Androphobia (Fear of Men)

Androphobia

(Fear of men)

There isn’t much to do at night in the city when the rain is so heavy that you can barely see your hand in front of your face. The only people out on nights like this are either trying to get home late from work or working the streets, hidden in doorways. This was that kind of night. In the doorway of an old abandoned dry cleaners was a young man who, if he kept track of such things, was just past his 17th birthday. He stood in the doorway smoking a cigarette and debating whether it was worth his time to see if he could lure someone into “taking him home”. This could be the potential client’s home, if he was single, or at a nearby run down motel, if he wasn’t. Either way, the boy figured that anything would be better than standing out in the rain, relying on a cigarette to keep him warm. The boy had just finished his cigarette and had decided to call this night a waste and go back to his motel room, when a man, looking to be around 35 years old and not too much of a troll, pulled up to the sidewalk in his decent-looking car, and asked the boy if he needed a lift. “Yeah, whatever you want to call it. First, I haveta ask, are you a cop?”

“No, I’m not a cop.” Having gone through the preliminaries of his profession, the boy pulled the door open and got in.

“So, where are you going?”

“Where ever you want to go. It’s your choice, but I do ask to be paid first.”

“Understood. We’ll go to your place, shall we?”

The rain had cleared the air, but had caused a bit of havoc among the trash left along the side of the street. Some of the drains were still overflowing, but the city’s sewage patrols were hard at work trying to clear the streets quickly. At the Starlite Motel, there were two police cars parked near the motel office. At a room, about four doors down and on the first floor, a policewoman was decorating a door with “Caution…Crime Scene” tape. Her partner and she had just finished taking pictures of the body of the young man who was found on the bed with his throat slit and his genitals cut off and jammed into the bloody slit throat. Alexandra Stillwater, the 12 year veteran of the department, along with her partner, Eric Piper, a ten year veteran, had just finished scouring the bedroom and bathroom for clues. The other police officers were busy speaking with the motel’s manager, trying to get information about the victim. The manager was of very little help, telling the officers that he only knew the boy by the name that had been given to him when he rented the room and pretended not to know what occupation the boy maintained in order to pay for his room. The manager’s policy was to not stick his nose where it didn’t belong, unless the rent was not paid on time.

“So, Ally, what do you think our chances are of finding out who killed this kid?”

“It all depends on any information that the manager might have or if we manage to get lucky and find a witness who will be willing to talk to us. As you know, trying to get any of these sorts of people to talk is almost impossible and most of the time, they’ll lie to you.”

“Yeah, I know. Well, let’s go see what the manager has to say.”

The partners ducked under the yellow tape and walked the few hundred feet to the manager’s office. Before they got the door open, however, two other officers walked out.

“So, what did the manager tell you guys?”

“Not much. Unfortunately, they don’t have a thorough security system set up. There’s only one camera hooked up and that just focuses on the front desk. We checked the footage that they did have, but, apparently, the kid was paying a weekly rate and had his key with him.”

“Shit,” Piper said and then looked at Stillwater and said,

“So, should we just write up a report and put it on the Captain’s desk and say that there were no witnesses?” Just as Piper finished speaking, Stillwater noticed a head peek out of a window from a room which was across from the victim’s room.

“Not just yet; I think I might have found a possible witness. C’mon.”

The two officers casually walked over to the room that Ally had seen the person looking out of the window. She knocked loudly enough on the door so that the person could hear her, but not loudly enough to sound threatening. Piper was just about ready to go to the back of the building in case the person tried to slip away, but it wasn’t necessary when the door opened and the officers saw a light-skinned Hispanic kid who looked like he should be in school instead of a second-rate motel.

“Good morning, I’m Officer Stillwater and this is my partner, Officer Piper. Could we ask you a few questions about the young man who lived in room 8?”

The boy’s dark eyes looked a bit red, as if he had been crying, but he opened the door wider so that the two police officers could enter. The boy went and sat in a chair which was by a desk and waited for the first question.

“What is your name please?”

“I’m Julio. What happened to Tony?”

“He’s been murdered and we are trying to see if anyone can help us find out who may have killed him. Did you know Tony very well?”

“I’ve known him for about a year. I met him at the bus station; he had just gotten here from Arlington, Virginia after his parents kicked him out for being gay. He didn’t have much money on him, so I told him how he could supplement his income. He was nervous, at first, but he eventually got the hang of it.”

“Was Tony his real name and, if it was, what was his last name?”

“Yeah, I assumed that Tony was his real first name cause that’s what he called himself when I met him. He didn’t say what his last name was, though.”

“Did you guys ever…you know, sleep together?”

“Not like you mean, officer. He had been here about a month when he picked up some guy who ended up beating and robbing him. He came to my room for some medical attention and stayed the night with me, but we didn’t fuck around. I, for one, would not take advantage of someone in that condition.”

“Alright, then did you happen to see anything last night? Who might have brought him here; what kind of vehicle did they come in? Anything?”

“Well, I happened to look out my window when I saw the car lights come by, cause I was waiting for a regular to stop by, and I thought that it might be him, but the car parked in front of Tony’s room. The rain was pretty heavy at that time, so it was kinda hard to make out anything clearly. I know that it was an older car and a dark color. Tony and the driver got out, but the only thing that I could see of the trick was that he was wearing a long coat and a hat.”

“Do you remember what time that was?”

“Yeah, like I said, I was expecting someone and I had checked my watch when the car pulled in. It was around a quarter to ten.”

