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Dead Sleep

Dead Sleep

Dead Sleep 9


  “Bad things come in threes, right?”

  “You’re forty years old. There must be more to your romantic life than one engagement.”

  “I’ve had lovers. Does that make you happy?”

  “Did Jane have lovers?”

  “One boyfriend through high school, like I said. She never had sex with him.”

  “How do you know?”

  “I just know. Okay? After him, she dated around, but nothing serious. Then in college she met a guy from a wealthy family in New Orleans. Married him his senior year of law school. She found the handsomest, most reliable provider she could, married him, had two kids, and lived happily ever after.”

  For some reason this inaccurate summary brings a wave of tears to my eyes. “I need a drink. Do you think they have any of those little airplane bottles stowed on this plane?”

  “No. Jordan, I want you to—”

  “Get off it! Okay? You wanted our story, you’ve got it. We’re poster girls for nurture in the nature-versus-nurture debate. We’re identical right down to our mitochondria, but emotionally we’re opposites. Jane acted like she despised me, but she was so jealous of me it made her sick. She was jealous of my name. She thought ‘Jordan’ was exotic, while hers was literally plain Jane. I called her that when I was angry. She hated having to depend on me for money, for her cheerleading outfits and expenses. She wanted Izod shirts and Bass Weejuns, and I made her wear J.C. fucking Penney! That’s how petty it was, okay? But to girls in our situation, that was a big deal. Was she weak or frail in some way? Yes. But weaker people can’t help being weak, you know? I tried to protect her. Until she stopped wanting me to, and even then I tried. Jane became a southern belle because it was the only choice she was capable of making. She had to feel safe.”

  “We’re all defined by the choices we make to survive,” Lenz says in a fatherly voice. “The Walter Mittys and the monsters.”

  His paternalistic bit finally snaps my patience. “Is that supposed to be profound? Doctor, you may have lost your wife to a killer, but I suspect that most of the trauma you’ve encountered was vicarious. Told to you by patients or prisoners. It can be tough to hear things, I know. I’ve heard some bad things myself. But I have also endured some bad things. I have descended into the pit of hell, if you want to know. I have seen some shit. And all this talk we’re doing means nothing. Jane is alive or she’s dead. Either way, I have to know. That’s the way I’m built. But your games aren’t taking us any closer to an answer. I don’t think anything connects all these victims, except the fact that they’re women.”

  “Jordan, don’t you want to—”

  “What I want is what Baxter promised me. A complete breakdown of the FBI’s investigation so far. I want it clear and concise, and I want it now.”

  Lenz splays his age-spotted hands on the desktop and leans back. “Did that outburst make you feel better?”

  “Start talking, damn it!”

  “There’s not much to tell. We’re now gathering every known painting that belongs to the Sleeping Women series.”

  “Where?”

  “The National Gallery in Washington.”

  “How many do you have so far?”

  “None. Four will arrive by plane tomorrow, several more the next day. Some collectors have refused to ship their paintings but agreed to allow Bureau forensic teams and art consultants to travel to their collections. First we’ll try to match the paintings to the known victims in New Orleans. In some cases it should be easy. Harder with the more abstract canvases, but we have some ideas about that. Then we’ll establish the order in which the canvases were painted, if we can; it may differ from the order in which they were sold. While this is being done, we’ll be searching the canvases for fingerprints, hairs, skin flakes, other biological artifacts. The paint itself will be analyzed and lot numbers traced, if possible. Brush fibers may be found and traced. Connoisseurs will make studies of the painter’s style and try to draw comparisons with known artists. And that’s only the beginning of what the paintings will go through.”

  “Who’s in charge of the case for the Bureau?”

  “Overall responsibility will be held by the Director. Tactically, there are different tracks to the investigation. Daniel will run the Washington track; he’ll be in charge of all profiling, with me consulting. The New Orleans SAC will run that end of the case.”

  “Who’s the SAC? Same one as last year?”

  “No. Patrick Bowles. He’s a competent man.” Lenz looks as though he’s about to continue, but he stops himself.

