C. Lawrence: Silent Stalker

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C. Lawrence Silent Stalker
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    Silent Stalker
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C. E. Lawrence

Silent Stalker


The girl was too pretty not to know it. She was, Carver thought, the kind of girl whose whole life was defined by her prettiness. It trailed after her like the tail of a comet. She smelled faintly of strawberry blossoms, delicate, pink and white, like her skin. Her laugh, too, lingered in the room afterwards, soft and lovely, like the gentle tinkling of bells. It didn’t seem fair that someone like her had been endowed with so much-but then, Carver knew life wasn’t fair.

He was about to even the score. He knew where she went, when she went there, and who she went with. Most important, he knew when she would be alone. Carver was patient-oh, so patient. It was one of his most useful virtues.

Crouched in the darkened hallway of the tenement building, Carver glanced at his wristwatch. Eleven-twenty-five. She would arrive any minute. Rehearsal ended at eleven, and she would have stopped by the deli to pick up something on the way home-a salad, yogurt, or something equally healthy. Like all actresses, she was vain, always watching her figure.

Carver shifted his weight from one leg to the other, ignoring the Rice Krispies crackle in his knees. He bent over and stretched his back, touching his toes. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, using his training to control his body’s autonomic responses. He was more nervous than he had expected. Not scared exactly-more like excited, like on Christmas morning.

The bare fluorescent bulb hanging from the ceiling blinked and quivered, casting its sickly yellow glow over the dilapidated foyer, with its thick layers of peeling paint and drafty doorways. Carver smiled. These Hell’s Kitchen tenements were filled with struggling actors who streamed into New York from their mundane lives in the hinterlands, hoping some of the city’s glamour and glitz would rub off on them. Most of them gave up after a few years of drudgery waiting tables or stints as tour guides, trudging through Midtown followed by packs of Swedish tourists. Still others became high-end prostitutes, living off the generosity of Japanese businessmen looking for a night of fun.

The aroma of frying onions and garlic floated down from the third-story landing. Someone upstairs was making dinner-maybe the old biddy he had followed into the building, after fumbling in his pocket for imaginary keys. He had helped her with her grocery cart, and the look she gave him was so grateful. It was pathetic that a woman like her should have to lug a heavy cart up flights of rickety stairs. It was disgusting what people were willing to put up with in this town. Assailed by a fresh wave of cooking smells, Carver’s stomach rumbled in response. He tensed his already taut muscles in an attempt to squelch the sound. He would not allow anything to betray him, much less his own body. His command over his own flesh was unflinching and rigid. He loathed self-indulgence of any kind, and regarded daily bodily needs as a hindrance to his own darker agenda.

He heard the metallic clunk of the dead bolt on the front door. She’s here. Carver held his breath and waited for the sound of the door to close behind her. When she was inside the tiny foyer, he stepped from the shadows into the light, a broad grin on his face.

Her brief smile of recognition was replaced almost instantly by the expression he had fantasized about for so long: pure animal terror. It flooded his body like a drug, filling him with a delicious tingling sensation. He was upon her before she had a chance to cry out.


The sound of the ringing phone blended with Lee Campbell’s dream. It took him a moment to realize the harsh bleating came not from the woman in his dream, but from the parallel world of reality. He shook off the fog of sleep, dragging his unwilling brain back into consciousness. Flinging off the thick winter quilt, he grabbed for the phone, knocking the headset onto the floor, where it landed with a clatter.

“Damn! ” he muttered, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. Dropping to his knees, he groped under the bedside table for the receiver. Sitting on the hardwood floor, he put the headset to his ear.

“What is it?” he grunted as he craned his neck to see the clock on the nightstand. It was 5:20 AM. “Christ,” he muttered. “This better be worth it.”

“I guess it depends on whether you call the murder of a young woman worth it or not.” The voice on the other end of the line sounded as irritated as he was. Even at this hour, there was no mistaking the borough-accented growl of Detective Leonard Butts.

“Hello, Butts,” he said.

“Well, Doc? Is it worth it, or are you goin’ back to bed?”

“Tell me where to meet you.”

“Forty-seventh and Ninth Avenue.”

“That’s not your precinct.”

“I’ll explain later.”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

“Make it ten.”

He sighed and hung up the phone. The image from his dream swirled in his head. His sister Laura stood before him in a long white nightgown, arms outstretched, her eyes pleading. It had been over six years since her disappearance, but he was still plagued with the same repetitive dream. The location varied, but she was always there, her sad eyes burrowing into his soul, begging him to rescue her.

He shook off the mood of depression threatening to settle over him, pulled on a flannel shirt and jeans, and grabbed his coat. A sharp gust of February wind hit him as he descended the steps of his building, and he pulled up his coat collar, cursing himself for neglecting to put on a hat. There were no cabs on East Seventh Street, so he loped west toward Third Avenue, where the Cooper Union Building loomed stolid and silent in the thin predawn light. Taxis were thick on the avenue, on the cusp of a shift change, and soon he was in the backseat of a yellow cab barreling uptown.

Famously known as the city that never sleeps, there were about three hours out of twenty-four when New York managed a brief catnap. In the middle of the night, just before street vendors began wheeling their carts up the avenues of Midtown, and the Chinatown bakeries flicked on their lights in the predawn gloom, there was a stillness about New York that Lee savored. Looking out the cab window now, he saw that aura of calm dissipating as the city stretched itself, awakening from its brief slumber to prepare for another workday.

The cab lurched to a stop at the corner of Ninth Avenue and Forty-seventh Street. Lee paid the driver and unfolded his long body from the vehicle, blowing on his hands to keep out the early morning chill as he hurried toward the building with the bright yellow crime scene tape wrapped around the front door.

The redbrick tenement huddled next to its nearly identical neighbors in the cold winter dawn. A few scraps of dirty snow still clung to the pavement, and a couple of fat pigeons strutted nearby, pecking at a heap of bread crusts scattered on the sidewalk. An old-fashioned sign hanging in front of the bay window on the building’s eastern half contained a single word: LAUNDRY.

Lee nodded to the uniformed officer guarding the front door, flashing his credentials. The young cop nodded back and lifted the yellow crime scene tape so he could pass underneath it. As the only full-time criminal profiler employed by the NYPD, Lee was becoming known to some of the rank and file, though not all of them approved of him. There was still prejudice in the force against methods that did not involve traditional forensics, lab results, or hard evidence.

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