Authors: Keith Gilman
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective
Recent Titles by Keith Gilman
The Lou Klein Series
MY BROTHER'S KEEPER *
available from Severn House
First world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2011 by Keith Gilman.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
My brother's keeper.
1. Ex-police officersâFiction. 2. Private investigatorsâ
Fiction. 3. Organized crimeâPennsylvaniaâPhiladelphiaâ
Fiction. 4. MurderâInvestigationâFiction. 5. Detective
and mystery stories.
eISBN-13: 978-1-78010-166-8 (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8102-1 (cased)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Last Exit Before Toll
he cops called it Judy Garland Park. It was less than a square city block of stunted trees and trampled grass and withered rose bushes strangling in a bed of noxious weeds. The old ladies from the neighborhood had once taken great pride in caring for their precious roses, waiting for them to bloom a rich red in spring, their aroma saturating the air and acting like an aphrodisiac on anyone who caught their scent. No one seemed able to resist. Young and old alike, male and female, all succumbed to their power. It was only natural. It was the power of love. It was the power of sex.
Susie Randall could be seen there all the time with her watering can and clippers, pruning the drooping vines and repairing the trellis that circled the small garden. Rumor had it that Grace Kelly used to go there and paint, setting her easel near the stone wall and pushing her hair back against the wind, the brush in her delicate hand barely touching the canvas. And there were others, the famous and the infamous.
It sat on a wedge of ground between 22nd and Lombard, walking distance from Center City. And even on a cold night, the darkness of Judy Garland Park seemed to come alive with the movement of shadows between the trees and sound, whispering voices and moans and an occasional scream. There were parks just like it all over the city. Philadelphia seemed to have a love affair with its parks, as if it needed some place to escape from all that asphalt and concrete. Even if it was only for an hour, a place to go for lunch, somewhere to sit alone and read a book or just think; a place you could be yourself, where you could forget the person you pretended to be all day and be someone totally different.
But no one was ever really alone there. The park had eyes and ears. And no one stayed there very long. It was much too dangerous.
Not long after Susie Randall's rose bushes withered and died and Grace Kelly's paintings found their way into the dusty attic of time, Judy Garland Park had become a haven for the sexually adventurous of Philadelphia, the sexually ambivalent, the sexually curious, the sexually perverse and the sexually confused. Men trawled the tattered lawns and shaded corners looking for other men. There were straight men and gay men and everything in between, men dressed as women, women who had once been men. The transvestite population seemed to take refuge there â men looking for something to make them feel whole, make them feel special, make them feel loved, men searching for their true selves, men willing to do anything just to feel good. And it all seemed to culminate in one long orgasm.
But it wasn't enough. It would never be enough. And with sex came violence. It wasn't long before the first body turned up.
It was the body of a man in his early thirties with a full head of hair and a rugged, wind-blown face, well dressed in a wool coat, scarf and gloves and a pair of stiff leather shoes. No one needed to ask where he'd come from. He didn't live in the neighborhood. That was obvious. He'd followed Lombard Avenue from downtown. He could have had a car nearby but probably not. Maybe he'd followed somebody. Maybe he'd seen a man and what he thought was a woman, walking arm in arm toward the park. He'd decided to follow, keeping a good distance back and hiding behind the stone wall where those decrepit vines still clung though they hadn't produced a flower in years.
The police had conducted interviews and heard the same story. They'd all seen him. At this stage of the game, he'd seemed content to just watch. And that was OK because most of the regulars at Judy Garland Park preferred an audience. It was one more thing to heighten their pleasure, knowing someone was looking and playing it to the hilt. Not such a difficult game to understand, breaking down sexual barriers, starting down that slippery slope. Breaking barriers was what some people did best. It often started with a tendency toward voyeurism. It wasn't that kind of luring the papers had been talking about; it wasn't that blatant. It was more like spying, like a haughty old spinster poking her nose through the lace curtain at the window, peering at a pair of young lovers kissing in a car.
He wouldn't have been the only one testing the waters of Judy Garland Park. There were others. They'd drive by, their eyes wide with anticipation, giving a casual wave or a nod from the comfort of their car. They'd see something out of the corner of their eye. It would look like a woman, heavy with make-up, strong legs under a clinging red cocktail dress, a little awkward on high heels, a lot of blonde hair. He would think how cold she must be with all that exposed skin, using it as an excuse to pull over and say hello.
