Authors: Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
“He's a strange kid, off in his own world.” He glanced at Lily over his shoulder and saw that she was dressed and waiting. “Greg used to be an honor student and now he's a surfer. Instead of studying, the kid surfs. He'll be lucky to get into a junior college. I always dreamed he'd be an attorney, that maybe someday we'd have our own law practice. Dreams .Â .Â . things don't always turn out the way you planned them.”
She saw his need to talk but knew she had to go. “Can we talk in the car? I wish I could stay and we could talk more, but I am married. It's not a good marriage,” she paused, “obviously, or I wouldn't be here with you. It may end soon, for all I know, but I don't want it to end badly. Can you understand that?”
“Just give me a minute. I'll get dressed.”
At the government center complex, she leaned against the car as he kissed her. “Why do you park here? Don't you know they can see you from the jail?”
“Well,” she said, nuzzling him and softly biting his ear, “maybe I might be able to park underground one day.”
“Where the judges park?”
“What do you think?”
“I think there's a good possibility if that's what you want. Do you know I recommended you for my replacement?”
She didn't and was pleased. “Thanks, and that was before tonight.” She smiled, unlocking the door to her Honda. She started the ignition and waved and then stuck her head out the window. “To be continued, huh?”
“Right,” he said, “to be continued.”
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 13
“I thought you might want this,” Lily's clerk said, placing a cup of black coffee on her console.
“Thanks, Susie, you're a godsend.” Lily quickly returned her full attention back to Clinton Silverstein. She was embarrassed that her clerk thought she'd been asleep on the bench. When the pain in her back became unbearable, she had no choice but to take pain pills and if she didn't keep herself oiled with coffee, she sometimes became drowsy. She hadn't been asleep, however. Part of her brain was listening while another part was reliving the memory of that first night with Richard Fowler.
The attorney caught her eye again and she turned away in embarrassment, wondering what he would do if he knew what she'd been thinking. Her sexual awakening had been tainted only a short time later when she and Shana were raped, and it had taken years for her to regain the ability to experience the kind of pleasure she had that night.
Her relationship with Fowler had ended years ago, and it had ended unpleasantly. It was sad, because they had been coming together as a family. Shana had grown close to his son, Greg. They
were both only children and Shana thought of Greg as an older brother. She wondered if they still kept in touch with each other.
Whatever love Lily had held for Richard was long dead. She was even miffed that he'd agreed to represent Noelle Reynolds. Since the girl was virtually penniless, she knew he must be defending her for the publicity. It was sad to see a once great attorney sink to that level. Of course, Dr. Reynolds might have finally managed to get his hand out of his pocket, particularly now that his daughter's life was on the line.
Focusing on Silverstein's opening statement, she liked the direction he was taking, depicting the defendant as a spoiled rich girl who'd cheated and lied her way through life. Since Reynolds had no prior criminal record, which was considered a mitigating factor, the prosecutor had to make certain he established significant circumstances in aggravation or the death penalty would never fly.
“The people will produce irrefutable evidence,” Silverstein continued, his voice elevating, “that the defendant attempted to kill Brandon months before she locked him in the trunk of her car and left him to die. To prove how callous the defendant is, we will produce numerous photographs of her posing for seductive photographs at various nightclubs in Los Angeles around the time of her son's death.”
Everyone had seen these pictures. The media had relied heavily on them to sensationalize the case. They were clearly damaging as they showed Reynolds smiling and partying directly following her son's disappearance. The photos had also ruled out any possibility the defense might have of establishing that the boy's death was accidental. The images depicted almost everything there was to see of Noelle Reynolds's body, but what they didn't show was the face and actions of a grieving mother, the one thing that might have kept Reynolds from receiving the death penalty. According to the judicial council rules, a defendant's failure to show remorse for his or her actions was considered an aggravating factor.
“The coroner's report states that little Brandon's body remained in the trunk of his mother's car for a minimum of three weeks.”
Silverstein removed a handkerchief from his pocket and blotted the perspiration off his forehead. “What mother could be so calculating and cruel that she could drive around for three weeks with the corpse of her deceased child decomposing in the trunk of her Taurus? As inhuman as it sounds, the trunk had become Noelle Reynolds's babysitter, more than likely for some time prior to Brandon's demise. We know this because numerous sedatives were found in Ms. Reynolds's medicine cabinet, many of which were found in Brandon's tissues during autopsy. Noelle Reynolds drugged her son so she could drink and party with her friends, but with full knowledge that her actions could cause his death.
“We will also show you an emergency room report from August of last year when Dr. Reynolds took his grandson to the hospital because he was having trouble swallowing. The defendant told her father that the boy had accidentally eaten Ajax. I've been told by physicians that even if a child gets into an abrasive substance such as Comet or Ajax, they only consume a minute amount because it burns the sensitive tissues in their mouth and throat. The autopsy reports indicated that Brandon's esophagus was scarred, which indicates a sizable amount of Ajax was more than likely fed to him. The coroner also found traces of arsenic in Brandon's tissues, so it's obvious the monster that sits before you had been actively experimenting with different ways to murder her child.”
An audible gasp came from the courtroom and several members of the media scrambled toward the back door. Although Fowler knew what had just been described through discovery motions, the police and DA's office had managed to keep the Ajax and arsenic information out of the hands of the media, and all the reporters wanted to be the first to break the story.
A good prosecutor seldom released their most damning evidence during their opening statement, preferring to leave it for a later stage in the trial when their case might be lagging. Determined to convince the jury that Noelle Reynolds was guilty, Silverstein had placed all his cards on the table before he even called his first witness.
A commotion arose in the rear of the courtroom as the reporters tried to push their way past one another. One thing led to another and a female was knocked to the ground. A man beside her grabbed another male around the neck, and a full-fledged fight broke out.