  “What is it?”

  “Another man in New Orleans may be playing the primary role in the investigation at this point. That’s one of the things I’m going down there to address.”

  “Who?”

  Lenz sighs. “His name is John Kaiser. He’s a journeyman agent now, but two years ago he was a member of the Investigative Support Unit.”

  “In Quantico? With Baxter?”

  “Yes.”

  “Why is he in New Orleans?”

  “He transferred out of the Unit at his own request. Daniel tried to get him to take a leave of absence and come back, but Kaiser refused. He said if he didn’t get journeyman duty, he’d resign from the Bureau.”

  “Why? What happened to him?”

  “I’ll let him tell you. If he will.”

  “Why would Kaiser have the primary role in this case?”

  “The atmosphere in New Orleans has become highly charged over the past year. You can imagine: Victim after victim being taken, no progress by the police. Not even a lead. The NOPD is under tremendous pressure. Complicating the issue is the multijurisdictional nature of the investigation. What people think of as New Orleans is actually a group of communities—”

  “I know all about it. Jefferson Parish, Slidell, Kenner, Harahan. Sheriff’s departments and cops all mixed together.”

  “Yes. And the only man in the area with any real experience in cases like this—full-time, on the ground—is John Kaiser. It’s my understanding that he resisted involvement when he arrived, but as more victims were taken, he began to work the case. Now he’s obsessed with it.”

  “Has he made any headway?”

  “No one had, until you found those paintings. But I’ve no doubt that John Kaiser knows more about the victims and attacks than any man alive. Except the killer, of course. And perhaps the painter, depending on the degree to which they interact.”

  “You really believe this is some sort of team? A conspiracy?”

  “I do. It helps explain the extreme professionalism of the kidnappings in New Orleans. The fact that we have no witnesses and no corpses. I’m starting to think the painter in New York is masterminding the operation, and merely paying a pro to snatch the women for him.”

  “Who’s a professional at kidnapping?”

  Lenz shrugs. “Perhaps the painter spent some time in prison. He might know a convict from New Orleans. Or perhaps he’s originally from New Orleans himself. He may have many contacts there. That would explain the selection of the city in the first place.”

  The psychiatrist’s theory makes logical sense, yet I feel that it’s wrong somehow. “Was this Kaiser good when he was at Quantico?”

  Lenz looks over at the porthole. “He had a very high success rate.”

  “But you don’t like him.”

  “We disagree about fundamental issues of methodology.”

  “That’s psychobabble to me, Doctor. I’ve learned one thing in my business, like it or not.”

  “What’s that?”

  “You don’t argue with results.”

  Lenz keeps looking out his window.

  “What do you think about Baxter’s theory? Catching one of the guys by using airline computers? Tracing passengers on New York flights?”

  “I’m not hopeful.”

  I lean back in my seat and rub my eyes. “How much longer to New Orleans?”

  “About an hour.”

  “It’s
too late to call my brother-in-law. I think I’ll get a room at the airport hotel, call him tomorrow.”

  “I’m staying at the Windsor Court. Why don’t you sleep there?”

  I hope I’ve misunderstood his tone. “In your room?”

  He wrinkles his mouth as though the idea were absurd. “For God’s sake. At the hotel.”

  “As I recall, the Windsor Court is about five hundred dollars per night. I’m not going to pay that, and I know the FBI won’t.”

  “No. But I’ll treat you.”

  “Are you rich?”

  “My wife’s insurance policy has made a certain standard of living possible, one I never enjoyed before.”

  “Thanks, but I’ll stay at the airport.”

  Lenz studies me with a strange detachment in the dim light, like an anthropologist studying some new primate.

  “You know, I used to ask everyone I interviewed three questions.”

  “What were they?”

  “The first was, ‘What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?’ ”

  “Did people answer that?”

  “A surprising number did.”

  “What was the second?”

  “ ‘What moment are you proudest of in your life?’ ”

  “And the third?”

