Part Two – An Unlikely Killer
Martin could almost see the conversation.
The nurse’s name was Chloe Poole, a fifteen year veteran of Temple University Hospital that often worked the same shifts as Dr. Peter Dawes. On several occasions, she assisted him and seemed to know him better than any of the other nurses they had interviewed. Martin formed a mental picture of this nurse sitting down with the interviewing detective, possibly inside one of the hospital’s waiting rooms. “Miss Poole,” the interviewing detective had said, “Please tell me what you know about Peter Dawes.”
By now, she knew what happened to Peter’s girlfriend, Lydia Davies. The newspapers were right on top of the story when two bodies were found by Davies’ neighbor, Regina Donaldson. The front door had been left open, providing Miss Donaldson the jarring sight of two warm bodies and a room covered in blood when she entered the apartment. Martin figured it still haunted her in the wee, small hours of the morning. Hell, it would have unnerved a seasoned veteran like him, too.
Lydia Davies had been ushered into the afterlife next to a man named Liam Collins. Although there was no proof the two had been romantically-entangled, there was enough circumstantial evidence to see how Peter Dawes could have thought so; Collins was only partially-dressed and both bodies had been found in Miss Davies’s bedroom. The initial news reports never named a suspect and subsequent stories possessed a strange apathy toward even speculating motive.
Chloe Poole could read between the lines sufficiently enough, however.
“I know he was no murderer,” the tape-recorded voice said, speaking from three years in the past. “That’s why you people are asking about Peter. I don’t know who killed Lydia, but he wouldn’t ever harm her.”
“How do you know that, Miss Poole?” the detective asked from the corridors of time as well.
“You didn’t know him, sir. Peter wouldn’t harm anyone, especially not Lydia. Lydia meant the world to him.”
“Not even if Miss Davies had been involved with another man?”
Chloe Poole laughed. “That’d never happen.”
“What makes you say that?”
“She felt the same way about Peter. They weren’t attached at the hip or together every day, but every time I saw them, I had no doubt about their relationship. In fact, she was just here a couple of weeks ago to meet Peter for dinner after one of his shifts.”
“And everything looked alright between them?”
“Peter was stressed, but he looked happy to see her. Nothing seemed wrong with her.”
“You say stressed?”
“Yeah, you try working the emergency room for twelve hours straight. It had been a tough day. This place takes a lot out of you.”
The interviewing officer paused to switch tracks. “How long did you say they’d been dating?”
“Two years, I think.”
“So, during the course of two years, they never talked about getting married?”
“It’s the 80s, dear. Couples wait years before getting married these days. Peter had started mentioning it recently, that he was thinking about proposing to her.”
“Any problems between them during that time? Notable fights or threats or anything?”
“Nope. Never saw any spats. He never complained about anything other than the fact that they were always so busy.”
“And Mr. Dawes has never done anything that would alarm you?”
“No,” she said, chuckling again. “Sir, no offense, but he was a typical guy. Would get mad, happy, sad, frustrated just like anyone else.”
“Now, what’s this about Dr. Dawes being absent from work for five days prior to Miss Davies’s death?”
There was a pause. Martin raised an eyebrow.
She hesitated again. “Sir, no matter what, Peter wouldn’t kill someone.”
“That’s not what I asked. Two people have died, Miss Poole. I know Mr. Dawes was a friend, but if he’s the one who killed these people, then you know as well as I do that we have to determine the truth. His fingerprints were found on the murder weapon.”
“Probably because he’d touched the knife before. He was constantly at her apartment.”
“Ma’am, was Dr. Dawes absent from work?”
“Yes. He did disappear pretty abruptly.” Chloe Poole sighed.
“And was he acting any differently than usual before that?”
This time the pause was interminable. Martin could see the detective eyeing Chloe with a deliberate stare as she looked away and frowned. Finally she responded, “Yes, he was acting a bit strangely. He was very edgy and impatient the entire week before he disappeared. A patient walked in looking for him and when Peter failed to walk out of the examining room, I went in to check on them. They were both gone.” She paused. “I kept wondering if the man he saw was related to the coffee shop. He said he was meeting someone there.”
“Who was he meeting?”
“I have no idea. Thought it was a woman, but he made it sound pretty platonic.”
“Why had he been acting edgy?”
“I don’t know,” Chloe said a bit softer. “I just know what kind of person Peter Dawes was. No matter how agitated he was, killing anyone would be the furthest thing from his mind. That boy had a heart of gold.”
The interviewing detective paused before issuing his next question, but from there, the conversation became nothing more than reinforcement that Peter Dawes was a good man. Bill Frazier followed the lead and questioned the workers at a local coffee shop, but all they could tell Bill was that the sainted doctor was seen speaking to a redheaded woman on the day of the murders. She lingered for fifteen minutes after he left before leaving herself. No one knew her name, but she was a regular who vanished after that evening as well.
“Is this the new Bermuda Triangle?” Martin muttered to himself as he continued digging through case files and tape-recorded interviews. It seemed as though everyone connected to this case was vanishing; the suspect, the red-headed acquaintance. Several investigators. Bill Frazier. Martin sighed and finally plopped down in his chair with Peter Dawes’s file in hand. The moment he opened it up, he was instantly startled by the first page that greeted him.
A picture of Dawes from medical school was attached to a dossier describing him. Martin’s eyes honed in on two features that rang a bell of recognition, from Jill Franklin’s murder. Tall. Twenty-eight years old. He had been a handsome man and looked like he could easily turn a lady’s head, even one in search of a deranged killer.
