The Crusader Chapters 1 & 2 The Manhunt
Chapter 2

Copyright© 2011 by woodmanone

Detective Rollie Chambers knocked on the condo door and waited. He could see someone looking out the peep hole and he held up his badge. There was a sound Rollie didn't recognize then he heard the dead bolt being opened and the noise that a security chain makes as it's unhooked. The door finally opened.

"Hi Miss Collins. Remember me?" Rollie asked. "I'm Detective Chambers."

The last time he'd seen Sarah Collins her nose and eyes were swollen and discolored with bruises. The injuries had been the result of a beating and rape. She looks a lot better now, Rollie thought. The swelling was completely gone and the sickly colors of the bruises were almost unnoticeable. You can't really blame her for locking her place up like a bank vault; not after what happened to her.

"Hi Det. Chambers," Sarah replied. "Sure I remember you."

"May I come in and talk to you for a few minutes? I promise I won't take up a lot of your time."

Sarah hesitated, nodded, and stepped back opening her door. As Rollie followed her to the small living room he noticed a heavy steel crossbar that Sarah used to secure her door in addition to the dead bolt and chain. She led Rollie to a small living room and offered him a chair. "You want something to drink Detective? I'm gonna have a glass of wine."

"No I'm good. On duty and all that. But even if I wasn't, wine just puts me to sleep," Rollie offered. He was trying to put Sara at ease. She was tense, her movements jerky and quick. Her eyes couldn't seem to find a resting place and she moved them around almost continuously.

"You look better than the first time we talked. You don't look like a raccoon anymore," Rollie said with a smile.

Sarah looked surprised at his statement and then started to giggle. The giggle turned into full blown laughter. The laughing spell lasted for several seconds. She stopped, took a drink of her wine, and relaxed for the first time.

"Thanks," she said. "Everyone is being so careful not to say anything that might upset me. No one will talk about my face or the scar on my arm or even why I was gone from my job for two months. They treat me like a china doll that they're afraid will break."

"I just call them like I see em," Rollie replied with a smile. His comment had been deliberate because he'd wanted to push her out of the shell she'd put up.

Sarah laughed again. "What can I do for you Detective?"

"I want to talk about the guy that hurt you." Rollie looked at Sarah hoping she'd help.

"You know when it happened, the ra ... the rape I mean, all the other policemen and women asked about the man. They asked questions that almost made me feel that I deserve what happened to me." Sarah took a sip of wine and looked Rollie in the eye. "You're the only cop that seemed to be concerned about me. Not about that psycho but about me."

"I was worried about you and sorry you went through the attack," Rollie replied. "Still am for that matter. If you can talk about that night, remember anything more, it might help catch him." He sat back in the chair and said, "Maybe I will have a little wine. It's almost quitting time anyway."

Sarah brought him a glass and poured half a glass out of the bottle on the table.

"You're stronger now," Rollie said. "Maybe something you tell me will help us catch him. Maybe you can help stop him so he won't do what he did to you to another woman."

"Why did he do it Detective? Why me?" Sarah's store of bravery and control slipped and tears began to run down her cheeks. "I don't dress sexy, or flirt a lot, or chase after guys. Why did he pick me?"

"I can't answer your questions Sarah. Not yet but I will find out," Rollie said with a strong voice. "I'll find this scum and find out why he did those things to you. And make him pay for doing them. I give you my word."

Sarah got a tissue, dried her eyes and blew her nose. "I believe you will Det. Chambers."

Rollie waited for her to regain control. "You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't do anything to deserve this," he reassured her. "We have a psychiatrist doing profiling for us. You know what that is?"

Sarah nodded. "There was a program on the History Chanel that explained what they do. It seems almost like magic."

"It's not magic," Rollie said with a grin. "Doctor Talbert can put together bits and pieces of evidence and draw conclusions that the rest of us may miss. Anyway she says that rape isn't about sex, it's about control and humiliation. So it didn't matter how you dressed or acted or where you went."

Rollie and Sarah talked for almost an hour. She had remembered some additional things about her attacker but hadn't wanted to talk to the police again. Sarah gave Rollie a better description. She remembered that the man was short, stocky, and very strong. He spoke with a rough gravelly voice. Sarah hadn't seen his face because he wore a ski mask but she did remember that his eyes were dark and close set.