  “‘What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?’ ”

  I force a casual smile, but something slips in my soul at his words. “Why didn’t you ask me those things?”

  “I don’t ask anyone anymore.”

  “Why not?”

  “I got tired of hearing the answers.” He shifts in his seat, but his eyes never leave my face. “But in your case, I think I’d like to know.”

  “You’re old enough to be accustomed to disappointment.”

  He waves his hand. “Something tells me that before all this is done, I’m going to find out anyway.”

  A high beeping sounds in the cabin. Lenz reaches into his jacket, removes a cell phone, and presses a button. “Yes?” As he listens, he seems to shrink in his seat. “When?” he says at length. “Yes. . . . Yes. . . . Right.”

  “What is it?” I ask as he drops the phone in his lap. “What’s happened?”

  “Twenty minutes ago, two teenagers found the body of the woman taken from Dorignac’s grocery store.”

  “Her body?”

  Lenz wears an expression of deep concentration. “She was lying on the bank of a drainage canal, nude. The kids climbed a wall behind some apartments to drink beer and heard noises by the water. She was lying in the weeds. A nutria was feeding on her, whatever that is. The police sealed the crime scene for a Bureau forensic team. Her husband just identified the body.”

  “It’s a big water rat.”

  “What? Ah,” Lenz says, his mind a thousand miles away.

  This news nauseates me, but not because of its ugliness. “It wasn’t him,” I say quietly. “If they found a body, it’s unrelated.”

  “Not necessarily. It could still be him.” Lenz nods with a strange intensity. “Think about it. It’s been four and a half weeks since the last victim. The New Orleans UNSUB was on the prowl tonight—maybe all afternoon. He may have known what happened in Hong Kong, but he didn’t know what his partner did: that Wingate was about to be silenced, along with you. He snatches the woman from Dorignac’s and takes her back to his house. When he arrives, he finds an urgent message on his machine from his partner. Or maybe he gets a call. The victim was found, what”—Lenz checks his watch—“seven hours after he took her? Plenty of time. His New York partner tells him Wingate is no longer a problem, and also that Jordan Glass got away. The investigation is about to get very hot. So, instead of painting this woman, he kills her and dumps her in a canal. Sometime in the last seven hours.” Lenz slaps his knee with excitement. “Seven hours, by God. I won’t be surprised if there’s staging. Not at all.”

  “What’s staging?” I ask, searching my memory for remnants of the crime-classification manuals I read in the month after Jane vanished.

  Lenz’s eyes are glowing. Like all of Baxter’s team, he’s a hunter at heart. “Staging is an attempt to mislead investigators by altering the crime scene or the corpus. The UNSUB may mutilate the body in an attempt to create the impression of a violent rape, a satanic murder, any number of things. No, we can’t discount this victim just because we found her body.”

  I want to believe him, but for some reason I don’t. “But we know he’s smart enough to dump the body without it being found.”

  “That’s the point!” Lenz snaps. “He’s letting us find her, in order to confuse the trail.”

  “But isn’t that risky, if he’s actually had her in his possession? I mean, with all the forensics at your disposal?”

  The psychiatrist smiles for the first time in a long while. “Yes, it is. We can establish a baseline of hair and fiber evidence. Perhaps there’s even semen for DNA. And if we’re very damned lucky, some biological artifact from one of the paintings will match something we find on or in the body. That’s a long shot if the painter and kidnapper are two different men, but it’s possible. It would be one hell of a start.”

  “God forgive me, I hope it was him that took her.”

  Lenz squeezes his left hand into a fist. “If it was, this is the turning point of the case.”

  “Because you have a body?”

  “No. Because he’s no longer calling the tune. He’s reacting to us.”

  “To me,” I remind Lenz. “Finding the paintings.” Images of the canvases I saw in Hong Kong float through my mind with eerie clarity. “What makes this guy tick, Doctor? He’s trying to re-create some fantasy, right? What is it?”

