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7


Three patrol cars were pulled up in front of the apartment building off Sunset. The flashing red lights had already drawn a crowd, despite the early hour and the morning chill. She parked her car down the street and walked back to the lobby. A young patrolman stopped her.

"You a tenant?"

"I'm Dr. Ross. Captain Anders called me."

He nodded toward the elevator. "Third floor, turn left," he said, and let her through. The crowd watched curiously as she crossed the lobby and waited for the elevator. They were standing outside, looking in, peering over each other's shoulders, whispering among themselves. She wondered what they thought of her. The flashing lights from the patrol cars bathed the lobby intermittently with a red glow. Then the elevator came, and the doors closed.

The interior of the elevator was tacky: plastic paneling made to look like wood, worn green carpeting stained by innumerable pets. She waited impatiently for it to creak up to the third floor. She knew what these buildings were like - full of hookers, full of fags, full of drugs and transients. You could rent an apartment without a long lease, just month to month. It was that kind of place.

She stepped off at the third floor and walked down to a cluster of cops outside an apartment. Another policeman blocked her way; she repeated that she was here to see Captain Anders, and he let her through with the admonition not to touch anything.

It was a one-bedroom apartment furnished in pseudo-Spanish style. Or at least she thought it was. Twenty men were crowded inside, dusting, photographing, measuring, collecting. It was impossible to visualize how it had looked before the onslaught of police personnel.

Anders came over to her. He was young, in his middle thirties, wearing a conservative dark suit. His hair was long enough to hang over the back of his collar and he wore horn-rimmed glasses. The effect was almost professorial, and quite unexpected. It was strange how you built up prejudices. When he spoke, his voice was soft: "Are you Dr. Ross?"

"Yes."

"Captain Anders." He shook hands quickly and firmly.

"Thank you for coming. The body is in the bedroom. The coroner's man is in there, too."

He led the way into the bedroom. The deceased was a girl in her twenties, sprawled nude across the bed. Her head was crushed and she had been stabbed repeatedly. The bed was soaked with blood, and the room had the sickly sweet odor of blood.

The rest of the room was in disarray - a chair by the dressing table knocked over, cosmetics and lotions smeared on the rug, a bedside lamp broken. Six men were working in the room, one of them a doctor from the medical examiner's office. He was filling out the death report.

"This is Dr. Ross," Anders said. "Tell her about it."

The doctor shrugged toward the body. "Brutal methodology, as you can see. Strong blow to the left temporal region, producing cranial depression and immediate unconsciousness. The weapon was that lamp over there. Blood of her type and some of her hair are affixed to it."

Ross glanced over at the lamp, then back to the body. "The stab wounds?"

"They're later, almost certainly post-mortem. She was killed by the blow to the head."

Ross looked at the head. It was squashed in on one side, like a deflated football, distorting the features of what had once been a conventionally pretty face.

"You'll notice," the doctor said, moving closer to the girl, "that she's put on half her make-up. As we reconstruct it, she's sitting at the dressing table, over there, making up. The blow comes from above and from the side, knocking her over in the chair, spilling the lotions and crap. Then she's lifted up" - the doctor raised his arms and frowned in mock effort, lifting an invisible body - "from the chair and placed on the bed."

"Somebody pretty strong?"

"Oh, yes. A man for sure."

"How do you know that?"

"Pubic hair in the shower drain. We've found two varieties. One matches hers, the other is male. Male pubic hair as you know is more circular, less elliptical in cross section than female hair."

"No," Ross said. "I didn't know that."

"I can give you a reference on it, if you want," the doctor said. "It's also clear that her killer had intercourse with her before the murder. We've got a blood type on the seminal fluid and it's AO. The man apparently takes a shower after intercourse, and then comes out and kills her."

Ross nodded.

"Following delivery of the blow to the head, she's lifted up and placed on the bed. At this time, she's not bleeding much. No blood to speak of on the dressing table or rug. But now her killer picks up some instrument and stabs her in the stomach several times. You'll notice that the deepest wounds are all in the lower abdomen, which may have some sexual connotations for the killer. But that's just guessing on our part."

