Read Progeny Online

Authors: E. H. Reinhard

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Police Procedurals, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Thrillers

Progeny (2 page)

BOOK: Progeny
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Quinlin nodded in confirmation. “Head to toe.”

“Did you guys find ID?” Hank asked.

“There’s just…” Quinlin said. “You just…”

“Just what?” I asked.

“You’ll have to see for yourself.”

“Come on, Hank,” I said. I started toward our other officers.

We approached the group across the wet grass of the park. I saw their flashlights focused on what looked like Officer Tate draping a blue tarp, from one of our cruisers, over a body. Officers McCarthy, Baker, and Berris were the other police on the scene.

“Morning, guys. I take it this is our body?” I asked.

Patrol Officer Tate was still positioning the tarp over the remains. He spoke up. “Morning, Lieutenant. Sergeant. Yeah, this is him. It’s not pretty. Fair warning if you guys want to see what’s beneath.”

I jerked my chin at him to lift the covering.

He pulled the corner back. The lights from the other officer’s flashlights lit up the remains.

I ran my hand over my freshly shaved head. “What the hell is this?”

“Geez,” Hank said. “A more stern warning next time.”

I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was looking at. The face, shoulders, and chest were visible—devoid of most of their skin. The lips were gone. I didn’t see any teeth.

“I warned you. The rest of the body is the same,” Tate said.

I motioned for him to show Hank and me the rest.

Tate flipped the tarp back the rest of the way.

Head to toe, every last piece of skin had been removed, aside from a few areas. The ears remained, and bits and pieces of the man’s skin were still on his feet. Around his midsection was blood-soaked gauze, fashioned into what looked like a diaper. I estimated the weight of the body to be around two hundred pounds, the height around six feet. The lack of breasts told me it was a man. The corpse lay on its back, facing up. Both skinned arms lay outstretched to the sides. The right leg was partially bent. The man’s left leg was straight—both skinned top to bottom. The man’s eyeballs remained, but the eyelids were removed.

Looking around, I spotted no clothing, shoes, wallet, or phone—just a skinned body in the park. My eyes caught the shadows of some people walking to the corner up on the street.

“Cover him back up. I don’t want anyone living in this neighborhood here seeing that,” I said.

Tate let the tarp fall back over the body.

“Damn good thing it’s an off day for school, otherwise this neighborhood would be crawling with kids,” Berris said.

I let out a long breath. “Did you guys find anything?”

“Nothing at all. It’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to identify the remains. No skin on the fingers to print,” Berris said.

“No teeth, no dental records,” Hank said.

I looked at Tate. “Pulled or dentures?” I asked.

“I didn’t get my head all up in there to check. Everything is covered in blood. Best bet would probably be DNA, but we would need something to check it against, you know?” Tate said.

“Who called it in?” I asked.

“A woman up early, walking her dog.” Tate stood from his crouched position next to the body and removed a small notepad from his breast pocket. He flipped it open. “Gertrude Walker. Older woman. She lives up the block there.” Tate pointed. “We have Officer Poplin at her house now, getting her statement.”

“Did she see anything?” I asked.

“Just the corpse. Nothing else,” Tate said.

“Let me get her information in case I need to contact her.”

Tate gave it to me, and I wrote it down and slipped my notepad back into my suit pocket.

“Thanks, Tate,” I said. I looked at the officers standing around. “Exactly as found?”

McCarthy, a late-fifties patrol cop, stood with his husky arms folded across his chest. “Yes. No one has touched anything. I was first on the scene,” he said.

“Did you call for forensics and the medical examiner yet?” I asked.

“I did it right away. They should be here any second. You know what this is, right?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No. What is this?”

“The Quilter. It’s identical. I was on one of the Quilter scenes back in the early eighties.”

The Quilter was a local Tampa-area legend—however, not in any endearing way. His given name was Jack Redding. He’d murdered and skinned four people back in the early eighties. His wife turned him in and took her own life shortly thereafter. When the police raided his home, they found him naked, sitting in a recliner, stitching together human skin with a needle and thread. He was dubbed the Quilter because of the four different colors of skin he was patching together. He had been executed sometime in the nineties.