Lily pounded her gavel. “Order!” she shouted, furious. Her bailiff raced to the back of the room and her clerk called for more officers. “I demand you come to order this minute! Anyone who isn't in their seats or out of this courtroom immediately will spend the night in jail.”
Special Agent Mary Stevens was working at her desk in the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) of the FBI when John Adams, her SAC (Special Agent in Charge), called and asked her to report to his office.
The BAU was housed at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. A former homicide detective in Ventura, Mary had been recruited by the Bureau when she'd attended the National Academy Program, a tough twelve-week residential training course for upper-level law enforcement officers from around the world. After a year at the Bureau's headquarters in Washington, she was hired by John Adams. Adams had been a close friend of her deceased father and was chief of the elite analysis and profiling unit. Most people knew it as the Behavior Science Unit, which still existed as part of the academy program but no longer consulted with police agencies in the apprehension and profiling of serial criminals.
Mary considered the use of acronyms inside the FBI to be unnecessary and excessive. Most police departments had stopped using the ten-code system for better clarification and officer safety. When an officer had been shot, was under fire, or found himself in foot pursuit of an armed suspect, a few seconds could cost him his life. Taking the time to remember the correct code was too dangerous. If the officer made a mistake, he could end up with a tow truck instead of an ambulance.
The ten-code system was developed in 1937 and expanded in 1974 under the belief that it allowed for brevity and standardization of radio traffic. She suspected the Bureau's extensive use of acronyms traced back to J. Edgar Hoover's paranoid need for secrecy. Boys loved their decoder rings.
She picked up a large file and headed down the corridor leading to Adams's office, her heels clicking on the linoleum floor. One of her present assignments was to investigative a fairly new phenomenon surfacing in the United Statesâsuicide clubs. Organizations of this nature had existed in Europe and Asia for years, particularly in Japan, where suicide was embedded in the country's culture. In Japan, the clubs were referred to as suicide circles. One club in Russia had more than twenty thousand members.
Mary caught a whiff of cologne just as fellow agent, Genna Weir, stepped up beside her. Weir and Mary were the only females in the unit, and had quickly formed a friendship. Weir was forty-two, stood five-seven, and was in peak physical condition. The lines in her face and the shadows under her eyes made her look closer to fifty. Dealing with the most depraved and violent criminals in the world took its toll. A steely-eyed brunette with superb reasoning abilities, Weir was highly respected within the unit and the Bureau.
“What's up with you and Brooks? Are you guys taking the post in California? I'd do anything to get out of this hellhole. I grew up in Florida and anything less than sixty degrees feels like a meat locker.”
“We haven't heard back yet,” Mary told her, hedging on the truth. She had requested the transfer months ago but Adams refused to approve it, claiming he couldn't afford to lose her. “There's also a problem with Brooks's mother.”
Weir tilted her head to one side, a mischievous smile on her face. “Oh, I remember. You guys had some crazy plan to get your mothers to share an apartment. What were you thinking? I knew that would never happen. Old women hate each other.”
“It's not an apartment, Genna. They're going to live in my house
and it's really nice. Both of our mothers are at the stage in life where they can't live alone anymore. My mother stopped driving last year, so she gets extremely lonely. Brooks's mother is in the same condition. Rather than put them in a retirement home, which they would loathe, Brooks and I are going to hire someone to take care of them at home so they can maintain a degree of independence. Of course, this person will be able to drive them places, so they won't be stuck in the house all the time.”
“I thought your house was rented.”
“The lease is up and Brooks wants us to buy a new place together in Ventura. Of course, the first thing we have to do is secure the assignment.”
“You'll be scratching the paint off the walls.” Weir chuckled. “The most serious crimes you'll handle will be a few bank robberies. You might get lucky and pick up a kidnapping or a drug deal. Regardless, that's a far cry from profiling serial killers.”
Suicide clubs had also popped up on various social networking sites, such as MySpace, Meetup, Facebook, and Twitter. The clubs were cleverly disguised, however, and as soon as law enforcement managed to take down one, twenty more would pop up.
Mary entered her boss's office and sat down in a chair in front of his desk. As usual, Adams was on the phone and he waved her away. She stood and walked over to the wall where crime scene photos of ongoing cases were posted. Truly a wall of horror, grotesque images of corpses in different poses and in various stages of decomposition stared back at her. They had a sexual predator on the loose in Chicago. The UNSUB (Unidentified Subject) had recently escalated from rape and sodomy to murder. She saw the blood-splattered body of a girl who appeared to be around five and quickly turned away. Mary refused to work cases where the victims were children. Genna Weir had two kids and had no trouble tracking down child killers.
Mary had been fascinated by death since she was a teenager. Her father had been a police officer in Los Angeles and she used to go to his office and peek at his files. She could thumb through autopsy
photos as if she were flipping through the pages of a magazine in a doctor's office, but seeing a tiny body that had been brutalized was more than she could handle. Brooks said her sensitivity to wrongs committed against children proved that she'd be a wonderful mother. Mary wasn't sure she wanted to bring a child into the world knowing the monsters that prowled the streets.
Her father, Harold Stevens, had risen to the rank of deputy chief at the LAPD before he'd been gunned down by an armed robber at a Quick Mart ten years ago. Her breath still caught in her throat when she thought about it. All he had done was stop after work to buy a bottle of wine for her mother. One of the reasons Adams had recruited her was the hope that she might possess her father's intuition. According to Adams and the other vets who served in the same platoon as her father, he possessed a sixth sense and could spot friend or foe only seconds after making visual contact. His special talent had failed on the one day it really mattered, the day he died.