Roger Coleman steered his car around the corner and continued to cruise the downtown streets. Roger did not cut a flattering picture; he was fat (not overweight, fat), his skin was bad and his interest in personal hygiene was not particularly strong. And he was unsavory in other ways too. For example, he had a strong interest in prostitutes. That was, in fact, what brought him to downtown in the late evening.

The software and app company that he had founded had done very well, before he sold it to a larger company for more money than he would ever be able to spend. So he could have hired pricier, more attractive, more discreet women, if he had wanted. But he liked the anonymity of picking up a girl off the curb and, truth be told, he got a kick from the way it felt.

There were a few girls out tonight, scantily clad despite the cool night, but the sight of the woman in the middle of the block drove every other woman out of his head.

She was… incredible. Tall, with abundant curves, long dark hair and incredible legs. Compared to the other girls on the street she was dressed almost modestly. Not that it mattered. She could have been dressed in sackcloth and still drawn every male eye.

Roger sped up, then slammed on the brakes to stop in front of her. As he rolled down the passenger side window she leaned down and smiled. Her posture gave him a clear look down her dress. Those could not be real. Not that Roger cared.

“Hi, handsome,” she said in a soft contralto, “looking for a date?”

Roger ignored the ‘handsome’, he had no illusions about his looks.

“Yeah, how much?”

She shrugged, “Depends on what you want and how long. Why don’t I step in and we can talk about it?”


Roger felt nervous and anxious. This was ridiculous, he told himself, it wasn’t like it was his first time.

The woman slipped into the car and locked eyes with him. Holding her gaze on his eyes she slid close and reached out to run her hand along his thigh.

Her gaze intensified and Roger felt the nervousness fade away, along with everything but what the woman wanted.

“Take me to your place, lover. Drive carefully, obey all the traffic rules, and don’t bother talking. We’ve got nothing to talk about.”

“Yes. Okay.”

Carefully, he pulled into traffic and steered for home.

The woman slapped Roger hard across the face. “I said not yet, you fat fool.”

They were both naked, in Roger’s bed, she was kneeling across his hips.

Roger’s head jerked to the side with the force of the blow and it took him a few seconds to say “Hey, that hurt.” He didn’t seem all that interested in anything.

“Oh shut up, moron, I told you not to talk.”


The woman sighed heavily, which Roger would have enjoyed watching if he had been capable of enjoying anything.

“You are truly pathetic, aren’t you. Why did I bother, I knew you wouldn’t be worth the time it would take. I might even have let you live if you’d managed to make me cum once, but you couldn’t even do that.” She leaned over him until her black eyes filled his vision completely. She exerted her will and felt the last of his resistance fade away, along with all thought or emotion. “That’s it,” she cooed, “Just let me take care of everything from here on.”

Roger could do nothing but nod obediently.

Detective Manetti stepped of the elevator and walked down the hall, idly wondering about the price of one of the condos in this building. From the decor it looked pretty high end. More than a cop could afford, that was for sure.

A door halfway down the hall was open and he looked in to see the expected crowd of uniforms and a couple of jumpsuits from the Medical Examiner’s office. He stepped in.

“All right, who called for a detective?”

A young uniformed officer stepped over. “I did, sir. Something seemed off and my sergeant said to go ahead.”

“All right, give me the rundown.”

“Yes sir.” The young man looked at his notepad. “Deceased is Roger Coleman, age 38, single. VP at a software company here in town. His office had not heard from him in 2 days, which they said was very unusual for him, so they called. The building manager said he hadn’t heard anything from Mr Coleman, and unlocked the door for us. But the deadbolt and chain were both on so we had to break in. We found the body in the bathtub. It looks like a suicide, but there was no note. His wrists were slashed, but when we lifted the body out there was nothing in the tub but him. We found a razor blade that was obviously used to slash his wrists, but it was in the trash can, not anywhere near the tub.”

“So, you’re thinking murder?”

“I’m not paid to think, Detective. That’s your job.”

“Okay, good work. I’ll take it from here. You go back to the station and start working on your report, contact me if you need any help with it.”

“Yes sir.”

Manetti stepped into the bathroom. There was a gurney there, with a closed body bag, and several people standing around. Manetti stepped over to an assistant ME that he knew.

“Hey, Bryan. What have you got for me?”

“Oh, hi Phil. I didn’t know you were going to catch this. Where’s… what’s his name, your partner?”

