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Authors: Blake Pierce

Once Taken (19 page)

BOOK: Once Taken
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His face took on a faraway look as he slipped into memory.

“There was a beat cop who especially had it in for me,” he said. “Swore he’d take me down, and I swore that I’d kill him if he tried. Well, that day came, and I pulverized him with a set of tire chains. There wasn’t much left of him by the time I was through. It was a closed casket funeral.”

His eyes narrowed.

“Oh, I should mention that I dumped his body on his front porch for his wife and kids to find. That’s when I got caught. And that’s how I got here. Why I’m still here.”

Riley was startled by how calmly he said this, as if he were talking about somebody else. She studied his expression for some trace of regret, but she couldn’t detect very much of that. His story made it clear why he had not been paroled.

Hatcher continued, “Mike told me about the serial you’re after. How he binds up women with chains, tortures them, leaves their bodies all chained up. In straitjackets, too.”

“Right,” Riley said. “He’s obsessed with chains. He seems to collect them, all kinds of them.”

 “I can see why,” Hatcher said. “Chains give you a feeling of power. For me, they started out as a gimmick, a way to intimidate. I never expected to kill anybody. But they got to be an addiction. I really got to love them. And the killing, well, it felt just great, and I never wanted to stop. Those chains pushed me right over the edge, from a screwed-up kid into a bloodthirsty monster.”

Hatcher scratched his chin thoughtfully.

“What kind of physical evidence have you got?” he asked. “I mean, aside from his interest in chains and straitjackets?”

Riley thought for a moment.

“My partner found a business card that might have a sample of his handwriting,” she said. She pulled an enlarged image of the card out of her folder and passed it across the table. Hatcher picked it up and looked at it, pushing the reading glasses up the bridge of his nose.

“I take it that it’s been checked for fingerprints,” he said.

“Yeah, we only got a partial and couldn’t match it.”

Hatcher adjusted his glasses for a better look.

“What have the BAU handwriting experts said about it?” he asked.

“We haven’t heard back from them yet.”

Hatcher seemed to be more and more fascinated by the card.

He said slowly and tentatively, “There’s something about that handwriting. I’m not sure just what …”

Then he snapped his fingers.

“Yeah, I know what it is. It looks just like David Berkowitz’s handwriting. You’ve heard of the ‘Son of Sam,’ haven’t you?”

“I sure have,” Riley said.

She’d studied about David Berkowitz at the academy. He was a psychotic serial killer who murdered six people and injured seven others during the mid-1970s. Before he was caught, he’d left behind letters signed “Son of Sam.” The name had stuck ever since.

Riley also knew that Berkowitz had done some time at Sing Sing. She wondered if Hatcher had gotten to know him. It would have been a fascinating relationship.

Hatcher pointed to details in the writing.

“It’s the same vertical letters,” he said. “It also looks tense and tight, like Berkowitz’s. I’ll bet your guy has a lot in common with him.”

“For example?” Riley asked.

Hatcher leaned back in his chair.

“Well, Berkowitz was given up for adoption as a baby. He grew up feeling abandoned. Had a real ‘mommy problem.’”

Hatcher thought some more.

“It starts to make sense,” he said. “Berkowitz wasn’t into chains, but I’ve known a few others who are. I’ve talked to them about it. One thing most of the chain fanciers have got in common is childhood trauma, maybe abandonment. They were mistreated with chains as kids, beaten with them, restrained with them. They were powerless, so they look to chains for power.”

Hatcher was growing more animated. He obviously enjoyed having someone to talk to, especially someone he could educate.

He continued, “Of course the chains won’t ever
them that sense of power, because chains were what made them feel helpless in the first place. But I’m sure you’ve heard Einstein’s definition of insanity.”

Riley nodded. “He called it doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.”

“Now, that’s not
profile, because I’m no psychopath,” Hatcher said. “But if you’re talking about a true serial killer, well …”

Hatcher looked Riley straight in the eye.

He said, “I think you’d better check out orphanages and the like. Look for somebody who’s been both abandoned and restrained. Someone who’s been tortured.”