“Did you hear any screams from his room?”

“No, I wouldn’t have heard anything with the sound of the rain and thunder.”

“Do you know what time the person left?”

“All that I can tell you is that when my “friend” left it was after one o’clock and I noticed that the car was gone.”

“Well, if you happen to remember anything else, here’s my card. Give me a call.” Ally said and she then motioned for her partner that it was time to leave. After they left Julio’s room, Ally walked back over to Tony’s area and looked down at the ground. She was looking to see if there were any tire tracks left from the murderer’s car, but it was hard to tell since the area was just loose gravel.

“OK,” said Eric, “it looks like we’ll have to rely on more witnesses to come forward, but you and I both know that the murder of one male prostitute isn’t going to be a major priority. Now, if seven or eight get killed, then we can start looking for a serial killer, but until then…” He let the sentence trail off and walked back to the patrol car. “Or if one of the victims happens to be from a well-to-do family.” Ally finished for him.

The loud music of the club was almost as bad as the sound of a jet taking off over one’s head. That and the flashing lights and the dancing bodies. It was almost like being in a disco from Hell, but then, for some people that was fine. Gerald Taylor was not much of a dancer; he was more of a drinker. Unfortunately for him, this club was close to his hotel and he didn’t like to take taxis, so he put up with what he could get. He had only been in the city for two hours. He was here on a business trip for his company in Dallas and, after grabbing a quick bite from the hotel’s restaurant, he decided that since he didn’t have to be up for the next day’s meeting until nine AM, that he would go have a few drinks before heading to bed. He had been in the club for an hour and had been debating whether to stay an hour longer or not, when a beautiful woman with long blond hair walked up to the bar beside him and ordered a drink. Through the comfortable haze in his head, and after getting a whiff of the light-scented perfume coming from the woman, Gerald Taylor felt confident enough to offer to pay for the woman’s drink. She gave him a warm smile, a slight nod of her head to the bartender, and thanked him for his kindness.

“Hello, my named is Linda. And you are?”

“Gerald, Gerald Taylor.”

“Well, Gerald Gerald Taylor, I’d like to thank you for your kindness.”

“No, it’s just one Gerald…my name, that is, and it’s no problem. A gentleman should always treat a beautiful woman.”

“Well, aren’t you a sweetheart. I can tell from your accent that you’re not from here, Gerald. Is that right?”

“You are quite correct, ma’am. I’m here on business from Dallas.”

“Oh, and what sort of business are you in Mr. Taylor?”

“I’m a vice president of sales for Lone Star Bank.”

“Oh, that sounds interesting.” And so Gerald’s decision had been made for him. He spent the next half hour getting to know Linda, and he was slightly surprised when she asked him where he was staying. Now if he had not been drinking so much, Gerald Taylor may have thought that he had been speaking to a very sly whore but, by the time that she had asked the question, Gerald was not worrying about such things. He had been married to his high school sweetheart for ten years before she left him for his best friend and any attention from a beautiful woman was a boost to his ego. Gerald left a tip for the bartender and escorted Linda through the dancing bodies out of the club. Gerald had told Linda that the hotel was close and that since it was such a lovely night out that a walk in the fresh air would help clear their heads. Linda told him that she did not mind the walk and she agreed with him that the night was beautiful. By the time that they got to the hotel, Gerald’s head was clear enough to know what he was getting himself into, but he didn’t care. Linda sat in an upholstered chair in the lobby while Gerald went up to the front desk to check for any messages and to pick up his room key. The clerk at the front desk told him that there were no messages for him and gave Gerald his key. He had noticed the woman who had come in the hotel with him, but since she did not look like a whore, he didn’t think any more about it or say anything to Gerald about his “guest”.

The police car had been parked in front of the hotel for fifteen minutes, but it did draw attention from pedestrians and hotel guests alike. Eric Piper was speaking to the hotel manager while his partner, Officer Stillwater was up on the fifth floor questioning the maid who had discovered the mutilated body in room 519. The body, of course, was that of Gerald Taylor late of Dallas, Texas.

“Ms. Juneau, what time did you discover the body?”

“It was an hour ago. Since there was no ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the doorknob, I knocked, waited a minute, and then got out my keys, but it turns out that I did not need it since the door was unlocked. I called out to see if the person might have been in the bathroom, but I didn’t hear anyone. I then went to the bed but saw the body laying there and I screamed. I then ran out to the hallway, got out my cellphone and called the front desk to report what I saw.”

“Did you touch anything in the room?”

“I had only put fresh towels in the bathroom when I came out and saw the body. I wouldn’t dare touch anything in that room; I’ve watched “CSI”, I know better.”

Alexandra Stillwater smiled at the CSI comment and then told the woman that she had done the right thing. After getting Ms. Juneau’s personal information and giving her one of her cards, Alexandra dismissed the woman and entered the room to see if the coroner was finished with his examination.

“Well,” she said, “have you found anything that could help in my investigation?”

The coroner, a short, white-haired man who was a few years away from retiring and named Dr. Joseph Fielding said,

“Other than the fact that the killer used a very sharp weapon and did a very thorough job, no, I haven’t found much of anything, Officer Stillwater, but you can be sure that I shall inform you as soon as I discover anything; you’ll be the first person I call.”

“Well, you don’t have to be such a prick about it, Joe. What’s bothering you this morning?”

“Oh, nothing Ally, I’m just feeling my age, I guess. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.”

