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TRUST JESUS TODAY
As before, potentially disturbing subject matter. Again, portions italicized in original are bracketed by (i)(/i). Prologue and first chapter posted earlier.
It was the information age; a missing child alert could be posted and seen around the world within a matter of minutes. Police didn’t have to sort through mailed or faxed copies of reports that arrived days after the child disappeared. A search engine could narrow down the possible identities in less time than it took to get a cup of coffee.
Their victim had been dead for two days, and likely missing for at least three; why, then, did none of the reports match the deceased? Someone had to have missed her and filed a report, and that report would end up in the database for any police agency to access.
Reading over the descriptions and looking at the photographs, Lloyd shook his head. He had a few possibilities that might pan out, depending on how the girl’s face looked after the ME cleaned her up, but none that jumped out as likely matches. The closest was a girl who had been almost twelve when she’d first been reported abducted by the non-custodial parent over two and a half years earlier.
Eddie was usually pretty good at guessing the ages of victims. He’d estimated ten to twelve, not thirteen to fifteen, though it was always possible for the child’s development and growth to have been stunted if the abducting parent hadn’t fed the girl properly. That would explain the lack of a recent missing child report on her; someone guilty of not only kidnapping but also of criminal neglect wouldn’t be too keen on drawing attention to their situation.
He leaned back in his chair and took a swig from a bottle of soda. “Are you having any better luck than I’m having, Singer?” he asked his associate across the aisle.
Ralph Singer shook his head. “I ran the fingerprints through the database, hoping she might have been registered with one of the child-finder networks, but the only match that came back was from the Citizenship and Immigration Service. It can’t be our victim, though.”
“Why not? She might not have been born here in the U.S., and was either a foreign adoption or her parents brought her here recently.”
“That’s the problem; the girl in the CIS database came here sixteen years ago. Our victim is a pre-pubescent girl, not a woman in her mid to late twenties.”
He got up from his chair and stepped in behind Singer, looking at the image on the monitor. The girl in the photo gave the camera a mischievous smile, and the eyes had the bright promise of youth. In every way, though, she looked how he would have expected their Jane Doe to have looked in life. “The resemblance is uncanny,” he whispered. “What’s the match on the fingerprint?”
“It’s a fourteen point match on the right thumb, which is the only one I’ve used so far.”
“What do you suppose the odds are of getting a fourteen point match between two girls, sixteen years apart, who look so much alike?”
He shook his head. “I’m not even going to begin to try calculating those odds. Even if our victim was cloned from this woman, I don’t think we’d get that close of a match.”
“Any chance CIS has the date wrong on the file? Maybe this is our girl, but the file is really only a year old instead of sixteen?”
He made a couple of keystrokes, and a scan of a passport appeared on the screen. “If so, the people issuing the passport overseas made the same mistake, not only on the issue date of the passport, but also on her birth date.”
Leaning in for a closer look, he read the information on the document. “You’re right; I don’t think our victim is Ilsa Levitsky, a twenty-eight year old woman from Belarus, but print this file out for me. I want to compare Levitsky’s face to our victim; maybe there’s a family connection or something. Think you can find a current address for Ms. Levitsky while I’m visiting the M.E.?”
“I’ll give it a shot. It would make for an interesting coincidence if she lives nearby.”
“Yeah, especially if she has a daughter that has recently gone missing.”
After the short drive to the Medical Examiner’s office, Lloyd paused for a moment outside the Autopsy Room. Taking several deep breaths and preparing himself mentally for what waited inside, he opened the door.
“Lieutenant Timmons,” the M.E. said, walking over to greet him. “I saw on the paperwork that this was your case. Any luck yet finding an I.D. on our victim?”
He glanced at the body lying on the table and fought to keep his emotions under control. “The best match we have so far is too improbable to be her, but we’re hoping it might be a family connection.” He handed the printouts to the doctor.
“It sure does look like her,” he said, turning to the next page. “A fourteen point match on the fingerprints? We’ve made positive I.D.’s on less than that before. Why do you say this one is too improbable?”
“Look at the birth date on the passport; older sister or mother, maybe, but that passport was issued and filed by the State Department before our victim was born.”
“Twenty-eight years old? That would explain a few things about this case.” He turned around and gestured towards the body. “She could very well be older than she looks.”
“That much, though?”
“It seems crazy, but I think it’s quite possible.” He walked around the table and pulled the sheet back. “Externally, she looks like a little girl, but internally she shows every signs of being a mature woman. She has two of her wisdom teeth still, and the other two have been extracted. Her uterus and ovaries are fully developed, and her legs, armpits, and mons pubis show signs of regular depilation. This would be the most extreme case I’ve ever seen, but it wouldn’t be the first case on record of a grown woman putting a lot of effort into looking like a little girl.”
Lloyd tapped the stack of papers in the doctor’s hand. “So you think our victim is Ilsa Levitsky?”
“We can lift the rest of her fingerprints for you to check, but I think you already have your answer. What I’ve found so far on the internal exam corresponds to what I would expect to find in a woman in her twenties, and I would have a hard time believing the photo and fingerprint matches were just coincidental or even familial resemblance.”
He sighed. “Twelve or twenty-eight, she’s still a homicide victim. Were you able to collect much evidence from her?”
“Oh, yeah; our killer wasn’t too worried about what he left behind. I’ve sent several samples of semen and hair to the DNA lab; they’ll tell us if our evidence is all from the same man, or whether we had multiple molesters. You shouldn’t have any problem, either, determining if a suspect is a match or not.”
