christ almighty!” Kate blurted out, unaware of what she had said until she realized that everyone in the room had stopped what they were doing and looked right at her. She straightened up, brushed the folds out of her Versace blazer, and tried to pull herself together.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Frank came to her defense. "Okay, so what we got?” he demanded, the senior detective’s words summoning everyone back to work.

All at once, the basement dungeon was a flurry of activity. The forensics team returned to picking over the room, searching and probing for clothing fibers or single strands of hair that may have fallen to the floor. The coroner’s crew returned to scouring the body for clues, including lacerations that may have revealed something about the murder weapon. Their boss, Dr. Edgar Brogan, the portly medical examiner with the windblown cheeks and bloodshot eyes, did not waste any time plunging what looked like a large meat thermometer into the victim’s abdomen before checking his watch.

Mikhail Jawara, one of the two Homicide detectives who had the bad fortune to pick up the crime at the end of their shift, obviously struggled to stay awake by downing the last few drops of his coffee, while his partner William Clark checked over his notes. A couple of uniformed cops stood around, talking, taking in the sights. They didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to return to their beat.

In the shadow created by the Iron Maiden, just beyond the hustle and bustle of the scene-of-the-crime boys, Miller spotted two plain-clothed men that looked like they would have been more at home on the golf course than at a homicide investigation. Lt. Roberts and Captain Aguilar didn’t seem like they were in much of a hurry to go anywhere. Roberts, as the head of the Homicide Bureau of the San Francisco Police Department, had every reason to be there—even though it pissed Miller off that the death of some big mucky-muck rated a visit from the boss when the life of a five-year-old child cut short by a stray bullet from a gangland slaying would have been totally ignored by him. The attendance of Aguilar, assistant chief of police, and the mayor’s personal hatchet man, meant that something big was going down. Something, Frank knew, that had very little to do with murder and a lot more to do with San Francisco city politics.

"People, we really need to focus,” Miller said loudly, over the noise of the room. "I know it’s early, and most of us haven’t had our morning coffee. But we need to focus on the particulars of the crime scene at hand.” He waited for them all to settle down. "Now, what have we got?”

Clark waved his notebook in the air. "The victim’s name is Stephen Collins,” he said, reading from the page. "Thirty-six years old, divorced, no children. Chief Executive Officer, Westmore Real Estate Development Corporation.”

"Westmore?” Jawara repeated. "That’s the group the mayor hired to tear down the last of the public housing in the Mission District. Wanted to make room for more of those yuppie restaurants and nightclubs—”

Aguilar cut him off. "That’s the last I want to hear about Westmore,” he said firmly, without discussion. "The City of San Francisco awarded that contract to Westmore fairly, and with all due transparency, in a competitive bid process which selected their sealed bid as the cheapest from among three higher bids. We all must be clear on this.”

Jawara nodded, and crossed to the other side of the room where his partner was taking notes. "Christ! What did I say?”

"Just don’t say anything more,” Clark whispered.

"You guys know Captain Aguilar?” Roberts asked the two detectives.

"We’ve already had the pleasure.” Kate scowled, remembering what a sonuvabitch he had been during her reinstatement hearing. If Aguilar had had his way, she would have been busted down to file clerk and banished to Records for the rest of her natural-born life.

"Be nice,” said Roberts.

"What’s the chief’s office doing here, Lieutenant?” Miller asked casually and far more diplomatically than Kate would have.

"The mayor is concerned by the way in which we have been handling this case,” replied Roberts. "Especially with the press.”

Aguilar folded his arms across his chest and his gaze swept the room, sizing up his men. "Due to the potentially explosive nature of the crime, the chief of police felt a senior member of his staff should take the lead in this investigation,” he said, evidently awash in his own fantasies of patriotism and flag-waving. "From now on, there will be a total news blackout about this so-called ‘Angel of Death,’ and no one but me will talk to the press about developments related to this case. I will also expect regular reports about your progress. Is that understood?”

Kate flashed raised eyebrows at Miller as she crossed to join Jawara and Clark on the opposite side of the room.

Miller hunched down over the pool of blood, and regarded the victim. "How long has Collins been dead, Dr. Brogan?”

"The skin turns white when I press it. This kind of discoloration is about right for six to eight hours,” the medical examiner replied. He looked down at the dial on the thermometer he had placed in the victim’s abdomen and checked his watch. "Ninety-two degrees... give or take an hour for each degree... that places the time of death around two a.m., plus or minus.”

"Cause of death?” Miller asked.

"Massive hemorrhage,” Brogan answered. "When the carotid artery in the victim’s throat was severed, probably by a very sharp knife or instrument, he bled to death in a matter of moments.”

Frank stood up and walked around the body. "Doesn’t look like he put up much of a struggle.”

Brogan shook his head. "The cut to the throat is clean, indicating a limited struggle. It’s consistent with the fact that we found the victim completely immobilized,” he said. "No, I don’t think he even saw it coming.”

Kate stared hard at the body "So, the victim willingly allowed himself to be shackled and beaten?”