  An odd serenity eases the lines of Lenz’s face. “If I knew that, he’d be in custody right now.” The psychiatrist closes his eyes and lays his hands on the armrest of his seat. “Please don’t speak. I need to think.”

  Shit. I reach into my fanny pack, open my trusty pill bottle, and swallow three Xanax. By the time I hit the airport hotel, I’ll be like a zombie, and glad for it. The last thing in the world I want to do right now is think.

  6

  THIS MORNING I slept in, and I’m glad. Except for my right flank, which feels like a mule kicked it, my muscles have that deliciously liquid feeling that only sex or too much sleep can give. It’s been a while since I had the former, so I owe my thanks to a quiet hotel room in America, which can be quite a luxury for me. I ate breakfast in the lobby, then called Budget and rented a Mustang convertible. After traveling in the East for months, riding in underpowered taxis, cyclos, and even rickshaws, an American muscle car feels good. It’s late October in New Orleans, but I could have the convertible top down. The leaves are green and still on the trees, and the morning sun tells me the temperature could hit eighty by lunchtime. That’s the way this city is: heat and rain, rain and heat. When winter finally comes, the humidity makes it cold, but winter doesn’t last long.

  I’m late for my meeting with the FBI, because nobody bothered to tell me they moved the field office from downtown—where they were forever—to a brand-new building on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, between Lakefront Airport and the University of New Orleans. It’s a massive four-story brick structure designed to look like a college campus building, but the closer I get, the more it looks like a fortress in disguise. Set far back from the main road, the building is surrounded by a heavy iron fence topped with sharp fleur de-lis and fronted by a guardhouse with antiterrorist barriers embedded in the concrete road. The armed gate guard checks my driver’s license, radios upstairs, then raises the barrier and waves me into the parking lot.

  As I lock the Mustang and walk toward the entrance, I sense that I’m being watched on screens inside. I won’t win any fashion awards today: jeans, a silk blouse, es padrilles, and my fanny pack. No purses for Jordan Glass, unless I’m doing a formal party. I know how to dress up, but I don’t do it for the FBI. The entrance is also built on the heroic scale, with flags and black marble
inscribed with the FBI motto: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.” Other law-enforcement agencies have come up with more derogatory words for the acronym, but I’ll reserve my opinion today.

  A metal detector at the door leads me into a small vestibule not unlike a doctor’s office, where a female receptionist waits behind glass. When I give her my name, she pushes a sheet through a slot for me to sign, and assures me someone will be down for me in a minute. Thirty seconds later, the door opens and a tall man with deep-set eyes and a day’s growth of beard steps through the door by her window.

  “Jordan Glass?”

  “Yes. Sorry I’m late. I went to the federal building downtown.”

  “That’s our fault, then. I’m John Kaiser.”

  This guy does not look like the FBI agents I’ve known. He’s six-feet-two, lanky, and looks as comfortable in his white button-down shirt and sport jacket as a cowboy in a tuxedo. His dark brown hair is past the unwritten regulation length, and his aura is about as unofficial as anything I can imagine. He looks like a law student who’s been studying for three days without sleep. A forty-five-year-old law student.

  As if reading my mind, he pulls out his wallet and flips it open to reveal his FBI credentials. His bona fides are there in black and white: “Special Agent John Kaiser.” His photo looks much neater than the man standing before me, but it’s him all right. He cleans up well.

  “You don’t look like an FBI agent.”

  A lopsided grin. “My SAC is fond of telling me that.”

  “Why did they move the field office?”

  “After the bombing in Oklahoma City, the government mandated a hundred-foot setback from the road. This office has twice as much space as downtown, and a hell of a lot better view. They moved last September, a month before I got here.”

  “Are we going upstairs?”

  He lowers his voice. “To tell you the truth, I’d rather talk to you alone first. Do you like Chinese food? I haven’t eaten since last night, so I ordered some. I ordered for two.”

  “I like Chinese. But why don’t you want to eat it in your office?”

  Kaiser has hazel eyes, and they focus on mine with subdued urgency. “Because I’d rather talk without any interference.”