“Still on vacation. And his name is Detective Nelson, for your information.”

“Whatever. The way you go through partners, he probably won’t be around long enough to worry about.”

“Slander. What have you got?”

“Well, at first glance it’s a suicide, but there are a few odd things. First, no note. Nothing conclusive about that, but it’s odd. Second, the razor that was used to slash his wrists was 10 or 12 feet away in the trash can. So either he cut his wrists in the tub and made a perfect 3 pointer, or he cut his wrists at the trash can and walked over to the tub to get in, in which case we would expect to see blood on the floor and there is none. Either way, why bother? What’s the point? Odd thing number three, there’s some blood in the water, but not that much.”

“Are we sure he bled to death?”

“All indications are that he did, but we won’t know for certain until we get him on the table. Ready for odd thing number four?”

“Sure, hit me.”

Bryan pointed. “All the evidence says someone was having a really good time in his bed; secretions and the whole thing. He’s not married, so who was it? And the victim had such a great time that he let her leave, locked the door and came in here to do this? Doesn’t really add up.”

“No, it doesn’t. Any other odd things?”

“Not so far. Want to have a look at the dearly departed?”

“Wouldn’t be my first choice.”


“Yep.” Manetti rubbed the back of his neck for a minute. “Well, get him on the table as soon as you can and send me the report when it’s ready. I don’t have to tell you to rush it, do I?”

“Since you say it all the time, obviously not.”

“Alright, I’m going to talk to the neighbors and see if they have anything to add. Thanks.”

Since it was the middle of the afternoon Manetti didn’t have much luck, most of the neighbors were out. So he wrote brief, banal messages on business cards and stuck them under doors. He might have to come back after dinner time.

He had more luck down the hall. The resident answered at once, a youngish man with a serious expression.

“Afternoon, my name is Detective Philip Manetti,” Manetti flashed his badge and ID. “I wanted to ask some questions about your neighbor down the hall, Roger Coleman? Did you know him?”

“Oh, is something wrong? Did something happen?”

“Well, it looks like Mr. Coleman committed suicide, but we have to go through the motions until we’re sure either way. It’s in a manual I read once. Did you know him?”

“Not really, we may have spoken a time or two in the hall but that’s all. He wasn’t… well, it’s not the nicest thing to say, but he wasn’t… he had some unpleasant habits. He never appeared particularly clean and he, uh, brought prostitutes home.”

“Oh really? Did you happen to see anyone going in or out two nights ago. That would have been Monday night.”

The man sighed and clearly resigned himself to getting involved. “Yes, actually I did. I was going down to my car in the parking garage and saw him getting off the elevator with a woman.”

“Can you describe her?”

“You think she killed him?”

“We don’t know anything at this point, but I will need to talk to her. That’s in a manual too.”

“Yeah, well, uh, actually I think I can do better than describe her. Can you hold on for a second?”


The man stepped away and returned a minute later with a large sketch pad. He presented it to Manetti who found a pencil drawing of a very attractive woman.

“This is her?”

“Yes. I’m a commercial artist and she was so stunning I sketched her. That’s what caught my eye about her, she was just gorgeous. A lot prettier than any other woman I had ever seen him with. I would have said she couldn’t possibly be a prostitute, but I’ve never seen him with anything else. I suppose it’s possible she was a sister or something?”

“Anything is possible. How accurate is this sketch?”

“Pretty close. I got a good look at her and I have a memory for faces.”

“Okay, good. Can I keep this?”

“Sure, of course.” He took the pad back and carefully tore out the picture to return it.

“Alright, this is a big help,” Manetti passed over a business card. “I appreciate it, and if you think of anything else give me a call.”

Manetti leaned back in his chair, put his feet on his desk, closed his eyes and muttered “Something does not add up.”

When there was no response from the neighboring desk he grunted. Damn, Randy and his vacation. What’s the use of a partner who’s not around when I need to complain to him? Real cops don’t take vacations, everybody knows that.

Manetti gathered up his file on Coleman and went to the glassed in office in the corner of the large squad room. He knocked on the door and stuck his head in. “Hey boss, you got a second? I need to run something by you.”

“Sure, come on in,” came the reply. Manetti’s Lieutenant was always willing to offer an opinion on a case and was used to being Manetti’s sounding board. “Which case has got you chasing your tail?”

