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Dream Man(8)
Author: Linda Howard

He pulled a pair of surgical gloves out of his pocket and put them on. Carefully touching only the wooden rim of the cabinet doors rather than the metal handles, he began opening them. The second door revealed a canister of decaffeinated coffee. Mrs. Vinick could drink it late at night without worrying about her sleep being disturbed.

She had made a pot of coffee and she had been in here, in the kitchen. She had just poured the first cup and replaced the carafe on the warming plate. The door from the living room was behind her and to the right. Dane went through the motions as if he had just poured the coffee himself, standing where she would have stood. According to the placement of the cup on the counter, she would have been standing slightly to the left of the coffee maker. That was when she had seen the intruder, just as she had set the carafe in place. The coffee maker had a dark, shiny surface, almost mirrorlike, behind the hands of the built-in clock. Dane bent his knees, trying to lower himself to Mrs. Vinick’s general height. The open doorway was reflected in the surface of the coffee maker.

She had never even picked up her cup of fresh coffee. She had seen the intruder’s reflection and turned, perhaps thinking, in that first moment, that her husband had forgotten something and returned home to get it. By the time she had realized her mistake, he had been on her.

She probably hadn’t been standing naked in her kitchen, though Dane had been a cop long enough to know that anything was possible. It was just another gut feeling. But she had been naked when the killer had finished with her, and probably naked when he had started.

The odds were that she had been raped at knife point, right here in the kitchen. The lack of obvious semen didn’t mean anything; after so many hours, and with the struggle that had gone on, it would take a medical examiner to make a judgment. And a lot of times, rapists didn’t climax anyway. Orgasm wasn’t the point of rape.

After the rape, he had started work with the knife. Until then, she had been terrified but hoping, probably, that when he was finished he would just go away. When he started cutting her, she had known that he intended to kill her and she had started fighting for her life. She had escaped from him, or maybe he had let her escape, like a cat toying with a mouse, letting her think she had gotten away before easily catching her again. How many times had he played his sick little game before finally cornering her in the bedroom?

What had she been wearing? Had the killer taken her clothing with him as a souvenir or trophy?

“What?” Trammell asked quietly from the doorway, his dark eyes intent as he watched his partner.

Dane looked up. “Where are her clothes?” he asked. “What was she wearing?”

“Maybe Mr. Vinick knows.” Trammell disappeared, and returned in less than a minute. “She had already changed into her nightgown when he left for work. He said it was white, with little blue things on it.”

They began looking for the missing garment. It was startlingly easy to find. Trammell opened the folding doors that hid the washer and dryer, and there it was, neatly placed on top of the pile of clothing in the laundry basket that sat on top of the dryer. The garment was splattered with blood, but certainly not soaked. No, she hadn’t been wearing it when the knife attack had begun. Probably it had been lying on the floor, thrown aside, and the blood had splattered on it later.

Dane stared at it. “After raping and killing her, the son of a bitch put her nightgown in the laundry?”

“Rape?” Trammell queried.

“Bet on it.”

“I didn’t touch the handle. Maybe Ivan can get a print; he came up empty in the second bedroom.”

Dane had another gut feeling, one he liked even less than the others. “I’m afraid we’re going to come up empty all the way around,” he said bleakly.



She knew because she had been having real flashbacks all day, frightening resurgent memories that swept over her, overwhelmed her, and left her limp and exhausted when her own reality returned.

Marlie knew the details of her own particular nightmare, was as familiar with them as she was with her face; the details that had been flashing in her brain all day were new, different. When she had awoken from her stupor the afternoon before, she had been able to remember little more than the image of the slashing knife, and she had still been so tired that she had barely been able to function. She had gone to bed early and slept deeply, dreamlessly, until almost dawn when the details began to surface.

The bouts of memory had happened all day long; she would barely recover from one when another, vivid and horrible, would surge into her consciousness. It had never happened this way before; the visions had always been overwhelming and exhausting, yes, but she had always been able to immediately recall them. These ongoing attacks left her bewildered, and helpless from fatigue. Several times she had been tempted to call Dr. Ewell and tell him about this frightening new development, but something in her had held back.

A woman had been murdered. It had been real. God help her, the knowing had returned, but it was different, and she didn’t know what to do. The vision had been strong, stronger than any she’d ever had before, but she didn’t know who the victim was and couldn’t tell where it had happened. Always before she had had at least an inkling, had grasped some clues to identity and location, but not this time. She felt disoriented, her mind reaching out but unable to find the signal, like a compass needle spinning in search of a magnetic pole that wasn’t there.

She had seen the murder happen over and over in her mind, and each time more details had surfaced, as if a wind were blowing away layers of fog. And each time she roused from a replay of the vision, more exhausted than before, she had been more horrified.

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