Alexandra had always felt like a daughter to the grouchy old doctor and she didn’t hold it against him when he snapped at her. In fact, he was the only person who could get away with that. If anyone else had spoken to her like that, they had better be able to run very quickly or face Alexandra’s wrath.

“That’s alright, Joe. If you want to talk about it, you know that I’m there for you.”

“Yes, I know, Ally, and no, it’s nothing worth talking about.”

At that moment, the paramedics arrived with a stretcher and placed the body on it and left with Doctor Fielding in tow. Alexandra then put on a pair of latex gloves and searched the room for any evidence. The only things that she found was the late Mr. Taylor’s laptop, wallet and suitcase. There were a few items of clothing in the dresser and closet, so she took them out, examined them, and then put them in the suitcase. She then walked out of the room with the remains and closed the door. She was waiting at the elevator, when the door opened and she saw her partner standing there.

“I was just coming up to let you know what I found out. The manager gave me a list of the employees who were working last night and he said that he would call them and have them report to the station to be interviewed. We did go over some of the video that they have in the lobby, and the only thing that I would say was relevant was that Mr. Taylor picked up his key at 10:38 last night.”

“Fine. I suppose that we’ll have to wait for the employees to contact us.”

“Yes, well, Mr. Thibodaux, the manager, said that the desk clerk from last night will be in today at 4:00 if we want to interview him.”

“Hmmm, no, I think that we can wait, unless you want to come here after work to interview him.”

“No, you’re right. It can wait. Maybe he’ll come down to the station before he starts his shift.”

“We’ll see.”

Around 1:30, an officer walked over to Alexandra’s desk to let her know that there was someone from the Excelsia Hotel to see her. She told the officer to bring him over and, while she was waiting, got on the phone to let Piper know about the visitor. Piper said that he would be right over. When the officer escorted the young man over, Alexandra noticed that he was dressed ready for work. He was around 5’10, 180 lbs, had brown hair and green eyes. She estimated that he must be around 23 or 24 years old. As Alexandra rose from her seat, the young man stepped forward with a smile on his face and his hand out anticipating Alexandra’s actions.

“Good afternoon, Officer Stillwater, I am David Morrison. Mr. Thibodaux called and told me than you wished to speak to me about poor Mr. Taylor?”

“Yes, thank you Mr. Morrison for coming in so soon. Please, have a seat. My partner, Officer Piper, will be joining us soon.”

A minute later, Eric Piper walked over to Alexandra’s desk, looked around and pulled over a vacant chair from another officer’s desk. Before taking his seat, he introduced himself to the young desk clerk and waited for Alexandra to take the lead in the questioning.

“Now, Mr. Morrison, I understand that you work the shift from 1600 hrs until midnight, is that correct?”

“Yes, it is ma’am.”

“Were you working at the time that Mr. Taylor checked into the hotel?”

“Yes, I was. He had just gotten in from the airport at 5:00 PM, checked in, got his key, and told me that he did not want to be disturbed since he planned to take a nap in order to fight his jet lag.”

“How many pieces of luggage did he arrive with?”

“He had a medium-sized dark blue suitcase and a laptop.”

“How many days had he been at the hotel before his untimely death?”

“He had only been with us for two days.”

“Did you see him when he left the hotel that night? And was he with anyone?”

“No, I’m afraid that I did not see him when he left last night. I was on a break around 7:30, so he may have left during that time, or it’s even possible that he left the hotel before I began my shift.”

“But you did see him when he returned, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am. I told him that there were no messages for him and I gave him his key.”

“When he returned to the hotel, what sort of mood was he in and was he by himself when he returned?”

“Well,…I could tell that he had been out drinking, but he wasn’t what I would call “fall-down drunk” and there was a woman with him, or I should say, I noticed a woman come in with him but she did not come up to the desk with him. She stood over by the reading area looking out the window.”

“Could you describe her for us? What sort of clothes she was wearing? Age?”

“Well, the reading area, as you may have noticed from your visit earlier today, is about 100 feet away from the front desk. I noticed that she was blonde, about shoulder-length. She was very nicely dressed in a royal blue sparkly mid-length dress, and as she and Mr. Taylor were heading towards the elevator, I noticed that the top of her head came up to Mr. Taylor’s shoulders, so I guess she was about 5’6”, 5’7” tall. I’m afraid that that is all that I can tell you about her, Office Stillwater.”

“Did you notice the time when she left?”

“I never saw her when she left, so she probably left after I was off my shift.”

“Well, thank you very much for coming in and helping us with our investigation, and if you remember anything else, be sure to give us a call.”

“I will, thank you ma’am, sir.”

“Well, what do you think, Eric?”

“I don’t think that this mystery woman was…how should I put it?…an escort or a prostitute, but she could be our predator.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have much to go on. The killer of that boy at the Starlite could have been a woman dressed in men’s clothing, but our witness couldn’t tell us much because of the weather. If the killer is a woman, what is her motive?”

“I think that I’ll go check out the bars near the hotel and see if any doormen or bartenders can give me any more information.”

“Yeah, you do that and I’ll stay here in case any more of the hotel employees come in.”

Eric walked into the Z-Klub after determining that it was open. During the daylight hours, it served only as a bar but the place got packed after 8:00 when the deejay came on. Eric took a moment for his eyes to get used to the dim lighting before stepping up to the bar. Since he was not in uniform, he showed the bartender his badge when the man walked up to him and asked for his order.