Back at the office Rollie typed up his notes and gave copies to the other two detectives in the task force, Captain Mallory, and Jessica Talbert. Detective Frank Wends and Doctor Talbert read the notes at the same time.

"How'd you get this much information from the Collins girl?" Frank asked. "Nobody else could get much more than her name and address from her."

Jessica spoke before Rollie could answer Frank. "Most officers and detectives think of the women as victims that can help them solve a case. To Rollie they are people that need help; that's his first priority. It's only after he does what he can to help them in that first interview that he tries to get information about their attacker."

Turning to Captain Mallory she suggested, "That method could be utilized by everyone in this squad."

"Whatever you're doing it works," Pete Mallory said with admiration. He sort of pushed Rollie's shoulder and smiled. "The forensic report is in from that last attack. Go over it and we'll have a sit down with the whole crew tomorrow morning."

Pete and Frank walked away, leaving Jessica and Rollie by themselves. It was the first time in the three weeks since the task force had been formed that they were alone. Before that they hadn't spoken for almost a month and hadn't seen each other since Rollie's therapy with Jessica had ended.

"How have you been Rollie?" Jessica asked. "I've seen you around the squad room but this is the first time we've been able to talk."

"I'm good Doctor Talbert," he answered with a grin and a bit of sarcasm. "We talk every day in our meetings don't we?"

Jessica smiled a little at his sarcasm. "You know what I mean. First time we've had to talk on a personal level."

Rollie got a more serious look on his face. "You made it plain that you didn't want anything personal between us Jessica. I'm just trying to get on with my life, like you suggested."

She was concerned at the tone of his voice. He sounds angry and hurt. "Rollie, I didn't mean..."

"Take it easy Doc," Rollie interrupted. "I haven't gone off the deep end or anything. I'm not obsessing about you." He smiled. "But I told you back then and I'll tell you now, my interest in you had nothing to do with a patient/doctor infatuation. You're intelligent, easy to talk to, guess that comes in handy in your job don't it? I think the thing that attracts me the most is that you care about people, you really care." Rollie grinned and added, "Of course the fact that you're damn good looking doesn't hurt either."

I'm blushing, Jessica thought. I haven't blushed since high school. "Rollie I..."

"Later Doc. I've got a couple of forensic reports to wade through." He walked back to his desk but stopped and turned about half way there. "We'll talk again Doc. Personally I mean. I haven't given up just yet."

At the morning meeting Captain Mallory had a few words. "We've had five rapes in the last six weeks. That's why Major Taylor set up this task force. So for the duration, no more slap and tickle, no more grab ass in the squad room. We've got a tough job and not much time to do it. Jessica why don't you take over?"

Jessica briefed the task force on her assumptions. "This isn't an exact science. My ideas aren't cut in stone but they will give us areas and ideas to look into. If anyone has a thought or something they think is relevant speak up. We can use all the brain power we can get. Everybody with me so far?"

The entire task force was present. Det. Jones, Call, and Wends sat at one table. Captain Mallory and Rollie sat at another and Jessica stood in front of a large dry erasable board on the wall. There were pictures of the victims, descriptions of suspects, and other information written or attached to that board.

"Thanks to the description Det. Chambers managed to obtain from the last two victims," Jessica pointed to two pictures grouped with the other three victims, "We have the suspects M.O. and a good idea of what he looks like." She stepped to the side and said, "Rollie, I mean Det. Chambers, fill us in please."

We're gonna be spending more time with each other for the next few weeks than we do with our families," Captain Mallory said. "I think we can go by our given names." He turned and looked at Jessica. "Okay with you Jessica?"

She nodded and Rollie stood. He made his way to the board and picked up one of the special markers that were used to write on it.

"The descriptions weren't identical but there were enough similarities to give us a good idea on our perp. The suspect is about 5' 6 to 5' 8 and stocky. Sarah Collins is 5'10 and said the guy was shorter than her." He pointed to a picture of another young woman, "Julie Summers is 5'4. She said the guy was a little taller than her." As he talked he wrote each piece of information on the board.