Ross nodded but said nothing. She had decided the coroner's man was a creep; she wasn't going to tell him more than she had to. She moved closer to the body to examine the stab wounds. They were all small, puncture-like in appearance, with a good deal of skin tearing around the wounds.

"You find a weapon?"

"No," the doctor said.

"What do you think it was?"

"I'm not sure. Nothing very sharp, but something strong - it took a lot of force to penetrate this way with a relatively blunt instrument."

"Another argument that it's a man," Anders said.

"Yes. I'd guess it was something metal, like a blunt letter opener, or a metal ruler, or a screwdriver. Something like that. But what's really interesting," the doctor went on, "is this phenomenon here." He pointed to the girl's left arm, which was outstretched on the bed and mutilated badly by stab wounds. "You see, he stabbed her in the stomach, and then stabbed her arm, moving out in a regular way, a succession of stabbings. Now, notice: when he's past the arm, he continues to stab. You can see the tears in the sheet and blanket. They continue out in a straight line."

He pointed to the tears.

"Now," the doctor said, "in my book that's perseveration. Automatic continuation of pointless movement. Like he was some kind of machine that just kept going and going…"

"That's correct," Ross said.

"We assume," the doctor said, "that it represents some kind of trance state. But we don't know if it was organic or functional, natural or artificially induced. Since the girl let him into the apartment freely, this trance-like state developed only later."

Ross realized that the coroner's man was showing off, and it irritated her. This was the wrong time to be playing Sherlock Holmes.

Anders handed her the metal dog tag. "We were proceeding routinely with the investigation," he said, "when we found this."

Ross turned the tag over in her hand.

I HAVE AN IMPLANTED ATOMIC PACEMAKER. DIRECT PHYSICAL INJURY OR FIRE MAY RUPTURE THE CAPSULE AND RELEASE TOXIC MATERIALS. IN THE EVENT OF INJURY OR DEATH CALL NPS, (213) 652-1134.


"That was when we called you," Anders said. He watched her carefully. "We've leveled with you," he said. "Now it's your turn."

"His name is Harry Benson," she said. "He's thirty-four and he has psychomotor epilepsy."

The doctor snapped his fingers. "I'll be damned."

"What's psychomotor epilepsy?" Anders said.

At that moment, a plainclothesman came in from the living room. "We got a trace on the prints," he said. "They're listed in the Defense data banks, of all places. This guy had classified clearance from 1968 to the present. His name's Harry Benson, lives in L.A."

"Clearance for what?" Anders said.

"Computer work, probably," Ross said.

"That's right," the plainclothesman said. "Last three years, classified computer research."

Anders was making notes. "They have a blood type on him?"

"Yeah. Type AO is what's listed."

Ross turned to the doctor. "What do you have on the girl?"

"Name's Doris Blankfurt, stage name Angela Black. Twenty-six years old, been in the building six weeks."

"What does she do?"

"Dancer."

Ross nodded.

Anders said, "Does that have some special meaning?"

"He has a thing about dancers."

"He's attracted to them?"

"Attracted and repelled," she said. "It's rather complicated."

He looked at her curiously. Did he think she was putting him on?

"And he has some kind of epilepsy?"

"Yes. Psychomotor epilepsy."

Anders made notes. "I'm going to need some explanations," he said.

"Of course."

"And a description, pictures- "

"I can get you all that."

" -as soon as possible."

She nodded. All her earlier impulses to resist the police, to refuse to cooperate with them, had vanished. She kept staring at the girl's caved-in head. She could imagine the suddenness, the viciousness of the attack.

She glanced at her watch. "It's seven-thirty now," she said. "I'm going back to the hospital, but I'm stopping at home to clean up and change. You can meet me there or at the hospital."

"I'll meet you there," Anders said. "I'll be finished here in about twenty minutes."

"Okay," she said, and gave him the address.



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