"Take a look around,” Jawara replied. "This guy was into some pretty kinky shit.”

Kate looked around at the Iron Maiden, the thumb screws and branding irons, and trembled. She tried to rub away the creeping cold sensation that ran up and down her body, but it continued to hold her captive.

"What can you tell us about the killer?” Miller asked Dr. Brogan.

"Not much,” he replied with a shrug. "Could be a male. Could be female. But I’d definitely be looking for someone left-handed. Possibly with connections to some BDSM group.”

At the chorus of soft chuckles and snickers, Aguilar frowned, evidently annoyed by their juvenile behavior. He spoke evenly, calmly, with the authority of his office behind his words. "Not a word of that leaves this room! Do you hear me? The last thing we need is the press triggering a witch-hunt in the gay community that would tear this city apart.”

"Gay community?” Clark asked, confused, thumbing back through his notes. "Who said the killer was homosexual?”

"That’s not what Brogan said...” Kate interjected.

"I specifically heard him say—” Aguilar spoke over the top of her.

"I said BDSM,” the medical examiner corrected him, saying it loud enough that everyone heard him. "That’s an acronym for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism. Simply put, it refers to activities between con­senting adults that contain sadistic and masochistic elements.”

The room went suddenly quiet as members of the law enforcement personnel regarded each other with curiosity.

Frank never took his eyes off the body. He frowned slightly, but felt more thoughtful than condemning. In his forty years of service to the San Francisco Police Department, he had never had a case that involved sadomasochism nor had he had much experience with the subculture. He had handled more than his fair share of perverts and prostitutes back in the day when he’d walked a beat in the Tenderloin, but his understanding of BDSM was little more than that of the average layman’s. He would have been hard-pressed to explain why anyone in their right mind would have submitted willingly to such a beating.

"Sounds pretty twisted,” Clark said, breaking the silence.

"Not at all,” Brogan replied. "Many people practice some element of BDSM in their sexual lives without even being aware of it. They may think of S&M as that sick stuff that people do with whips and cattle prods, yet still blindfold one another from time to time and break out the whipped cream...”

"Doesn’t sound like my idea of fun,” added Jawara.

The medical examiner adjusted the glasses on his face with his right index finger. "Maybe not, but it’s still practiced by more people than you know, and not just homosexuals.”

Aguilar looked like he was about to explode, but he managed to keep it all in. "All this talk about bondage and cattle prods and M&Ms stays right here in this room,” he said, dead serious. "I don’t want to hear one mention of this to the press. They’re already going to have a field day when they learn our third victim was connected to the mayor’s redevelopment project.”

Everyone nodded, reluctantly.

Miller focused his attention back on the body. "Dr. Brogan, you said the perpetrator was left-handed. What makes you think so?”

"He, or she, reached around from behind the victim, and cut his throat from right to left,” Brogan replied, then pantomimed the actions of the killer, holding an imaginary knife in his left hand and drawing it across the victim’s throat. "The angle and depth of the injury is consistent with a strong left-handed person.”

"And what about that whole ‘Lorena Bobbitt’ thing?” Jawara asked.

Dr. Brogan shook his head. "Your guess is as good as mine,” he replied. "But I can tell you the victim was probably already dead when it happened.”

"Thanks, Edgar,” Lt. Roberts said, dismissing the medical examiner. He reached up and scratched the stubble on his face absentmindedly. The patches of stubble matched the salt-and-pepper color of his hair. "So, what does that give us? Three victims, three identical crime scenes, no suspects.”

Kate thought about his question for a moment, then asked, "Was Collins connected in any way to the other two victims?”

Clark checked his notes. "No,” he replied. "Victim number one was a thirty-nine-year-old stockbroker who had just moved here from Detroit. Victim number two was a forty-seven year-old retired rock-’n-roller named Dr. Zee.” The detective glanced up from his notepad with the look of recognition on his face. "I think I still have one of his early albums on an eight-track tape.”

"That’s likely to become a collector’s item now,” said Jawara, his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. "You may want to save that one for eBay.”

Detective Clark was a pack rat and spent most of his downtime buying and selling at online auctions. He had enough junk—from beer cans, Civil War medals, and comic books to sports collectibles, toy trains and everything in between—to fill several warehouses. He’d financed his way through college by selling off less than a dozen of his favorite comic books, including Superman #1 and DC Showcase #4. At thirty-nine years of age and unmarried, Clark had it all—he was rich, white, and successful. Frank wondered why he continued to work.

"All three men were rich, white, and successful. That’s about as far as it goes,” Clark concluded, snapping his notebook closed.

"You forgot to mention kinky,” Kate added, unable to resist commenting.

The assistant chief of police rounded on her. "Now, listen to me, Dawson,” Aguilar said, at point-blank range. "I’m tired of your bullshit. I’m tired of the attitude you get every time a superior officer looks at you cross-eyed. You seem to think this is all some kind of game meant for your personal amusement. Well, I can assure you, Detective, that it is not. I’m going to get a lot of heat on this from the press. I don’t want any mistakes.”