“All we have to do is find the sick bastard. Have you got a final determination on cause of death? Was it strangulation?”
“Strangulation it was,” he said. Pointing to the marks on the neck, he continued. “See the double-mark here at the front? He wrapped the cord around her neck with the crossover in the front, rather than strangling her from behind. These fainter marks show he had the cord around her neck for a while. I’m betting he tightened and loosened the cord a couple of times before finally killing her.”
“So we have a killer that enjoyed prolonging his victim’s death.”
“That’s how it looks, and since he strangled her from the front, he probably did so in order to watch her face through the process.”
He looked at the face, cleaner than it had been in the field when he’d first seen it. The playful smile and the bright eyes in the photo were lost somewhere behind the cold pallor, and the thought of those eyes staring with panic into the face of her killer sickened him. “Righteous are You, oh Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?” he whispered.
“What’s that?” the M.E. said.
He blew out a deep breath. “It’s a quote from the book of Jeremiah, in which the prophet asks God why evil people continue to have success. I can’t help but think about that verse every time I see something like this.”
“Well, don’t think about that kind of stuff too much, or you’ll just make yourself crazy. Just go catch this perv and make sure he doesn’t have any more success.”
“That’s the only reason I stay in this job,” he said.
“Homicide, this is Lieutenant Timmons,” Lloyd said, pinning the phone to his head with one shoulder. He tore open a pair of sugar packets and dumped the contents into his coffee cup.
“Hello,” the woman caller said. “Are you the one investigating the murder of that little girl this weekend?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am the lead detective on that case. Do you have some information for me?”
“I don’t know. I saw the picture in the paper this morning, though, and I think I may have seen her.”
“May I have your name and where I can reach you, ma’am?”
“My name is Dorothy Hensel, and I’m at work this morning. I’m an Academic Advisor at the University Main campus.” She gave him her work phone number.
“Where do you think you might have seen the victim?”
“I didn’t get a real close look at her face, but I’m pretty sure it was her I saw getting off the Commuterail train at Tibbington Street station Friday evening.”
“What time was that?”
“It was 6:38; I remember because I checked my watch just as we started to pull out of the station, and we were right on schedule.”
“Did you see where the girl went after she got off the train?”
“She was approached by a man on the platform, and left with him. I didn’t think much about it because she didn’t seem the least bit hesitant to go with him.”
“Can you describe him?”
“Not really; he was too far away and had his back to me. I didn’t pay a lot of attention, though, because the way she behaved, I just thought he was her father, come to pick her up for the weekend.”
“Anything at all could be a big help; was he tall or short? Fat or thin? Was there anything odd about the way he walked or the way he was dressed?”
“He was maybe a third again taller than her and stocky; not really fat, you know? More like really muscular in the upper body like someone who does a lot of manual labor or who works out, though I suppose that could also have been the bulk of the coat he was wearing. He had on a ski-type jacket and a baseball cap, I believe.”
“Could you tell what race he was? Did you get a look at his hands or maybe the back of his neck?”
“I think he was pale, but I can’t be sure.”
“Anything else you can remember?”
“I wish I could; if the girl I saw was the one that was murdered, and that was the man who did it, I’m going to feel just awful that I saw her being taken and didn’t do anything about it.”
“You had no reason to suspect anything, from the sounds of what you’ve told me. Will you be there at the University all day, Ms. Hensel? Myself or one of my associates will check this out, and if this appears to be a valid lead, one of us will want to talk to you some more.”
“I’ll be here until five, but I’m not sure what more I could tell you.”
“You’d be surprised how many times we hear that, and then during the interview a witness will remember some crucial detail that helps us out a lot.”
“I just hope I can help in some small way to catch the man who did that.”
“The fact that you were willing to call is a good start; too many people will see something, but because they don’t want to get involved, they won’t ever tell the police what they’ve seen. Thank you, Ms. Hensel, and if this pans out, one of us will be by to see you later today.” He hung up the phone and looked at the copy of the passport photo taped to the side of his monitor. (i) Did you come in on the train, Ilsa? Did you already know the man who would murder you?(/i)
Ralph Singer scooted his chair back and stretched. “Got something, Timmons?”
“Maybe,” he replied. “A woman saw a girl who may have been our victim meeting a man at the Tibbington Street Commuterail station. How about you? Any luck yet finding an address for her?”
“Nothing; it’s like she came here and pretty much vanished off the grid. I did find something interesting, though, that I’m working to see if it gets us anywhere.”
“I decided to try some cross-checking, and found an Anna Levitsky that came through customs at the same time as Ilsa. Not sure it she’s an older sister or mother, or if it’s just a real odd coincidence, but I’m seeing if I can find any address or contact information for her.”
“Any information on the passports that would indicate a connection between the two?”
“Not that I’ve discerned yet, but some of the information isn’t in English. What do they speak in Belarus? Russian?”
“I’m not sure; Russian is probably still a common language there from the old Soviet days, but danged if I know whether they had their own dialect beyond that.”
Ralph's fingers danced over the keyboard, and with a couple more clicks, he studied the screen for a moment. “According to the internet, they speak Belarusian and Russian. I guess it would help now if I read and spoke either of those languages,” he said with a chuckle. “Are you going to follow up on the Commuterail lead?”
“Yeah, they should have security cameras at every station, so I’m going to head over to their main office and see if we can get the files from last Friday evening. The witness didn’t get a clear enough view of either the girl or the man for a positive ID, but maybe the video will be better.”
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