“For now, I’ll just take a mineral water. I’m working on a murder case and I’d like to know if either of these people look familiar.” Having said that, he sat a pair of photographs on the bar. One was of Gerald Taylor, which was from his driver’s licence, and the other was of the woman that he had brought to the hotel with him. The picture of the woman was not very clear since it had been taken from a distance and was from the security camera. The bartender set down the bottle of water and told Eric that it was on the house. The man picked up Gerald’s picture first but did not look at it for long. He then looked at the other picture, but because of it’s lack of clarity, put it back down and told Eric that neither one of the people in the pictures looked familiar. Eric picked up the photos, put them in his jacket pocket and asked the bartender for the names of the deejay and the night bartender. When he received the information, he gave the man his card and told him to let the two men know that they could either come down to the station before work or on their day off. The bartender said that he would relay the information, but he had to correct Piper about one thing: the deejay, Tee Tonez, was a woman, her real name was Tina Tunetti. Eric thanked him for the correction and walked out of the club. One down, four more to go.

In the meantime, Alexandra sat at her desk and was going over some paperwork when her phone rang. When she answered it and heard who was on line, she sat up in her chair.

“Hey, Joe, how’s it going?”

“Well, Allie, I am about to send you my report on Mr. Taylor, but I thought that I would let you know that I did find one unusual thing about the body…or I should say, found on the body.”

“What did you find Joe?”

“I almost missed it at first, but then the light hit it just right. I found a strand of hair which did not belong to the victim. After running some tests, I determined that the hair was not natural; it came from a wig.”

“A wig!?! But how could a strand of hair from a wig come off? The only thing that comes to mind is if the victim managed to get his hand on the murderer’s head and pulled hard enough to tear off a strand of hair. For that to happen, they must have been…”

“Getting it on? Yes, that was what I was thinking. I’m just letting you know that the murderer wasn’t a true blond.”

“Well, I appreciate that Joe. I’ll let Eric know when he gets back.”

By the time that Eric had finished questioning the managers and employees of the remaining clubs on his list, it was past his regular lunchtime, so he stopped at a sandwich shop to get something to eat. After paying for his food and finding a table to sit at, his cell phone rang. Alexandra was calling to get an update on his part of the investigation and to let him know that she had just received the coroner’s report concerning Gerald Taylor’s murder.

“So, anything interesting?”

“Yes, he found a strand of blond hair on the victim.”

“Well, we already knew that. Just have forensics look into it and see if we can get any DNA from it.”

“That won’t be possible. The killer was wearing a wig.”

“Oh, that’s just great. Maybe we can determine who made the wig and check their records for the buyer.”

“Good idea. I’ll look into that.”

“Hold on, Allie, I’ve got another call coming in….Officer Eric Piper, how may I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Tina Tunetti. My boss told me that you wanted to talk to me about a murder.”

“Oh, yes, Ms. Tunetti, I do. Are you at the club now?”

“No, I just woke up and saw a message on my phone. I’m at home right now.”

“Where do you live? I can come over after I have my lunch.”

“That’s alright, if you’re in the area of the club, I can come see you. I have to stop by there to pick up my check. I’ll be there in about thirty minutes, if that’s alright with you.”

“Great, I’ll see you then.”

Piper hung up the call and told Alexandra that he would be speaking to the deejay at Z-Klub in half-an-hour and that when he was done with that, he would report back to her about how it had gone. Alexandra told him that she would wait for him at the station, even if it ran into overtime. Having finished with his call, Piper dug into his sandwich with a sigh.

By three o’clock, Piper walked through the door of Z-Klub and spotted a woman sitting at the end of the bar. She stood up when she saw him and Piper figured that she was around 5’6”, late twenties, and had brown hair with a red stripe along her bangs.

“Ms. Tunetti, I assume?”

“Yes, I am Officer Piper, and you can call me Tina. Shall we sit at the bar or would you prefer a table? Can I have them get you something from the bar?”

“No, thank you Tina, I’m good. A table will be fine.”

Piper took out the photographs that he had been showing around and handed them to Tina. She looked at them, then said,

“I did notice him, mainly because he was seated near the booth. He looked like a guy who came in to drink and not to dance. The woman came up beside him to order a drink, but, apparently, he said something to her and he paid for her drink. They sat there for about an hour or two. I did get a closer view of her when I went on break. We both ended up in the ladies room at the same time. We didn’t say anything to each other, but from what I could see of her, I’d have to say that she was about 35 years old, and an inch or two taller than me. She was wearing a pair of ruby earrings, nothing too flashy, but I did tell her that they looked real nice. I tend to like red, as you may have noticed.”

“Yes, I have. What did she say when you complimented her on her earrings?”

“She said that they were a Christmas gift from her ex-husband.”

“Did she say anything else to you?”

“No, she just dried her hands and left.”

“Did you see them when they left the club?”

“No, but after I got back from my break, they were gone.”

“Thank you for your time, Tina. If you think of anything else, be sure to give me a call.”

