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Authors: David L Lindsey


BOOK: Mercy
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David L. Lindsey

First published by


May 1990

Houston is shattered by a shock wave of unbelievably vicious sex killings. And this time the pattern is unique—way out of line with traditional violent-crime psychology.

In Detective Carmen Palma’s experience, a psychopath always chooses anonymous targets. But the Houston victims know and trust their killer: They meet willingly in hotel rooms, even in their homes. They don’t fight when the leather cuffs are fastened to their wrists and ankles. They don’t even struggle when the first blows fall…

Palma’s first lightning instinct is that the victims expected their torture. They were practicing masochists, part of a secret clique that includes some of the city’s most prominent women, they helped choreograph their own punishments—every blow. They just didn’t expect to die…



She is magnificent: a tall girl, long-limbed, high-hipped…Her stomach is drawn flat with excitement, and she is smoothing back her hair, which has become wildly tousled. Dangling from her raised arms I can see the ropes she has tied to her wrists, and I know that others are around her ankles as well.

Of the things I am about to do to her she has no intimation, though she thinks she knows why she is here and what is going to happen.

It will be a rare thing. For her, a singular event.

“One of the most unusual and fascinating thrillers I have read.”

—Hammond Innes,

author of

For Joyce

whose “pacience is a heigh vertu, certeyn.”


It is not practical, or even possible, for novelists formally to acknowledge the assistance of others in writing fiction, even though we are constantly thieving the language and behavior and predicaments of our fellow men for our own purposes. As students of human nature, our sources lie as much within ourselves as in the actions of others.

Sometimes, however, we set our stories within a frame of reference that requires a considerable amount of research and which, invariably, entails the help of other people. Inasmuch as I have done that for this novel, I owe a number of persons a debt of gratitude for making themselves available to my incessant queries.

For almost a decade now, Captain Bobby Adams of the Homicide Division of the Houston Police Department has allowed me to pester the men and women in his department who would tolerate pestering. I want to thank him, and them, for their unusual indulgence of me over the course of the years.

For their help in educating me about one of the most extraordinary facets of criminal investigation, I want to thank the following men at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia: Special Agent Alan E. Burgess, Deputy Administrator of NCAVC; Special Agent John E. Douglas, Program Manager of the Profiling and Consultation Program of the Behavioral Science Investigative Support Unit; and Robert K. Ressler, Supervisory Special Agent of the Behavioral Science Investigative Support Unit. I would also like to thank Special Agent James R. Echols of the FBI field office in Austin, Texas.

For her assistance in helping me understand some of the finer points of forensic evidence, I want to thank Donna Stanley, Serologist in Crime Lab at the Texas Department of Public Safety, Austin, Texas.

I also owe a special word of gratitude to Sergeant Ed Richards, Criminal Personality Profiling, Intelligence Division, Texas Department of Public Safety, Austin. One of the first graduates of the FBI’s prestigious NCAVC Fellowship Program, Sergeant Richards’s kindness and extraordinary patience with me never flagged over the course of many months. I learned an enormous amount from him, and especially value his friendship.

The danger in beginning an acknowledgment at all is that one inevitably overlooks persons whose names should have appeared. To those I offer my apologies even before I discover the oversight.

While these persons, and many others, assisted me in gathering the facts that provide the underpinnings of this novel, I should emphasize that if there are any misrepresentations of methodologies or procedures or scientific facts, the mistakes are mine alone.

“…such joy thou took’st

With me in secret, that

my womb conceiv’d

A growing burden.”

—John Milton

Paradise Lost
, II, 765

Sin to Satan, regarding

their offspring Death.

“But things that fall hopelessly

apart in theory lie close

together without contradiction

in the paradoxical soul

of man…”


Freud and Psychoanalysis

CW 4, ¶756



Thursday, May 11

andra Moser paused in the broad entryway of her home, a rubber band in her mouth, her arms raised to the back of her head where she was gathering her blond hair in a ponytail. She was wearing a pink bodysuit over white leotards. When she had her hair pulled tight, clasped in one small, pink-nailed hand, she took the rubber band from her mouth and wound it several times around the shank of hair. As she did this, pulling at the loose hair of the ponytail to tighten the band, she listened to the television in the family room across the hallway where her children, Cassie, eight, and Michael, six, were eating hamburgers on TV trays with the family maid.

She had already kissed them goodbye, receiving inattentive, routine ‘byes’ from them commensurate with her routine trip to aerobics class. But now she paused again, listening for Cassie’s thin, muffled cough. The third grader had received the first of her series of spring allergy shots earlier in the day, and Sandra was hoping they had not waited too long. Cassie was prone to chronic sinus infections when the mold spore count was highest. Tugging at the tight leg of her bodysuit cutting into her groin, she wondered if she should take Cassie’s temperature before she left. The kids laughed at something on television, their small voices nearer, louder, than the canned laugh track, and Sandra decided to wait until she returned later in the evening.

Grabbing her monogrammed athletic bag from the closet near the front door, she noticed her husband’s umbrella hanging against the closet wall. Andrew refused to take it with him. It just cluttered up the car, he argued, always getting in his way. Besides, he simply never needed it. He parked in a covered garage and walked to his office through the tunnels. She would remind him of the times he had been drenched—it had happened three times in the last three months—but he would shrug off her cautionary examples as “unusual.” Andrew did not entertain the unusual.

