A few lingering remains


I stood in the evidence room, coffee in hand, casting my eyes over the boxes of yellowing paper and photographs with frayed edges; the coffee-stained remnants of countless sleepless nights trying to catch him. Twenty-six girls in as many weeks found dismembered at the bottom of dumpsters, in piles of newspaper underneath fire escapes and tossed out on the side of the freeway. All this, but no fingerprints, no real forensic evidence, nothing to go on but instinct and luck.

We got him based on a message he'd left on the Internet and some late testimony from a neighbor. He was a quiet guy – the sick ones always are – who didn't go out much, didn't talk to anyone. Just kept to himself in his tenement apartment, curtains drawn, training his dog all day. The most anyone heard from him was a patient, measured voice and the sound of paws running around obligingly, learning to obey the instructions of a murderer.

Sweet dog, apparently, although I didn't see much of it. It just walked up when we raided the apartment, shook the stump where its tail had been, even gave one of the cops a lick, but after that it was gone. When you walk into someone's home and he's surrounded by blood spatter, tiny red exclamation marks all over the walls pointing him out like signs while he just sits there and grins, his mouth dripping and red, keeping track of the dog isn't foremost on your mind. Nobody noticed when it escaped.

It took us years before he made it into court. The coffee rings on our desks washed off, the piles of evidence yellowed, we all caught up on our sleep and stopped having nightmares, but that night will live on in my head forever. That and the confession gave, sitting in the dock. His description of how he ate them; his face when he remembered; the way he lingered over his words. It was unique in the history of our precinct, maybe all the precincts in the world; savage beyond anything any of us had ever heard of. Said eating his victims gave him control. He ate them with passion, and the way he left the remains were like a fingerprint.

A week after he was put away, they started dying again. One, at first; we thought maybe it was a copycat who had found the details through the court reporting. Then another, a couple of weeks after, and another one a week after that. They sped up, new victims turning up night after night, and the precision, the quality of the copy was too perfect for it to be anyone else.

I stood in the reopened evidence room, coffee in hand, casting my eyes over the boxes and photographs. I had thought we were done here, but now one thing turned over and over in my mind.

He trained his dog real well.

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