After completing his interview for the day, Eric Piper returned to the station to see if Alexandra had any more information. Alexandra was not at her desk, so he thought that she might be somewhere else in the station. Just as he was about to call her, he noticed a note on her desk. It had an address and a time on it, so he called Alexandra to find out what it was about. After Alexandra’s phone rang for a couple minutes without her answering it, Piper got worried. The time on the note said 7:00 PM at 6335 Western Avenue. Piper thought about the address, trying to recall what the area was like. Since it was already 6:00 PM, Piper decided that he would go meet Alexandra at the address as her backup. While he was on his way to the address, Piper recalled that that area was not in the best of neighborhoods. In fact, it was a rather run-down area which the city had not really bothered to make any effort to clean up. As he was driving up the 60th block of Western Avenue, the weather started to change. At first, it was a light drizzle, but one look at the approaching clouds told Piper that it would be a miserable night to be out looking for murderers. At the intersection of 62nd and Prospect, while Piper was waiting for the light to turn green, he tried to call Alexandra again. Still, no reply. From the intersection, Piper could see that the address that he was looking for was in the area of an abandoned warehouse. He drove up to the old building and parked behind Alexandra’s car which he saw when he pulled up to the warehouse. He checked his gun and pepper spray to make sure that he was prepared for any situation which might occur. He got out of his car, locked the door, and walked up to the warehouse door. It was slightly open, so he slowly pulled on the door, hoping that the door was not rusted enough to make any noise. Once he was inside, he looked around for any evidence of which way Alexandra may have gone. Since he was unaware of why Alexandra would come to this place alone and not let him know about it, he cautiously took his gun out of his holster, and walked slowly forward, keeping alert for any voices or sounds. Suddenly, he heard a sound coming from the right of him. He quickened his pace, and just as he got to an open area, he saw the bloody corpse. As he approached it, he kept looking around in case the killer was still in the area. Holding his gun out to his side, he started to kneel down by the corpse to see if he could identify the body. From the clothing, it looked like the man had been a security guard who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Piper was just rising from the floor, when:

SLAM!!!

The lights, as they say, went out in Piper’s head.

When Piper came to, he saw, through his blurry eyes, a figure standing by his head. It was a woman with blond hair, a black trench coat, which had splatters of blood on it, and who stood in the shadows. Piper started to shake his head in order to clear his vision, but the pain was excruciating. The woman raised her hand, which Piper noticed had a cleaver. He also noticed that his arms and legs were tied up and that he had been disarmed.

“Who are you? Why are you doing this?” The woman, at first, did not say anything, but soon, Piper heard the sound of low laughter.

“Men! You always think that you’re so smart! Well, let me tell you, you are not! You seek to control women and use them for your filthy, filthy purposes! Well, now I will be the avenger of all women who can’t fight for themselves!” Having said that, the woman stepped out of the shadows and Piper’s eyes widened in shock. He wasn’t in shock for long, and said,

“Alexandra? What are you doing?”

The woman stopped and looked down at Piper with anger in her eyes.

“I am NOT Alexandra. I AM LINDA! Alexandra is a slave to men! She didn’t say anything when those men did what they did to her! She does not deserve to exist! I, Linda, will now control her! And you, little man, will be erased from her memories!” Saying that, “Linda” raised the cleaver and was about to start her business, when Piper heard what sounded like two shots of heavily exhaled breathes. Linda’s head jerked up and then she fell limply across Piper’s body. Piper heard footsteps and then, rising like a ghost from the ground, the face of Doctor Joseph Fielding appeared. His face had a sad expression on it and, in his right hand, he held what looked like, to Piper, a tranquilizer gun.

“Doc, what’s going on here? And why are you here anyway?”

Before answering Piper’s questions, the doctor laid the gun down and pulled the woman’s body off of him. When Piper sat up, he saw two tranquilizer darts, one sticking out of the woman’s neck and the other in her back.

“I was afraid that this would happen when I saw the first body, but I didn’t want to believe it.”

“Believe what? What are you talking about?”

“It’s a long story, Officer Piper, and I think that we should tie her up before the sedatives wear off.”

As Piper and the doctor carried Alexandra’s limp body out of the warehouse and put her in the backseat of Piper’s car, the doctor started to explain. Doctor Fielding had known Alexandra Stillwater for over twenty years. He was a friend of her parents. When Alexandra was eleven years old, she had been abducted by three men who had broken out of prison. She had been walking home from school along a lonely dirt road. Doctor Fielding told Piper that he and Alexandra’s family lived in a different state at that time. Anyway, he said, these men grabbed her and took her into a nearby barn and took turns raping and beating her. This had gone on for two hours, and while the men were deciding whether to kill her or not, the man who owned the barn had seen what was going on and called the police. The men were about ready to kill Alexandra, except they didn’t have a weapon to do it; the police rushed into the barn before they could find anything. Alexandra was in a total state of shock and was taken to the local hospital. Doctor Fielding was on duty when Alexandra was brought in and it was his job to notify the girl’s parents. Alexandra was in the hospital for two weeks and the doctor made it his duty to look in on her as much as possible when her parents couldn’t be at the hospital.