“Coleman. The suicide that is starting to look less like a suicide. Remember the run down I gave you of things that don’t add up? I have a couple more. The only fingerprints on the razor blade were Coleman’s. And, the ME says not only was there not enough blood in the water, but Coleman would not have died from his wounds. Whoever cut his wrists did a crappy job of it. But, he definitely died from blood loss. I’m not having any luck getting a picture of all this, but it’s starting to creep me out.”

“Yes, you always feel that way when you have more questions than answers. So, what’s your next step.”

“I don’t know that I’ve got any choice, I have to talk to the woman.”

“The one in the sketch you showed me? How do you plan on finding her?”

“I’m kind of limited on that too. I showed the sketch to some guys in vice and no one recognizes her, which isn’t much of a surprise. That was a long shot. I don’t know that I have much choice but to hit the sidewalk and ask some of the working girls. Maybe someone has seen her or even knows her name.”

“That’s going to be a lot of shoe leather for something that probably won’t work.”

“I know, but I’m not sure what else to try.”

“Try this first. Question the neighbors again, and maybe hit some of the stores in the neighborhood of Coleman’s condo. Maybe you’ll get lucky and she stopped in to buy a cup of coffee with a credit card. If that doesn’t pan out you can try a couple of nights of whore hunting. We can reassess after that.”

“What fun.”

“Yes, you always get the best cases. Speaking of that, how are your other cases coming.”

“I had a thought on Bastion. You remember how snotty the son in law was when we questioned him? I did some digging and I think he’s dying to brag about it to somebody. If we pull him in again and squeeze a little he’ll sing us a pretty song.”

“Or clam up and ask for a lawyer.”

“He didn’t seem that smart to me.”

“True enough. All right, we’ll give it a try, supercop. When is Randy coming back?”

“Couple of days. I can’t wait to drop some of this stuff into his lap.”

“That’s what he gets for going out of town.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

Manetti slammed his apartment door in frustration, threw the mail on the kitchen counter and stalked into the living room. He threw down his suit coat and kicked off his shoes.

Crap, crap, crap. The whole whore hunt idea had been a complete bust. After 3 nights of walking the sidewalks downtown he had nothing to show for it. He had talked to more prostitutes than he had ever wanted to talk to. He had shown the sketch to everyone. This girl thought maybe the woman in the sketch had been a couple of blocks that way. That girl had never seen the woman in the sketch before. They all talked shit to Manetti. The Lieutenant was going to pull the plug on it any time. Manetti figured he had one more night, two at the outside.

Something was off on this whole case. It looked like a suicide but it didn’t feel like one. Manetti had good instincts and he had learned that ignoring them was usually a mistake.

He pulled his holster off his belt, unsnapped the hold down strap, dropped the holster and spun with his Beretta in both hands and aimed at the figure standing near the bedroom door.

“Hands up! You just broke into a cop’s apartment, lady, are you crazy? Let me see your hands, now!”

The woman slowly and non-threateningly raised her hands to shoulder height. As she did, Manetti looked her over and memorized her face. Pretty, he thought, about 5’7 or 8, 120 pounds, short blonde hair, pale skin. Wearing dark blue slacks, white blouse, black low heel shoes. He tried not to notice the enticing curves her clothes showed off.

“Calm down, detective. No reason to worry at all. Just calm down.” Her voice was low and pleasant, calm and sure of herself.

“I am calm, and if you make a move I don’t like I will calmly shoot you. Who are you? What do you want?”

“I just needed to talk to you for a few minutes, detective. Then I will go my way and you will not remember a thing. Now, put the gun down on the table. You’ve got no reason not to trust me.” Her voice still maintained that calm certainty, and an oddly compelling quality. Manetti found himself almost obeying her, then he tightened his shoulders.

“I think trusting you is not likely, lady, and I’m happy with my gun pointed at you. Now, who are you and what do you want?”

That seemed to take her by surprise, she blinked a few times. “My name is Pam… Smith, and like I said I need to talk to you.”

“Right. And your real name would be?”

“You’re right, that was pretty clumsy. My name is Pamela Gleason. That’s my real name and I have ID to prove it, if you’ll let me get it. I just want to talk to you about the case you are working on, that’s all.”

“Where’s your ID?”

“It’s in the purse sitting on that table next to you. Any chance you could put your gun down while you look at it? I promise I won’t move.”