This begged the question, however, of what happened to Dawes if the man Martin saw in this old photograph was truly a serial killer. What would cause an otherwise model citizen to snap and not only kill his girlfriend of two years, but to go on a three year killing spree, all while slipping through the shadows of Philadelphia without so much as using his social security number? Bill Frazier had originally concluded Peter Dawes probably committed suicide, which seemed the more logical notion. However, once the first few victims in these serial murders emerged, Bill became convinced the jilted lover of this case was something more.
“Bill, I think you’re out in left field…”
“… About 6’2” or 6’3”. In his twenties. Brown hair…”
“… But I don’t have any better leads.” Martin sighed and continued staring at the picture, trying to picture the young man with dark sunglasses and a black suit, but what the others said two years ago was true – his description coincided with half the white male population of the city. With a sigh, Martin flipped the page and formed what he thought was the more plausible mental image, that of the heartbroken young doctor drowning in the Delaware River.
“Son of a bitch knew what he was doing…”
Martin pursed his lips in thought. Placing the tape player down onto his desk, he reached for Dawes’ folder again and opened back to Bill’s notes. Flipping past the initial entry, he passed the boring notions of Dawes’ spotless criminal record and reached the final pages of the file. However something seemed to be missing.
Bill’s notes abruptly came to an end, mid-sentence as Bill started writing additions to his initial notes. Martin flipped the page over and expected to see the sentence continue, but the back of the page was blank and no further notes followed. Only school reports and a birth record rounded out the remainder of the file. A quick rummage through the rest of the box showed nothing had fallen out of the file. Martin frowned. Now the case files were disappearing.
“Somebody needs to put a tent above this circus,” Martin said to himself as he shook his head. He scratched the back of his neck as he continued staring into the box and finally took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. Rubbing his eyes, he lifted his wrist to peer at his watch and noticed for the first time that he’d been working Bill’s old case for the better part of the evening. It was time to take a…
“Sanchez? Working pretty late, aren’t you?”
Martin looked up in time to spot Lieutenant Jennifer Graham ten feet before she arrived at his desk. Glancing down, he took inventory of the mess his personal area had become before looking up at the middle-aged brunette he reported to. She appraised it in the same manner and smirked. “This is a promising sight. Are we following a lead on the serials?”
He paused to glance at his watch again. “A possible one, anyway. Going to break for dinner now.”
“Huh,” she said thoughtfully, allowing her eyes to drift across the box and its disheveled contents before picking up the file that had been placed upon Martin’s desk. She flipped it open, but then she stopped at page one. “Why do you have this file, Sanchez?”
Martin blinked. “Like I said, it’s a possible lead.”
“Sanchez, this is a cold case. Not a lead on the serials.”
“Actually, I think they might be connected.” Martin waited until the Lieutenant looked back at him before continuing. “Bill Frazier seemed to think so, too. This guy dematerialized and no more than a few months later we started getting the first rash of suspicious murders.”
“We have a lot of suspects that disappear. What makes you think it’s Dawes and not any the other suspects from the hundreds of cold case files we have locked in archives?”
“I don’t know. Bill seemed pretty damn convinced and I wanted to know why. A detective’s intuition isn’t anything to sneeze at.”
She raised an eyebrow and then peered down at the file again. “So, you agree that this man completely fell off the map – this man who, if I remember correctly, never jaywalked prior to this case – and has been on a killing spree ever since?”
“I didn’t say I knew for sure, just that he was a possible lead.”
“Martin, let me give you some advice.” The Lieutenant peered up at Martin again, this time with a plaintive look in her eyes. “Don’t pursue this lead. Bill originally thought he committed suicide and all of the evidence we have has suggested the same thing. He cracked, killed his girlfriend when he found her with another man, and then offed himself. We’re just missing a body.”
She shut the file folder, passing it back to Martin before she turned to walk away. The implied order lingered where she left it. Martin glanced down at the folder and immediately thought of the missing notes, though. Was it possible?
“What did he end up saying?” Martin asked before he could stop himself. He watched as the Lieutenant paused in her tracks and turned to face him. Martin continued. “There’s a missing page. You said he thought Dawes committed suicide, but I know that changed. He confided that much in me before he disappeared.”
“What did he tell you?” she asked, her eyes scanning him as though waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“He said the cases were connected. Why was this file tampered with?”
Lieutenant Graham sighed and walked back over to Martin’s desk. “Do you really want to know what happened?”
Martin raised an eyebrow. “Well, it would be nice. Since you don’t think I should pursue this lead.”
She nodded. “You know what it’s like to watch a man go insane? Well, that happened to me with Bill. He started working the serial murders and before I knew it, I saw a sane man go from thinking some guy with a knife and a vampire fetish was screwing women and knocking them off… to thinking that a guy murdered his girlfriend and then became a vampire.”
The eyebrow remained arched. “Bill thought Dawes was a vampire?”
“I put him on administrative leave,” she said, “And ordered him to get evaluated by a psychiatrist. That’s why he disappeared, Martin. He went off to find this ‘vampire’ and never returned.” The Lieutenant paused for a deliberate moment before glancing at the box of evidence. “Peter Dawes killed himself.” Her gaze returned to Martin. “And this killer is still out there. Now unless you feel it’s not worth setting these victims’ families at ease, I suggest you refocus. This bastard is toying with us. He needs to be stopped.”
She turned again, but this time Martin didn’t stop her. Instead, he settled back in his seat and studied the file folder in his hands, the name looking back at him as if mocking him. The beige colored background with the typed black letters that formed a name that formed a riddle. How the hell did Bill get this far only to go crazy?
Without bothering to pack up the box, Martin grabbed his coat and left the riddle to simmer overnight. For now, it was late and he didn’t figure staring at the same information for another ten hours would grant him any new insight. Martin needed to get inside Bill Frazier’s head.
Just not so far that he ended up going crazy himself.