“By the time that she was discharged, her father and I were the only men who she could stand to have around her. Unfortunately, not all medicine can cure all hurts. A year later, Alexandra and her parents were visiting some relatives. She was playing with a cousin who was two years older than her and when no one was around, he tried to get her to have sex with him. I think that that was the first time that “Linda” appeared. The next thing that anyone knew was that cousin came screaming back to the house, saying that Alexandra had threatened to cut off his dick. Well, that was the end of that visit. Alexandra’s parents brought her back to me and told me what had happened. Now, at that time, I had seen that movie Sybil, so I had an idea. I knew a psychiatrist, who was a woman and a friend, and I suggested to Alexandra’s parents that they let this woman hypnotize Alexandra so that we could decide how to deal with this situation. They agreed and I took her to meet my friend. Long story, short…Alexandra had, at that time, fragmented into six different personalities and Linda was the worst of the lot. Instead of having Alexandra placed in an institution, it was decided that Alex would continue treatment with my friend. After two years of sessions, everything seemed to be fine. Alexandra graduated from high school and went to college, then she went to the Academy without any relapses. Then, a month ago, she was coming out of the grocery store late at night and two guys jumped her. They forced her into her car and when one of the men was being lookout, the other was about to rape her when it happened…Linda was back and she was pissed! Because there wasn’t much space in the back seat of the car for Linda to really let loose, she, apparently, was ferocious enough for the guy to yell and get out of the car. They must have run like the Devil was after them. Anyway, I stopped by Alex’s home the next day, not knowing what had happened. However, when Alex was out of the room for a few minutes, I noticed two boxes sitting in a corner. I looked into them and saw that one had a trench coat in it and the other had a blond wig. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but when Alex came back into the living room, she was behaving a bit disjointed. She insisted that it was just from not getting enough sleep, but I began to get worried the more that she came to work tired, so I decided to keep an eye on her. Unfortunately, when that boy was killed, she had fooled me by disguising herself as a man, but when I found the strand of false hair from the second body, I decided that she had to be stopped, so I had my assistant, who she has never met, call and say that he had information about the serial killer. I had him give her the time and address and I drove to the warehouse as fast as was safely possible.”

“YOU called her? Why didn’t you call me to let me know what was going on?”

“Because of our history. I wanted to handle this since she trusts me. Unfortunately, traffic held me up so that by the time I got there it was almost too late. She must have heard you and thought that you were the informant.”

Piper glanced in the mirror to see if Alexandra had come to yet, and seeing that she hadn’t, *asked the doctor,

“What do you suggest we do about her? After all, she will have to stand trial for murder, and I don’t think that prison would help her to get better, do you?”

“No. We had better take her back to the station and have her put away until then.”

“What do you think will happen to her?”

“I will testify about her condition and considering that she has been stable for the last fifteen years, I think that she will be able to be admitted to the mental institution. Maybe, they’ll even let me consult with the doctors there.”

The rain that had been threatening to be a torrential downpour failed to materialize. Piper and Fielding spent the rest of the ride in silence, thinking their own private thoughts of what might have been if Alexandra had lived a better life.

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Excerpt from “The Corporate Whore of Babylon”

“My name, for our purposes, is Alexander Dali. This is not my real name, it’s a safety precaution. When Mr. Babble was killed, Eric discovered his body. He called me because we were friends and he knew that something unusual was happening. I majored in Forensics at University, I won’t say which one, and Eric knew that I was interested in solving murders.” “If you have all of this education in Forensics, why don’t you work for the Police Department?” “Well, before I graduated, my father died and left me a large inheritance. I decided not to finish my education, thus this became a hobby of mine. I figured that if I worked on my own time, I would be able to educate myself. I knew that Eric worked for the Babble family, and from some of the things that he told me, I became suspicious about what he said.” “And what was that?” “He told me that the old man was acting paranoid a couple of weeks before his death. He started to mutter to himself when he thought that no one was around. One evening, as Eric was going to the den to see if Babble needed him for anything else, he found Mr. Babble asleep in his chair with his head in a book. It was a book about Babylonian history. He heard Mr. Babble mutter ‘Temple of Inanna’ in his sleep. He thought that that was unusual, since he knew that Mr. Babble was not a religious man and that he had no interest in ancient history. Instead of waking him up, he went to his room and called me. He asked me if I had ever heard of the ‘Temple of Inanna’. I told him that I hadn’t but that I would look into it. On the day that Mr. Babble died, I finally found some information on it. Believe me, it wasn’t easy.” “So what did you find out?” “Well, I flew out to Washington D.C. and went to the Library of Congress. In a biography about Jay Gould, I found a clue. If you don’t know who Jay Gould was, he was the man who built the Union Pacific railroad. I then happened to find a journal belonging to an associate of Gould’s. He mentioned that he had been approached by Gould concerning forming a secret society called ‘The Temple of Inanna’ which would be situated in Pocatello, Idaho. He said that the purpose of the society would be to bring about the takeover of the government by bankers and, what at the time were called the ‘monopolies.’ We call them corporations now. Through some of my contacts, I found out that the Temple was built and is still in existence. His journal ends on June 12, 1901. He was found murdered the next day. His last entry mentions that he had talked to a friend named Elijah Babble.” “Now you’re starting to sound like some whacky conspiracy theorist.” “Tell me, Detective Gladd, have you ever heard of the Bilderberg Group?” “No. Who are they?” “It is a group of politicians, bankers, businessmen, and military people who meet as a ‘think tank’ to discuss ways of creating social cohesion with Europe and North America through a neo-liberal form of globalization. The ‘Temple of Inanna’ makes them look like Boy scouts. All members are sworn to total secrecy under pain of death. The Temple also has a secret army of spies who report to headquarters if any member talks about the society to nonmembers. I believe that Mr. Babble’s home may have been bugged and he was killed. Eric was killed because he had called me.” “Well, why are you still alive?” “I have my ways, Detective Gladd, believe me. I am always alert and constantly moving.” “So, I know that you were the one who called the newspapers, but how did you know that Eric had been killed? And do you know who did it?” “I had called Eric earlier in the evening to tell him what I found out and to let him know that I would be coming over to take him somewhere safe. By the time that I got there, all the lights in the house were out, so I went to the pool area to look through the glass doors. That was when I found his body and called the newspapers.” “And you didn’t see anyone or any strange vehicles.” “No. That was when I decided that we should both meet.”

