Chapter 23


    Jessica spent the early afternoon running data through ViCAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. Started by the FBI in 1985, ViCAP was a national registry of violent crimes - homicides, sexual assaults, missing persons, and unidentified remains. Case information submitted to ViCAP was available to authorized law-enforcement agencies around the world, and the system allowed investigators to compare their evidence with all other cases in the database and to identify similarities.

    Jessica searched the database with the most salient points of the case, those being the signature marks of the shaving of the victims, as well as the use of paper to blindfold them.

    She found a similar case from 2006 in Kentucky, where a man had shaved off the hair of three prostitutes before stabbing them to death and dumping their bodies along the banks of the Cumberland River. In this case the man had shaved only the hair on the victims' heads, including their eyebrows - not their entire bodies. There was another 1988 case in Eureka, California of a man who had shaved a strange pattern into the scalps of four victims. The pattern was later identified, through the man's confession, as what he thought were the first four letters of an alien alphabet.

    There were many cases of blindfolded victims, most being execution- style homicides. There were also numerous examples of pre- and post-mortem mutilations. None matched Jessica and Byrne's case.

    There were no incidents where all three signatures were present.

    Jessica was just about to print off what she needed when all hell broke loose in the duty room. She stood aside as a half-dozen members of the Fugitive Squad ran down the hallway, then through the door to the stairs. They were soon followed by three men wearing US Marshals windbreakers.

    Why were the US Marshals there? The purview of the marshal's office, among other things, was the apprehending of fugitives, the transport and managing of prisoners, as well as the protection of witnesses.

    Jessica looked across the room to see Dana Westbrook walking toward her. 'What happened?' she asked.

    'We had a break.'

    Unfortunately, what Westbrook clearly meant was there had been a prison break, not a break in Jessica's case.

    'From downstairs?' The sub-basement of the Roundhouse was where the PPD holding cells were located. The holding cells were staffed by the county sheriffs office, not the police.

    Westbrook shook her head. 'From CF.'

    Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, on State Road, was a prison in Northeast Philly. In Jessica's entire time on the job she had never heard of a break from CF. 'What happened?'

    'It's sketchy right now, but it looks like the prisoner got his hands on a visitor's pass and some street clothes. They've got video of him just waltzing out of the visitor's area.'

    The security at CF was tight, which probably meant that the escapee had an accomplice of some sort. Jessica knew the drill. Members of the PPD Fugitive Squad would team up both with US Marshals and with officers from the Pennsylvania State Police. They would scour motels, bus stations, train stations, and of course establish surveillance of the prisoner's residence and those of his known associates. She also knew there was a pretty good chance that a head or two would roll at Curran-Fromhold.

    'Fugitive Squad is all over it, and as you can see the marshals are in,' Westbrook said. 'Only a matter of time. Captain wanted me to give you a heads-up, anyway.'

    This got Jessica's attention. 'Me? Why?'

    'The prisoner? The guy who escaped?'

    'What about him?'

    'He's your AA Killer suspect. Lucas Anthony Thompson.'


    Byrne returned to the Roundhouse at just after three p.m. Jessica had tried to call him twice, got his voicemail both times.

    'How did the doctor's appointment go?' she asked.


    Jessica just stared. Byrne knew better than to give her the bum's rush on something like this, yet still he tried. Her icy look firmly in place, the moment drew out. Byrne caved in.

    'They took the MRI, now they have to read the results. They said they'd call me.'


    Byrne took a deep breath, realizing he had to play this game or he'd never hear the end of it. 'Maybe tomorrow.'

    'You'll let me know the second you hear from them, right?'

    'Yes, Mom.'

    'Don't make me ground you.'

    Jessica told Byrne about Thompson, as well as the scant information she had harvested on ViCAP. Then she gathered her notes, filled him in on the rest of the details regarding the second victim found that day. Black male, mid-fifties, no ID. Initial canvass turned up nothing.

    'Has he been printed?' Byrne asked.

    'The body's on the way to the morgue now. Boss is going to put Russ Diaz and his team on this. Russ did four years in Behavioral Science, you know. I have a sneaking suspicion we're going to need him.'

    'What about the signature?'

    'Identical,' Jessica said.

    They turned back to the case files on the desk. Three bodies. Three identical MOs. Kenneth and Sharon Beckman were tied to the murder of Antoinette Chan. In the case of serial murder, the first order of business was to try and establish a link between the victims, a commonality that might lead to a denominator they all shared - job, family, circle of friends - and ultimately to the killer. Connecting Kenneth and Sharon Beckman was, of course, easy. They'd see about this new victim.

    'I ordered you some garlic prawns, by the way,' Jessica said. 'But it got eaten. You know how Chinese food goes in this place. Like pork in a kennel.'