He rapped his knuckles against the table.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” he asked.

Riley felt more than satisfied.

“No, that should do it,” she said.

“So what is it you don’t want people to know about you?” he asked.

Riley said nothing for a moment. She wavered. Now was the time when she could simply get up from the table and walk away, breaking her part of the bargain. The man posed no threat to her, after all. He was never getting out of this place.

But his eyes were still locked on hers. His will was extremely strong. And he understood her in a most discomforting way. He knew that she wouldn’t break her word. Even if she didn’t know why, she couldn’t do that.

But what could she tell him that wouldn’t give him more power over her than he already had?

“I’m a lousy mother,” she said.

Hatcher shook his head and chuckled sourly.

“You’re going to have to do better than that,” he said. “I’m not looking to hear something that everybody who knows you knows already. Even I had that figured out.”

Riley felt a chill. He probably really had figured out that much about her. She thought in silence for another moment.

Finally she said, “You told me that it felt great to kill with chains. I know that feeling.”

“Is that so?” he asked, sounding intrigued.

“The other day I killed a man with a sharpened rock,” she said. “I smashed his head in, again and again. And the thing is, I didn’t regret it, one bit. In fact, I wish I could do it again.”

He smiled broadly, apparently enjoying her answer.

“And now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go,” she said.

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she asked herself,
Why am I asking his permission?

He really did have tremendous force of will.

“Just one more thing,” Hatcher said. “I’d like an honest answer to a simple question. Do you think a man like me is worth keeping alive?”

Riley felt a smile form on her own face.

“No,” she said.

Hatcher chuckled darkly and rose from his chair.

“Come back and see me any time,” he said. Then with a shrug and a wink, he added, “I’ll be here.”


After her talk with Hatcher, Riley returned to the FBI vehicle for her drive back to Albany. Before she started the car, she called Lucy at the field office there. She told her what Hatcher had said and asked Lucy to get the BAU team looking into orphanages, foster homes, and adoption services and cross-reference for speech impediments, especially a stutter.

“You mean checking for places that have been charged with using excessive restraint?” Lucy asked.

“Yes, but they should look at it the other way too, for records on kids who have been restrained. Especially with chains. They should cross-reference all of that with what we’ve projected as the probable age and build of the chain killer. We still don’t know exactly what we’re looking for, but it will be a start.”

“Okay, anything else?”

“They should actually cross-reference for anything to do with chains.”

Lucy agreed and hung up. Riley hoped that the BAU search would be more helpful than the interviews they’d done with the kidnap victim’s family and co-workers. The woman’s family was emotionally devastated and in serious denial. They refused to believe that she had been kidnapped. Maybe she’d been hurt in the accident, they insisted, and was wandering around in a state of confusion. Still, they were anxious for the police and the FBI to take care of everything. To find her and return her home.

The nurse who had been dropped off by the victim had tried hard to be helpful. She had described everything they’d done at the mall after work, but she’d often stopped and corrected her story, putting events in a different order.

“I’m so sorry,” she had wailed. “I know I should remember more. We were just having a good time shopping after work. Everything was so normal.”

Riley had asked the distraught woman to call if she thought of anything else, even a small detail. But that prospect didn’t seem likely.

Riley was feeling grim as she drove back to Albany. But she hoped that the BAU would bring up something useful by the time she arrived.


Less than two hours later, Riley walked into the front office of the FBI field office. When she saw who was there with Lucy, she stopped dead in her tracks. The man signing in was Bill Jeffreys. He turned away from the desk just in time to see Riley.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“What are
doing here?” Riley replied.

“Meredith sent me to help Agent Vargas,” he said. “I know he didn’t send you. You’re supposed to be on leave. He told me it was an order.”

Lucy looked mortified.

“Oh, no,” she said. “This is all my fault.”

“No, it’s not, Lucy,” Riley said wearily. “It was my decision.”

Bill looked as though he could hardly believe his eyes.

“Riley, what do you think you’re doing? You got fired once. Do you want to get fired again? And after everything you went through with your daughter, do you think you’re in any state of mind to go back to work?”