“Jack Redding was put to death twenty years ago,” I said.

“I’m telling you we ended up getting the wrong guy or this is someone with some inside knowledge of the actual crimes.”

“Everyone knows the Quilter story, McCarthy,” I said.

“Not this much. When we released the information to the press, we never informed them of the parts of the bodies that were left untouched. The ears were always left, as were sexual organs and the skin on the soles of the feet. The scene I was on, well, the body had gauze covering the midsection, just as this one does,” McCarthy said.

“Crime scene photos maybe?” Hank asked.

“There were never any photos of the victims released to the press.”

“None?” I asked.

“Not that I know of,” McCarthy said.

“We’ll need to chew on that later. Right now, let’s get the area roped off and start searching around. The sun will be up soon. By the time we’re roped off, we’ll have light. McCarthy, why don’t you and Berris stay with the body for now? Baker, grab Quinlin and start getting the area secure.”

Baker nodded.

The four of them, plus Hank and me, wouldn’t be enough manpower.

“Hank, start looking around and see if anything looks out of place. I’ll be there to help in a second. I need to call up the captain for more men.”

“Yup,” Hank said.

I slid my phone from my pocket and dialed Captain Bostok.

“Bostok,” he answered.

“Hey, it’s Kane.”

“Are you guys on the scene?” he asked.

“Hank and I got here a few minutes ago. I met him at the station, and we drove over.”

“I’m just walking in now. I bumped into Mueller on his way out in the parking structure. He said the body there was skinned?”

“Yeah. There’s bad, worse, and then this.”

“Skinned how? Like skin missing?”

“No, like only a few pieces of skin remaining. McCarthy mentioned something about the Quilter. I guess he worked one of those scenes and said this was identical.”

There was a pause on the other end of the phone for a moment before Bostok spoke. “Redding was executed a long time ago. If this is the same, it’s by way of a copycat. Redding was the Quilter, without a doubt.”

“I’m just letting you know what he said.”

“Any evidence there?” Bostok asked.

“On first glance, no. I’m having the patrol guys get the scene secured, but I’m going to need more men out here. That’s why I’m calling.”

“How many?”

“At least a dozen.”

“I’ll talk to Timmons and have him round some people up to send over. Geez, almost a month without a homicide and now this.” The captain let out a puff of air. “Find me when you get back.”

“I will.” I hung up.

I spotted headlights and the outline of the county coroner’s black van approaching from up the street. I walked to the curb and guided Ed, driving the van, to the corpse. He parked twenty feet away from the body and opened the driver’s door. The dome light lit the van’s interior, and I could see Ed’s dark-blue jacket with the word
coroner
across the back as he stepped out and closed the door. He rounded the front of the van toward me.

“Morning, Ed,” I said.

“Lieutenant,” he said. He shook my hand. “Been a while. I heard your vacation up north last month was eventful.”

“To say the least,” I said.

“Everything done with all of that?”

“Azarov is dead, and the feds say I’m in the clear.”

“Good. The word trickled through that your father was shot. How is he doing?”

“He’s been back on his feet for a couple weeks now. He’ll be fine.”

“Good to hear. I take it that’s our body there?” Ed pointed toward the tarp.

“Yeah, the sooner we can get it out of here, the better,” I said.

Ed motioned with his hand for me to lead the way. I walked him toward Berris, McCarthy, and the body. Ed went to the side of the covered man and crouched.

“It’s bad under there, Ed,” I said.

He balked but then pulled the tarp back. He stared at the remains. Ed turned his head toward me. He rubbed his bushy eyebrows and then ran his fingers through his gray hair. He spoke one word, “Quilter.”

Chapter 3

Hank and I left the park around eleven. I divided up all the uniforms sent over. Half searched the park while the other half spent the morning door knocking and keeping the residents of the neighborhood at bay. We came up empty in our search for anything resembling a clue. There wasn’t as much as a trace of evidence anywhere. Not one resident gave us anything to work off of. Our officers found no cameras in the vicinity. We had nothing.

Hank and I grabbed a quick lunch at Dotana’s on the way back to the station. I talked to Callie briefly while I ate. I decided to wait to break the news that our fishing and camping trip we had planned for the weekend would most likely get canceled. I sat down at my desk a few minutes after noon and then saw the captain leaving his office and heading over.