Mistakes, from the captain’s perspective, were costly. They tended to reduce the amount of good will and political capital the mayor had built up with the public, and that translated into fewer votes at the ballot box. Kate knew exactly what he meant, and the thought filled her with enough rage to kill anyone above the rank of lieutenant. The reassuring nod from Miller helped her to push it back down inside.

"Hear that, Clark?” whispered Jawara, "No mistakes.”

"I wasn’t planning on making any mistakes, but then, with you as a partner, who knows?” Clark replied.

The forensics team had just finished unpacking the Leica ScanStation C-12, and was preparing to deploy the three- dimensional laser scanner. Kate often thought that it was one of the most useful forensic tools the SFPD employed for processing a crime scene, and she wondered how the department had gotten along without it all these years. She knew this next-generation device allowed investigators to capture trace evidence like fingerprints, hair and skin totally and completely in about a third of the time that it used to take before. It stood about six feet high on a tripod, and looked like a souped-up motion picture camera.

Annoyed by the unprofessional byplay, Miller picked up one of the threads of the investigation, and asked, "Were there any witnesses?”

"None of the neighbors heard or saw anything,” Lt. Roberts responded. "My men are still out canvassing the neighborhood, but I seriously doubt they’ll turn anything up. People live in the Heights for a reason. Their privacy.”

"Who discovered the body?” Miller persisted.

"The housekeeper,” said Clark, referring to his notes. "She came in about an hour ago, and found him.”

"Do you think we could have a word with her?” Dawson asked, finally joining the investigation. "She may have seen or heard something that might be useful.”

"She’s not a live-in,” Clark reported.

Lt. Roberts shook his head. "You’ll have to talk to her later. She was so hysterical when she found the body, the EMTs had to sedate her and take her down to County for observation.”

"Probably a dead-end anyway,” Dawson said, sighing.

The laser scanner was ready to run. "Could I get all of you to move to one side?” asked one of the crime-scene boys.

Aguilar led his men over to the stairs, took a few steps up, and turned to look down on them. "Well, if that’s all you and your men have for me, Roberts, then I’d be remiss in my duties wasting any more of my time here,” he said, sounding overly pompous. He brushed off his suit and straightened his tie. "I’ll do what I can to save your miserable jobs by saying something brilliant to the press about the investigation. But you and your men had better come up with a suspect, and fast, or I’ll be demanding your resignations by the end of the month.”

The assistant chief of police turned back around and headed up the stairs to the living room and the waiting press. After a moment of silence, Dawson, Clark and Jawara all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

"What an asshole,” Jawara exclaimed.

"I’ve always wondered what happened to cops who couldn’t cut it in Homicide,” said Clark, hitting the stairs.

"They get a degree in criminal justice, and end up playing eighteen holes of golf with the mayor and the chief of police,” Dawson replied, right behind him.

"More like losing eighteen holes of golf,” Jawara corrected her, following. "His head couldn’t be any further up the mayor’s ass.”

"And what about the way he jumped all over you when the name Westmore was brought up?” Clark said.

"He’s definitely hiding something,” Dawson concluded. "I don’t know what it is, but I’ll almost bet it has something to do with this case.”

A voice echoed down from above. "Are you finished... ?”

They all turned their gaze upward to see Aguilar standing at the top of the stairs, nostrils flaring, hands on his hips. The three detectives sheepishly marched by him in single file, and then fell into formation. Frank suppressed a smile. Whatever Aguilar had to say to them was inconsequential next to the humiliation of being overhead while talking about him. They were like three schoolboys who had been caught by their righteous headmaster with their pants down around their ankles, pissing in the wind. No punishment in the world was worse than getting caught doing something wrong.

At the bottom of the stairs, the lieutenant reached across the width of his body, and took Frank’s arm. "This is a really bad one,” Roberts said. "We’ve got some maniac out there who thinks he’s the Marquis de Sade, and we’re going to have to put our differences aside and work together if we plan to stop him before he kills again.”

"Agreed,” Miller said.

"I was thinking about having Ramirez work with the lab boys running a trace on Collins’s phone records, computer files... you know, see what comes up.”

"Put Clark on it,” Miller suggested. "He’s far more detail-oriented than Ramirez, and he has a much stronger background with computers and technology, in general, than anyone else in the department.”

Lt. James Roberts made a note.

"Besides, that’ll free up Ramirez to get more face time talking with witnesses and potential suspects,” Miller continued. "I’d partner him with Jawara, and send them out to get statements from the ex-wife, co-workers, employees, friends... You know, beat the bushes, and see what crawls out.”

"What about you and Dawson?”

Miller looked at the body one last time, committing all the details of the crime scene to his memory. There was something almost primal that he couldn’t shake out of his system. He sensed that it was important, but he could not quite wrap his mind around it.

"I’d like the chance to follow up on the medical examiner’s theory,” he said.

"You can’t be serious?”

"I am.”

"Well, for Christ’s sake, keep it quiet,” Roberts cautioned him. "If Aguilar finds out we’re investigating those S&M freaks, he’ll bust us both down. And you and I will end up pounding a beat on Skid Row.”


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