Manetti lowered his pistol but kept his eyes on the woman as he stepped around the table. He opened the purse without looking, spread it open and glanced in. He kept his eyes on the woman as he reached in for the wallet. Then ran into a problem. How to look at her ID and keep his eyes on her?

She smiled when she saw him reach the same dilemma. “I can offer a suggestion that might help if you’re interested.”

“Alright, let’s hear it.”

“Put your pistol flat on the table and hold your hand a foot or so above it.”

Manetti raised an eyebrow. “Really? And how will that help?”

“Indulge me.”

He scoffed. Well, it’s not like she’s all that close. He did as she instructed.

“Don’t take your eyes off me,” she said, “but anytime you’re ready grab your pistol, as fast as you can.”

“Oh yes, I think I saw this in a movie.” Before he had finished the first syllable of the last word he slapped his hand down… and felt only smooth linoleum under his hand.

He looked down, his pistol was gone. He looked back, the woman was standing in the same spot, with his pistol held by the barrel in her right hand. She let the tableau stand for a moment, while Manetti thought hard about the snub-nose .38 in the ankle holster. If he could tip the table over and hide behind it… Then casually she walked over and set his pistol on the table.

“Any doubt I could kill you if I really wanted to?”

Manetti liked to think of himself as more than an average macho cop, so he shook his head.

“So why didn’t I?” She asked.

“Cause you’re not stupid enough to shoot a cop?”

“Definitely, but what else?”

“Cause all you want to do is talk?”

She nodded. “Right. Go ahead and check my ID.”

Not much point to do anything else. Her wallet had what appeared to be a valid driver’s license, credit cards, some cash. And a private investigator’s license from the state of New York. All with the name of Pamela Gleason. He dropped the wallet back in her purse, glanced down at his pistol thoughtfully, then went around the table to sit on the couch without touching it. He motioned her to sit in the recliner opposite the couch and she sat down.

“You wanted to talk, talk,” he said.

“You are looking into an apparent suicide.” It was not a question.

“I am not at liberty to comment on an open investigation.”

“That’s all well and good, but I know for a fact that you are.” Manetti opened his mouth and she hurried on, “Never mind, I won’t tell you how I know.”

“This is going to be a short talk, then.”

“You’re looking for a woman, tall, dark hair, very attractive.”

Manetti took the sketch out of his coat pocket and showed it to the woman. Gleason. She glanced at it and said, “Yes, that’s her. Her last known alias was Lorraine Barnett. She may be posing as a prostitute.”

“Posing as one?”

“Posing, because she never takes money from her victims. She has sex with them and then kills them.”

“Interesting. How did you say you got this information?”

“Nice try, detective. Something you don’t know, this is not the first city she has done this in. She’s been moving gradually west, this is the third city where she has done this. In each city she kills between 4 and 7 men, then she moves on.”

“I checked the national databases for similar crimes.”

“And found nothing. The information was… suppressed. Don’t ask how.”

“Right. Are you getting tired of saying that? Never mind. What’s her motivation for this?”

“Being a psychotic serial killer isn’t enough of a motive?”

“Not really. Even psychotic serial killers have reasons for what they do, even if the reason is usually psychotic.”

“I’m afraid I can’t give you any better reason.”

“Naturally not. And what is your interest in this?”

“I was hired by the family of one of her early victims. I’ve been trailing her for months. I’d like to find her before she can slip away again.”

“And you expect me to help you with that?”

“I would like you to help me, but I don’t have much expectation of it any more.”

Manetti shook his head. “Lady, that story is ridiculous, fishy and full of holes. You want to tell the truth this time?”

“You doubt my word?”

“You sneak into my apartment, do some kind of magic trick to steal my gun, and give me a story that is pure cock and bull? Yes, I doubt your word. If I thought I had a chance to put handcuffs on you I’d run your ass in for trespass and breaking and entering.”

“I’m glad you understand the folly of trying that.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

Moving very slowly, she pulled a business card out of her shirt pocket and set it on the coffee table between them.

“Detective Manetti, I am looking for this woman too. I expect to find her, but you have gotten closer to her than anyone else has. It is possible that you could find her in another day or two. If you do, I want you to call the number on that card before you try and arrest her. That’s my cell. Do not try to arrest this woman without me, she is the most dangerous person you have ever pursued. Your life would be in extreme danger if you tried to take her alone. Just call me and keep her in sight until I can join you. That’s all I ask.”