Bostok stood in my doorway. “Well?” he asked.

“We have zip.”

“Nothing at all?” he asked.

I let out a breath and rattled my fingers across my desk. “No evidence in the park or surrounding areas. Not a single resident saw anything. At least, that’s what the ones who actually spoke with our guys said.”

Captain Bostok cleared his throat. “What about Rick and Pax?”

“I’m pretty sure Rick and Pax are at the medical examiner’s office.”

“For?” Bostok asked.

“They were going to look over the remains for any kind of trace. The scene was starting to turn into a zoo, with all the residents coming out to get a look. The media started to show up around nine. After Rick and Pax were done photographing everything and searched the area, Ed took the body. We just wanted to get the remains out of there as soon as possible. No one needed to see that.”

“The initial cause of death?”

“Ed was going to get started on the autopsy as soon as Rick and Pax were done. I should probably give those guys a ring and see where we are at.”

“Did you talk to anyone from the press?” Bostok asked.

“I gave them the usual—we’re investigating, and we’ll have a press release for them at a later time.”

Captain Bostok rapped his knuckles on my door. “Okay. Get in touch with Rick and let me know if they found anything.”

“I will. Hey, who is still around that worked the Redding case?”

Bostok held out his hand for me to pump the brakes on that topic. “Let’s just see what we get back from Rick and Ed first,” he said.

“McCarthy worked one of the cases. He said there were details there that weren’t made public. It could be our best lead.”

“You’d want to talk to the major. We have a few people still around, but at the time, Danes’s lieutenant was the lead, and Major Danes was the number two.”

“Really?” I raised my eyebrows. “I didn’t know that.”

“He’s not big on talking about it. Get whatever you can from Ed, Rick, and Pax. After that, we can talk with the major.”

“Fair enough,” I said.

“Where’s Rawlings?”

“At his desk, the last time I checked. I had him getting a directory of the local residents to call. It seems people in the neighborhood there don’t like answering their doors for cops. What do you need him for?”

“It’s something that I need both of you for, but it can wait. I’ll talk to you after a while.” Bostok turned and walked back toward his office.

I scooped up my desk phone and dialed Ed over at the medical examiner’s office. The phone rang twice before the receptionist picked up.

“Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office. This is Brenda.”

“Hi, Brenda. It’s Lieutenant Kane. Is Ed in?”

“Sure, let me page him. I think he’s in the back. One second.”

“No problem. Thanks.”

Hold music played in my ear longer than usual.

The phone picked back up. “Hey, Lieutenant. Ed says he’s busy with the autopsy at the moment, but if you’d like to come down, he can go over everything with you in person.”

“Sure. Thanks, Brenda. Tell him I’ll be down in a bit. Hey, are my forensics guys still there?”

“I believe they are sitting in with Ed during the autopsy.”

“Okay, I’ll be down shortly.”

I clicked off and left my office. I found Hank at his desk, his phone resting on the shoulder of his jet-black suit jacket. A list of telephone numbers, half crossed out, sat in front of him on his desk. “Do you want to ride with me over to Ed’s?”

He rocked his head back and forth. “Um. Nah, go ahead. I’m going to keep dialing here.”

“Any luck so far?” I asked.

“Nope. I have fifty or sixty numbers to go.”

“Okay, I’ll be back in an hour or so. We’ll catch up then.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll probably be through these numbers by then. Hopefully, we get something.”

I left Hank to it and took an unmarked Charger from our parking lot. The drive over to Ed’s was surprisingly traffic free. I pulled to the front of the county ME’s office a few minutes after one. Rick’s car was in the lot. The guys were still there. I walked up, pulled the green glass doors open, and entered the lobby.

Brenda flashed me a smile from the front desk and pointed down the hall. “They’re in the fridge. Head on back,” she said.

I walked the hallway and pushed open the stainless-steel doors. I found the guys in the back room where the autopsies were conducted. Rick and Pax stood to one side of our victim. Ed had his back toward me.

Ed looked over his shoulder in my direction. “Lieutenant. We’re just about finished up.”

BOOK: Progeny
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