“So what do you have in mind?” “For now, I think that we should keep working together as we have. If one or both of us are being spied on, it seems that it would be the best way. If I discover anything else out, then I will contact you.”

Ailurophobia (Fear of Cats)

Ailurophobia

(Fear of cats)

The night air is still a bit warm, but I have promised my friend Alexios to meet him at Cassandra’s wine shop which is on a side street in the city of Bubastis. My name is Demetrios and I have lived in Egypt for five years. I would prefer to be back in Athens, but due to a slight misunderstanding with a local archeon, I decided that my life would last longer if I did some “traveling”. I can not take a chance that the man has forgotten about me and what he witnessed between me and his wife. I decided on Egypt because my friend, Alexios, told me that since the Ptolomies took over, there are many opportunities for Greeks to get rich. I agreed to come with him after quickly considering the alternative. If the archeon found me, it would have been a matter of exile, if I was lucky, or death, if I was not. The only thing that bothers me about this country is the ridiculous manner in which they treat animals, cats to be specific. As a child, I obtained an overpowering fear of cats. I would fall into an endless fit of sneezing any time a cat came near me, and, once, so my mother told me, when I was three years old, a cat scratched me on the arm when I tried to pick him up. I don’t know if it was due to the scratches or from something else, but ever since then, I stay as far away from the furry demons as I can.

“Demetrios! Over here!” I hear as I step into the slightly fish-smelling and decrepit wine shop. The second floor of the wine shop is divided between Cassandra and the few decent looking whores that she offers as a bonus to her wealthier clients. I get along fairly well with Cassandra considering that, when I first met her, I thought that she was one of the whores. She quickly disabused me of that notion, but since she discovered that we were from the same area in Sparta, she has forgiven me for my indiscretion. Anyway…I slip into the corner table that Alexios has claimed and wait to hear what his latest “get rich quick” scheme is to be.

“Demetrios, listen. I have managed to, how shall I say it, make friends with one of the minor priests of Bast and he has told me some very interesting things.”

“And what might these “interesting things” be concerning?”

“You know that when a pharoah, or for that matter, any rich person dies, they are mummified and wrapped in linen. Now, as the bodies are wrapped, the priest inserts amulets among the wrappings.”

“Yes, Alexios, I know all of this. I’m sure everyone in Egypt knows this. What does this have to do with us making money?”

“If you would let me finish. Now this priest, Ptah-en-per, has told me that some of the wealthier clients also have their favorite pets mummified and buried with them in the same manner.”

“Are you insane! You want to resort to tomb-robbing?” Alexios quickly shushed me and put his hand on my shoulder and gently pushed me back onto my chair.

“NO! This is a less risky plan and it will not involve us losing our heads, literally. Just listen.” And he proceeded to tell me of this “no risk” plan of his. I listened very carefully to his every word and weighed all possible consequences. Finally, when I was certain that his plan had a better than 75% change of success, I agreed to it. There were still a couple of things that Alexios had to get organized, but we both agreed to meet at his house in seven days in order to carry out the plan.

The next night that Alexios and I met, we were joined by one of Cassandra’s whores, a Thracian girl named Melita. What this plan revolved around was the idea that Alexios and I would meet with Ptah-en-per at the temple and share a couple jugs of date wine. Melita would be standing by, but out of sight, until her role in this scheme was to be enacted. It seems that Ptah-en-per resented his lowly station but did not have enough ambition to do anything about it, but Alexios knew that it would be too risky to enlist the priest’s aid. Alexios had talked the priest into showing him around the temple and, after learning where the mummified remains of the wealthy patrons were kept, he came up with this plan.

When Alexios had decided that the priest was well enough into his cups, he signaled Melita to begin her scene. The Thracian was a very beautiful dark-eyed girl who I would guess was in her early twenties, but due to the wonderful qualities of the Egyptian cosmetics, could almost seem to be sixteen years old. It was difficult to guess Ptah-en-per’s age because it is the custom among the Egyptian priesthood to shave their heads, but then, the priest’s age was fairly irrelevant as far as the plan was concerned. Melita came out of the shadows from the street and, with the light from the moon shining through her shimmering silk dress, she quickly entered the temple and fell to Ptah-en-per’s feet asking for his assistance. She told him that her mistress had visited the temple earlier in the day and had made an offering to the god for the wellness of her favorite pet, a leopard which her husband had sent her as a present from the far East. It seems that the animal was taking a turn for the worst and her mistress had sent her to fetch the High Priest. Ptah-en-per, through the fumes of the date wine, was confused by what the woman was asking for; was Ptah-en-per expected to wake the High Priest for the girl or did the girl think that he, Ptah-en-per, was the High Priest? He took hold of the girl’s hands and raised her to her feet and said,

“But it is so late to rouse my Lord, the High Priest. Can this not wait until the morning?”

Melita, who through her work at Cassandra’s had learned some of the art of acting, said,

“Oh, please, kind sir. If I do not return with the High Priest, my mistress will have me flogged!”

Now, Ptah-en-per knew that he was in no condition to leave his post in order to have the High Priest summoned because the fumes from the wine would be obvious to the High Priest who would, in turn, have Ptah-en-per flogged. Alexios took this moment to say to Ptah-en-per.

“My friend, why don’t you go with this slave-girl and play the role of the High Priest? Surely, you have seen him perform such rites before? And you do not seem that much affected by the wine, but, in order to ease your mind, I have an onion here. Take a bite of it and it should take away the smell of the wine.”