    'I ate at the hospital,' Byrne said. 'But I did bring dessert.' He held up a white bag.

    Jessica sat up straight in her chair. Dessert at lunch! She beckoned forth the bag. Byrne handed it to her.

    Jessica opened the bag and saw that it was an apple fritter from that bakery on Seventeenth she liked.

    'What took you to Seventeenth?' she asked.

    'I had to pick up a pre-amp from a guy.'

    'And a pre-amp would be ...'

    'I'm converting all my old vinyl records to digital. Some of them are old 78s, and I'm trying to clean up the sound.'

    Jessica took out the apple fritter, thinking that she couldn't wait for that moment in her life - a moment she fully expected, a moment she fully intended to savor - when she just didn't care about her weight anymore, a moment when she could fully embrace the slide into middle age and obesity.

    Or when she got pregnant again. Pregnant would be better.

    She bit into the apple fritter. Heaven. 'You can get MRIs as often as you want.'

    'We're going to have to give statements, you know.'

    Jessica nodded, wiped her lips. She and Byrne had met with Sharon Beckman the day before, and now the woman was the victim of a homicide. Jessica and Byrne had become part of the timeline.


    The call came at just after four. Nicci Malone and Nick Palladino were at the morgue with the third victim. Jessica put them on speaker.

    'We're at the ME's,' Nicci said. 'You wanted me to call?'

    'Yeah,' Jessica said. 'Have you checked the victim's hands for tattoos?'

    'No. We bagged them at the scene. You want us to check here?'

    'Yeah,' Jessica said.

    The next minute took somewhere around an hour for Jessica and Byrne. They both paced, neither of them having anything to say. They heard more rustling, then Nicci put the phone back up to her ear.


    'Yeah, Nicci,' Jessica said. 'Is there a tattoo?'

    'There is,' Nicci said. 'It's a tattoo of a swan. A tiny blue swan. It's on the index finger of his left hand.'

    Someone was on a rampage in the city of Philadelphia and every resource had to be summoned to stop him. The fact that the body of Kenneth Beckman had been found a half-block from an elementary school put two other agencies on alert. Personnel had already been dispatched to Washington Elementary.

    Over the next few hours the apparatus of an investigation handling multiple murders would gear up around them. Off-duty detectives would be called in, various sections of the forensic lab would be put on alert.

    'Can you take a picture of the tattoo and send it to me?' Jessica asked.

    'Sure,' Nicci said.

    A few minutes later, Jessica received the image on her cellphone. She put it next to photos of Kenneth and Sharon Beckman that had been taken. The tattoo was in the same style. She got online to the World Ink site, put the word 'swan' in the search box, hit Enter. Soon a page came up with six different images of stylized swan tattoos. The third tattoo was a perfect match.


    Michael Drummond arrived at five-thirty. The ADA had news for them.

    'Before I left the office I heard from World Ink's legal department, which, for all I know, might have been a lawyer working out of his car,' Drummond said. He pulled out a fax, handed a copy to Jessica.

    'It turns out that you can buy these tattoos a la carte, with a minimum of six tattoos in the order. They searched their database and discovered that, in the past year, they had sold only one package that contained the first two tattoos we found on the victims - the lion and the rooster.'

    Drummond pulled out another fax.

    'They mailed the package to a post-office box in Jersey City, New Jersey, which turned out to be a remailer. From there it went to a USPS box in Allentown.'

    This meant that, for the moment, their most promising avenue of the investigation was blocked. Getting information on who rented a PO Box presented a whole new set of challenges. Anytime you dealt with a federal agency the red tape was massive. On this they would have to bring in the postal inspectors.

    Drummond glanced at the notes in Jessica's notebook.

    'So there's been a third murder,' he said. It was a statement, not a question.

    Jessica picked up her iPhone, showed Drummond the photo of the victim, as well as the close-up of the tattoo. Drummond scanned the pictures, then looked at his watch. 'All right. I know where the judges will be drinking in about an hour. I'll catch them between their second and third martinis.' He gathered his papers. 'Speaking of martinis, are you coming to my party, Jess?'

    Jessica had forgotten all about it. She hoped it didn't show on her face. 'Of course. Looking forward to it.'

    'I'll get on the feds.' Drummond smiled, held up his phone. 'I'll call you later.'

    Ten minutes later, with everything printed off, Jessica and Byrne stood in front of the material. There was no question that the tattoos purchased from World Ink were the same tattoos found on the victims.

    The bad news was that, according to the material they had just received from Drummond, in the packet of tattoos mailed to their killer there were five other tattoos. Turtle, donkey, elephant, kangaroo, and fish.

    Eight tattoos in all. The thought was chilling.

    Would there be eight murders?

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