Night after night it was the same routine, the cruising up and down Lombard Avenue, an elaborate game of watching and longing, a dance choreographed to send a message:
I'm not what you think. I'm different than I look
I'm just like you
. They would summon the nerve to cross over the threshold of Judy Garland Park, a place that appeared charming, even innocent by day but brooding with a bizarre attraction at night. The sun would set behind the skyline of Philadelphia and the transformation would be in full swing, like some masquerade ball where no one really knows who is who.
None of the witnesses the police had spoken to had had any contact with him. They'd begun seeing him one evening on Lombard as if he'd been walking home from work. Occasionally he'd stop and feign some conversation on his cell phone, light a cigarette while his wandering eyes seemed to be surveying the terrain. The last time anybody remembered seeing him he was strolling into the shadows with the woman in the tight red dress and spiked heels. What happened after that, the cops could only speculate.
They kept referring to him as the victim. And he was a victim, of his own impulsiveness if nothing else. And if he was a victim, then the killer was a victim as well.
By police standards, he wouldn't be a typical murderer. He didn't kill out of greed or jealousy or revenge. This would have been his first kill and it was probably planned. Not organized in every detail but something he'd been thinking about, dreaming about, going over in his mind until the opportunity presented itself; an act of murder he'd carried out in multiple scenarios in his imagination. The only pattern to his crimes being that the act of murder and the act of sex had become interwoven in his nightly visions.
He'd be in a sort of disguise when the spirit of Judy Garland Park took possession of him. It was to be his unveiling. The humiliation and paranoia he'd once felt had disappeared. The ridicule could no longer touch him. It had all fallen away, molted like the skin of a snake. Now, he was able to defend himself. He was justified. He would draw blood no matter whose and afterward he'd call it up in his memory and it would give him strength. He'd relive it in all its potency and it would sustain him. It would be something real, something he'd be able to see and smell and even taste.
He had escorted his victim into the shadows, lured him there with whispers, with a body that was lean and hard but yielding, with a mane of blonde hair, a long flowing wig smelling of musk and smoke, with accoutrements and adornments, rings and earrings, piercings that seemed to stitch together the skin on his strong, feminine face. He was entirely hairless, his arms and legs and his head beneath the wig shaved clean. And when the moonlight caught his eyes, black and hypnotic and wild, there was death in them and his victim would suddenly know it was too late, that he'd made a terrible mistake.
From what the cops had pieced together, from the position of the body and its condition, they'd been standing against the stone wall. There had been shoe prints in the soft ground. They'd been close. There had been an exchange of fibers. They'd found hairs from the blonde wig and sequins from the red dress. There had been an exchange of saliva. They'd kissed and in their excitement they'd reeled back against the damp stone.
The cops had taken pictures and soil samples and measured the blood splatter and, if they hadn't known better, they would have presumed there'd been a struggle. But that wasn't the case. Pleasure had preceded the crime, mutual pleasure certainly, the killer initiating a sexual encounter that essentially trapped his victim. The pain that followed would come during a final moment of terror meant to coincide with his victim's ultimate sexual release, a deep, throbbing pain accompanied by an enormous amount of blood and a slow death, coming like a dream, like a demanding, insistent sleep.
The killer had fallen to his knees before his victim. He wasn't in a hurry at that point. He wanted this man to succumb to a pleasure only he could provide. He needed him to give in to it. He wanted him aroused, engorged with warm blood. He wanted him under his control, consumed with the passion, a slave to it, unable to live without it and ready to die for it.
The body had been discovered later that morning in the cold darkness of Judy Garland Park. At first glance he could have been one of the many homeless of Philadelphia. But as the sun rose slowly in the east and the growing light chased the walking dead from the park, the lingering face of death became unmistakable. The medical examiner had listed the cause of death as massive hemorrhaging. The instrument of death was a box cutter, a brand-new razor blade as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel. The dilated veins had been cut with precision along with the stretched tendons and elongated muscle. The victim had undoubtedly been taken by surprise, considering the location and the intimacy of the wounds. He'd been castrated.
The howling could be heard blocks away but no one had thought to call the police. They thought maybe a dog had been hit by a car.
e'd heard the scream before. He was sure of it. Not just in the dream but somewhere else, somewhere in the past, a past already flooded with anonymous screams.
Bathed in sweat, he tore at the sodden sheets, his sleeping hours consumed by the same recurrent dream. He was digging, a hole in the ground opening beneath him. He looked down at his soiled hands, the skin blistered and sore, his arms on fire as the sharp metal point of the shovel touched upon something in the darkness. He'd groan aloud in his sleep, the sweat burning his eyes as he peeled away layers of dirt and rock. There was something down there. Or was it someone?