She took the umbrella off the wall and leaned it against the small Chinese table in the entry to remind her to put it in his car when he got home. It was absurd for him not to carry it with him, especially in the spring. Making a mental note to call Gwyn Sheldon about a fund-raising idea for the children’s academy—she thought of it because Gwyn’s husband had an umbrella with a handle like Andrew’s—she hurried out of their two-storied Georgian home nestled in the thick pine woods of Hunters Creek, one of several townships clustered together in west Houston and known as the Memorial Villages. The Villages ranked near the top of the list of the nation’s wealthiest suburbs.

A fresh spring rain had moved through the Villages only half an hour earlier, making the woods fragrant and washing the city clean in the dusk. Sandra inhaled deeply of the damp evening smells as she tossed her bag into her dark blue Jeep Wagoneer and climbed behind the steering wheel, flipping on the headlights. It was just now getting dark enough to use them. She started the Jeep, fastened her seat belt, wheeled the Wagoneer around the island of magnolias in front of the house, and drove quickly along the drive bordered by a white fence covered with brambles of pyracantha. When she reached the street, she waited for a car to pass as she checked her watch. It was seven-forty. Her aerobics class began at eight o’clock, and Andrew was at a weekly business meeting until ten.

Hurrying along the winding street she came to the major north-south artery of Voss and turned left. Within a mile or so she would come to Woodway where she would need to turn left again to go to Sabrina’s, an athletic club that catered to the already sleek bodies of the women of the Villages. But Sandra Moser did not turn left at Woodway. Instead she breezed past the intersection and turned left at the next street, San Felipe, and pushed the Wagoneer east through the high-dollar neighborhoods of Briargrove and Post Oak Estates and Tanglewood until she made her first right turn onto the fashionably posh Post Oak Boulevard. Now known as Uptown Houston, the Galleria area was the largest suburban business district in the nation. Its newest pearl was the Pavilion, Saks Fifth Avenue, a multimillion-dollar complex of elegant shops separated from the boulevard by a phalanx of sixty-foot palms that glistened in the light mist that was now moving in on heavy air from the Gulf Coast fifty miles to the southeast.

With the lights of the office towers and high-rise condominiums reflecting back at her from the wet, black boulevard, Sandra Moser whipped the Wagoneer into a median turn lane and quickly cut across traffic to the Doubletree Hotel, a flat-faced structure with an inset glass curtain wall in its center section that fell to two overlapping half-barrel arches that were also made of glass and formed the hotel’s porte cochere. She did not stop for the uniformed doorman who stepped to the curb to open her door, but continued past him and drove around to the parking garage gate. She took a ticket from the buzzing dispenser, which opened the gate, and entered the garage, driving up to the third level before finding an available parking space. She snatched her bag out of the Wagoneer, locked it, and walked to the elevator which took her back down to the lobby.

At the registration desk she presented a counterfeit driver’s license and told the concierge she wanted to pay in cash. The license was a document that had cost her a significant amount of money as well as considerable trouble. Those among them who were married had to worry about those kinds of things—their wire was stretched tighter, their balancing act a little more delicate than the others’. But it had been worth it. It had served her well for over two years now. She asked for a room facing the boulevard on the highest floor available. After signing the registration forms and paying, she declined the help of a bellboy and walked straight across the cavernous lobby to the elevator, her high-cut bodysuit and stylish figure turning heads. Sandra Moser was a beautiful woman.

She found her room on the eighth floor not far from the elevator and slipped the rectangular magnetic card into the slot above the handle, heard it click, and shoved it open. She did not turn on the lights, but tossed her bag and the card on the bed and walked straight to the curtains and opened them. A little to her left a sweep of buildings rose up above her, their lights glittering in the mists like a rainy sky of winking eyes peering at her in the opened window, their vantage points the envy of even the most demanding voyeur savant. And across the shiny boulevard the palm trees of the Pavilion stood dripping in a surreal desert of green sand.

Sandra Moser walked to the telephone and placed a call. She spoke only a few words and hung up, then walked back to the window. Standing in front of it, she reached up and began taking the rubber band from her ponytail. But her hands were shaking, the rubber band was too tight. It snapped, startling her. She raked her fingers through her hair, tossed the rubber band aside, and shook out her hair. She took a deep breath. The room was clean, did not smell of cigarette smoke. It was new and clean.

From this moment on it would be different from all the times before. Until now she had been learning. It had been a long apprenticeship, hampered by her own anxieties and psychological impediments. She might never have come to this point at all if she had not had help, if she had not been coached and coaxed and brought along with patience and understanding. She had reached that stage where she would have to give herself up completely or never know what it might have been like to understand something few people would ever know. It was that simple. It had been explained to her, but she had known anyway, instinctively. The body was the gateway to the mind. She almost had done it before, almost had crossed the threshold, risking her identity until she had grown intoxicated on nothing more than the other’s breath, that feather of one’s essence that no one could ever alter or destroy.

Her hands were trembling even more now as she pulled off her bodysuit and tossed it out of the way. And then she peeled off the leotards, freeing her body from the tight embracing web, her skin feeling tingly, alive with millions of tiny sensitive fingers. Standing naked in front of the plate-glass window, she let them look at her, let them glitter and wink at her. It was electrifying to have finally made the decision to acquiesce, and for a full week she had been distracted with anticipation. The curtain was about to rise on her repression.

BOOK: Mercy
5.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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