“There’s nothing wrong with my state of mind,” Riley said.

Bill shook his head. “And what about April?” he asked. “Where is she right now?”

“She’s right here in Albany,” Riley said. “She’s safe, Bill, and she’s going to stay that way.”

Lucy tried to step between Riley and Bill. She said, “Agent Jeffreys, I take full responsibility. I asked her to come.”

Before Bill could reply, there came a tentative voice from nearby.

“Um, Agent Paige …”

Riley and her companions turned around. A shy, nerdish young technician had just come into the area.

“I think we’ve got some leads,” he said.


Chapter 29

Things weren’t at all comfortable in the field office meeting room. Bill was clearly not pleased by Riley’s presence in Albany. He and Lucy sat at one side of the table, going over the list of possible suspects. Seated directly across from them, Riley made sure that she got a look at every item under scrutiny.

Paul Nooney, the rather mousy technician who had called them in from the front office, sat nearby, sorting through his folder of possible suspects. His laptop was open, and he was intermittently running searches.

“What about this one?” Bill asked, passing Lucy a sheet of paper.

“I don’t think so,” Lucy said. “This guy resisted arrest, and it took three cops to subdue him. We’re not looking for somebody that strong.”

Riley reached out and slid the paper where she could see it. She just nodded.

“Hey, here’s somebody,” Nooney said. “His name is Wayne Turner, and he lives up in Walcott. He’s twenty-eight years old, five foot six, weighs a hundred and fifteen pounds. According to his sheet, he’s got a slight stutter. He was an orphan and spent some time in an orphanage before he was adopted. Seven months ago, he was arrested for attacking a woman outside a movie theater. That’s his only offense, but still …”

Riley’s interest was piqued.

“Can you find anything else about him?” she asked.

Nooney ran a search on his laptop. “He recently got a job with a hardware wholesale company,” he said. Looking up at the others, he added, “That means he’ll have access to lots of chains. It also means he’ll be traveling up and down the river valley a lot. Maybe he already is.”

Bill looked at Lucy and said, “Sounds like someone we should pay a visit to.”

Lucy nodded, and she and Bill stood up. Riley stood up too.

“Not you,” Bill said to Riley. “You’re not assigned to this case. Just go back to your hotel and spend some time with April. She needs your attention.”

Riley felt stymied. She heard the implied “and we don’t” at the end of his sentence. She knew that Bill had a point. April had been doing just fine but she would probably appreciate some company.

Then Lucy said, “I’ll go back to the hotel. I can do some work there and also check in on April.”

Riley and Bill both looked at Lucy with surprise.

Lucy shrugged and said, “Look, I don’t understand all that’s going on between you two, but you’ve got to sort it out. And I’ll only get in the way. Go. Do your job.”

Bill leveled his gaze at Riley. Then he growled, “Okay, let’s go.”


During the half-hour drive from Albany to Walcott, Riley tried to make conversation with Bill a few times. It didn’t go very well. She ventured once or twice to apologize for coming to Albany against Meredith’s orders. She’d also suggested that maybe they needed to discuss some sources of the tension between them, including her drunken phone call.

But Bill really didn’t want to talk about any of it. That worried Riley. His taciturn attitude didn’t bode well for interviewing a potential suspect.

Bill parked the FBI car in front of a small, white house—an ordinary-looking little home in an ordinary little town. But Riley thought that it was, in fact, just the sort of place where the chain killer might live.

They walked to the door and knocked. A startlingly baby-faced individual answered the door. He was short and extremely thin.

For a second, Riley almost asked, “Is your father at home?” But she stopped herself.

“Are you Wayne Turner,” she asked.

“Y-yeah, w-why?” the man stuttered nervously.

Bill took out his badge and said, “We’re Agents Jeffreys and Paige, FBI. We’d like to come in and ask you a few questions.”

“I-I d-don’t understand.”

“We’ll explain everything,” Bill said. “Just let us come in.”

BOOK: Once Taken
4.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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