Home > The Last Move(13)

The Last Move(13)
Author: Mary Burton

“What about his mother?”

“She died when he was seventeen. No reports of abuse, but she was arrested for prostitution several times. There appears to be no other family to interview,” Kate said.

Dr. Ryland probed his scalpel into eviscerated muscle until he located a flower-shaped slug. He dropped it into a stainless-steel pan for the detective to study.

“It’s a hollow point,” Mazur concurred. The slug had bloomed into razor-sharp petals, which on impact delivered all its kinetic energy to the target rather than punching cleanly through it. “It did its job. Ripped her apart.”

Kate frowned as she stared at the slug. “Disturbing.”

“You worried about your arrest now?” Mazur challenged.

She shook her head. “Richardson’s attorney, Mark Westin, will use this to his client’s advantage. Mr. Westin is always looking for an advantage when he bargains.”

It always sucked when the guilty walked. “Whoever is copying your guy is doing a good job,” Mazur said.

“Yes, he is,” she said.

When Dr. Ryland examined the patient’s uterus, he paused. “She had uterine cancer. The mass is significant and has metastasized. I don’t think major medical intervention would have saved her.”

“Is that a first?” Mazur asked.

“None of the other victims had cancer.” Kate studied the woman’s manicured hand. “They also didn’t come from money as she clearly did. How old was she?”

“Thirty-nine,” Mazur said.

“She looks older,” Kate noted.

“She might have hidden the effects of her illness with makeup, but that would’ve soon changed,” Dr. Ryland said. He studied the blue-green veins trailing her arms. “There’s no sign of needles used for chemo or scars from surgery.”

“Could the killer have known she was sick?” Mazur asked.

“I don’t know,” Kate said.

Dr. Ryland continued his examination of the subject’s remains. There were no indications of recent trauma to the body. An X-ray revealed an old break and damage to her right knee, likely some early arthritis. There was no indication of sexual assault; however, he did find traces of semen in her vaginal cavity. She’d had consensual sex within twenty-four hours of her death. The samples were sent off for DNA testing.

The doctor shook his head. “Sexual intercourse wouldn’t have been comfortable given the size of her cancerous tumor.”

“Research shows sex is an affirmation of life,” Kate said. “Run a toxicology screen. If she was as sick as you say, then she’d have needed heavy-duty meds to function. Dr. Ryland, will you call her doctor to see if she was under treatment?”

“Of course.”

“Again, the victim’s medical history was not the motivator for Richardson. Her driving on the interstate was enough,” Kate said. “Again the ballistics report will be key.”

The doctor concluded the autopsy, repacked the organs, and sewed up the chest. The examination had taken over four hours. “I’ll keep you two posted.”

“Thanks,” Mazur said.

Mazur and Dr. Hayden moved to the outer locker room, stripped off their gowns, and met in the hallway. She dumped her surgical gown in the bin and reached for her backpack.

“So where do we go from here?” Mazur asked.

“Get me a strong cup of coffee and a conference room, and I’ll brief you and your team on the Samaritan killings.”


We met in the café near the River Walk. I wanted people to see us together and know that I can be fun and kind. Especially when I want something.

San Antonio, Texas

Monday, November 27, 2:30 p.m.

Fatigue crept into Kate’s limbs during the short drive between the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice building. Sugar and caffeine had kept her fueled for a short while, but until she had a decent night’s sleep, outrunning the exhaustion would be hard.

Out of the car, backpack on her shoulder, she followed Mazur to the building where the police department was headquartered. After another set of stairs, she arrived in the bull pen of the investigation unit.

The floor resembled countless other police department jurisdictions she’d visited. The same drab cubicles lined the walls, and similar desks paired in half a dozen sets took up the center of the room. Worn chairs for the detectives and slightly older ones for suspects had her wondering what national clearinghouse supplied all these law enforcement agencies.

Fluorescent bulbs hummed above, casting an unnaturally bright light, and blended with the familiar sounds of phones ringing, chair hinges squeaking, and the jumble of quiet conversations and intermittent heated exchanges. Common smells of aftershave, bottom-of-the-pot coffee, and an occasional unwashed perp all collided to create their own unique funk.

She suspected the break room came equipped with vending machines to sustain cops during an investigation’s long hours. If she wasn’t dropping quarters and selecting chocolate or crackers, she was ordering a burger at a drive-through. High stress and long hours on the go mixed with sugary carbohydrates, smoking, and little exercise made for the perfect heart-attack cocktail.

Mazur was fit, and his trim waist was either a stunning stroke of genetic good luck or the result of self-discipline. She guessed the latter. His bearing and cropped hair suggested military service. His age she guessed to be late thirties or early forties, and a subtly confident swagger implied he’d been a cop for at least ten to fifteen years. He knew his job and didn’t need to prove himself to anyone.

She noted no wedding band on his left ring finger, but many cops didn’t wear a band. Less the world knew about them the better. Still, without realizing it, Mazur occasionally ran his thumb over the back of that finger. She suspected a recent divorce, which jived with the fit body. More time on his hands mixed with anger issues.

His clothes were neat, crisp, and in accordance with his salary: off the rack. He cared about his appearance because it instilled discipline, not because he was fussy. No signs of a tattoo, but of course the suit hid much, and calluses on his palms and his deep tan suggested he liked the outdoors.

“I require a fresh pot of coffee,” she said. “If you point me in the right direction, I can make it myself.”

“You’re right to be cautious. These guys don’t know how to make it.”

“Few do, but I’ve mastered a variety of machines and make an excellent cup.”

“That bravado, Dr. Hayden?” he asked.

“Do I strike you as a person given to exaggeration?” she asked.

A slight grin tugged the edges of his lips. “No, Dr. Hayden, you do not. I’m going to gather the troops,” Mazur said.


He was teasing her again. Establishing a rapport between them was important. Humor was his icebreaker. Coffee was one of her bonding strategies. Most cops lived on the sludge that passed for coffee, and a decent cup of joe was always a welcome treat.

A few officers glanced up from their work at her, and she sensed the judging process was underway. There were no smiles or welcoming comments, but frowns and a few eye rolls. No one relished bringing a Fed into his or her shop. Pride ran high in law enforcement, and no one wanted to admit they couldn’t handle the job. The fact that Mazur had brought her in so quickly suggested an open-mindedness that his colleagues didn’t share.

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