“No, no! That will not help for if the woman was here earlier, she would have spoken with the High Priest and she would know that I am not him for he is an old man. I could also be punished if it is discovered that I had left the temple grounds.”

It was at this point that Alexios and I sat there looking like we were trying to think of a solution for our friend’s dilemma, which we had already decided on. I jumped up and said “Eureka!” “I will put on a priest’s robe and take your place while you go and perform your religious duty. Quickly, go to your room and bring me a robe with a hood so that no one who may come by will not see that my head has not been shaven and you go with the girl.”

The priest was at first uncertain, but because of Melita’s hand-wringing and the fear on her face, he decided to do it. He was back in less time than it takes a bird to fly to its nest. After making sure that the robe fit me perfectly, he and Melita ran from the temple. What the priest did not know was that one street over from the temple was one of Cassandra’s henchmen with a club in hand waiting for Melita to signal that the priest was coming. When he reached the spot where the henchman was waiting, the henchman hit him over the head, but not hard enough to kill him and carried him over his shoulder to a nearby empty stable.

While all of this was going on, Alexios and I walked towards the room where the mummified pets were kept. Since the patrons are kept for seventy days in a nitrate solution, their relatives bring the pets to the temple for mummification, which takes less time for animals, and the priests store them in a room behind the sanctuary. Fortunately for us, the old priest who was to stand guard at the sanctuary was in a deep sleep. Alexios and I were about to enter the storage room when I noticed that the door had a lock on it. Alexios tiptoed over to where the priest was sleeping and lifted the keys off of the table where the priest had laid them. While Alexios tried to figure out which key would open the door, I kept an eye on the priest. Soon we were in and taking a torch in each of our hands, we checked the condition of the wrappings on the dead animals. We had each brought a bag with pebbles in them which we planned to substitute for the precious stones that we would take. I was going through the shelves which contained the ibises while Alexios checked the shelves with the cats. Even dead, I told Alexios that there was nothing that would get me to touch the cursed things and he had agreed that he would check the cats. After about thirty minutes, our bags were full and we were getting ready to leave when there came to our ears what sounded like a demon from hell. Alexios and I stopped and looked at each other with fear in our eyes. We slowly turned our heads in the direction which the screech seemed to have come, when we saw the demon’s glowing eyes! We, still conscious of where we were and not wanting to awaken the priest who would then raise the alarm, ran as quietly as we could without yelling. I had stopped to close the door when I was hit in the face by a shrieking bag of white cloth. I felt the demon’s claws draw my blood and, at that point, it was all over for me and I fainted.

When I came to, I found myself clamped to a prison cell with chains. I squinted my eyes in the darkness, but quickly winced when I felt sharp pains on my face. My tongue felt that it had been glued to the roof of my mouth, so I could not call out for water. It was at that moment that the flickering from several torches caused me to turn my head and then I heard a voice speaking in broken Greek.

“So, you try to steal from goddess Bast? Bast will protect her children from tief such as you. You and you friend pay for you crime against Bast. Pharaoh no help for you.”

I looked and saw an Egyptian in his starched kilt, with a staff, sandals, and a gold-lined cloth on his head. I had only heard descriptions of him, but I recognized Ay, the High Priest of Bast who was accompanied by a jailor and five soldiers. The Priest then left, the jailor unlocked my cell, and the soldiers led me away. When my escort and I came out of the building that I had been imprisoned, the sun was rising out of the East. My hands were still chained and I was hoisted into the back of a cart when four other prisoners, Alexios among them. My feet were then chained and a long iron rod was slipped through holes in the back of the manacles. I glared at Alexios and he looked down at the floor of the cart. The cart took off at a slow pace so that the guards could keep up with it and it took fifteen minutes before we arrived at the Court of Justice. It was at this point that I knew that my life would soon be over and I decided to accept it. I was the first prisoner taken into the Court where I was forced down on my knees with my head bowed. I heard a slow tapping of a metal staff on the floor and a voice calling for silence in the court. In Greece I might have been given an advocate, but this was Egypt, even if it was ruled by a Greek dynasty. Ptolemy made some concessions to local custom and thieves were not allowed to have someone be their advocate. I waited for the judge to decide my fate. “Demetrios Panagyros, you have been charged with defilement of the holy temple of the goddess Bast, corruption of a priest, and theft. All of these charges of which you have been found guilty of warrant the death penalty, but someone has requested that you be returned to Athens to stand trial for a previous crime, namely, the seduction of a very important person’s wife. The Archeon Xenon has paid an amount to the High Priest of Bast as compensation for your crimes and you are therefore, put into his charge and banished forever from the land of Egypt under penalty of death. Next case!”

When I heard those words, I could not believe my ears! I would live! But then reality intruded. I looked up and saw the smirking face of Xenon. He ordered two guards to lift me off of the floor and I was then dragged down to the Nile where a dhow awaited us.

“When I am done with you, swine, you will wish that I had let them kill you.” All things considered, I thought to myself, he may be right! I was laying on the bottom of the boat, still in chains, and with the heel of Xenon’s boot on my head. I was in this unfortunate position for quite some time, but soon I heard the roar of many people and smelled the salt of the sea. We had reached the port of Alexandria. Xenon leaned down and grabbed me by my manacles and lifted me to my feet. He pushed me towards one of his men who lifted me out of the boat and marched me to the ship that waited for us. Just before I staggered up the gangplank, I noticed something that I had never seen before; the name of the ship was painted on the bow behind the eye that is painted on every Greek ship:

THE LION OF VENGENCE