"All of the victims said he was very strong with big forearms and hands. He's using handkerchiefs, towels, or some other piece of cloth saturated with chloroform to subdue his targets. So far he's worn a type of ski mask over his head but Sarah saw some dirty looking blond hair sticking out from under the mask. He's also wears a turtle neck sweater or sweatshirt. Sarah said his eyes are dark, close set, and look like a pigs." Rollie paused. "Of course her description of the eyes could be colored because of her hatred," he said with a small sad smile.

"Both Sarah, Julie, and the other victims that would talk said he had a gravelly type voice; like he needed to clear his throat. Julie noticed that he has a scar on his neck when his turtleneck pulled down as they were struggling. The scar looks like a rope burn from the way she described it."

Rollie put down the marker. "I think the same man attacked and raped these five women. There've been other attacks recently but they don't fit the M.O. That's all I've got so far." He stepped back to his chair and sat down.

"I think Det. Chambers, I mean Rollie, is correct," Jessica said taking over the meeting again. "I'm not sure how many of you have worked rape cases," she looked around and saw all of them raise their hands. "Then you should know that rape isn't about sexual gratification. Rapists want to control their victims. They want to make the victims to show fear and humiliate them."

All of the detectives, including Captain Mallory, nodded at her assessment. "Rapists have different reasons for attacking women but usually it comes down to getting back at someone. Not necessarily the women they attack; maybe someone from their past." Jessica walked over to the description written on the board. "Our perp, I mean suspect..." she corrected herself.

"That's okay Doc," Det. Jim Call said with a big smile. "You're one of us now. You can use cop talk." Everyone including Jessica laughed.

"Okay I think our perp," Jessica smiled, "wants revenge. One of the women, Julie I think it was" she turned to Rollie and saw him nod knowing what she was going to say. "Julie Summers said she heard the guy say something like 'it's time for payback'. That indicated that he's out for revenge."

"Why does he beat the women so bad?" Det. Sam Jones asked. "I can understand him hitting them but this guy beats the hell out of them."

"It all goes back to him wanting to control his victims," Jessica answered. "Even when he has them helpless he strikes them to show he can do whatever he wants. The attacks have gotten more violent with each one. The first victim just got a black eye; the last one was severely beaten and was in the hospital for several days." She hesitated. "The perp is escalating the physical side of his attacks. We need to find and stop him before he kills someone. This isn't very professional but this guy is a sick puppy."

"Now you're talking like a cop Doc," Call said again getting a laugh from the group.

"Okay party time is over, let's get to work," Captain Mallory said as he stood. "Rollie I'd like for you to interview the other three women. You seem to be able to draw them out. Maybe we'll get lucky and get something to go on." He looked at Wends, Jones, and Call. "You three go back and canvas the areas where the attacks took place. Maybe someone remembers something they didn't tell the patrol officers."

Rollie was staring at the pictures on the board. He was rubbing his ear lobe, a habit he had when he was deep in thought. "Damn," he said softly. "We've missed it." The turned and called out, "Before you take off there's something we've forgotten."

Jessica, Captain Mallory, and the three detectives turned to look at Rollie.

"We've been so busy with descriptions, statements, and suppositions about the rapist that we didn't look at it from the other side," Rollie told them. "Why these women? Do they have anything in common? Their work, their looks, what they like to do, where do they spend their free time. We've got a decent description, we know his M.O. and how he dresses. But why did he attack these particular women."

"I should have thought of that," Jessica admitted. She was embarrassed.

Captain Mallory consoled her. "This is your first time profiling. We've had experience so we should have thought of it, so don't beat yourself up. Get all the files, victim information, and interview reports and let's go over them again." He saw Jim Call sigh.

"You got a problem Detective Call?" Mallory asked.

"No sir, it's just that I was going to meet my girl for dinner."

"Well you go on Call. But these women aren't going out to dinner or meeting for drinks," Mallory said pointing to the pictures of the five victims. "They're not going out at all. Most of them are holed up in their homes; afraid to walk out the door. So you go on and enjoy your evening," Captain Mallory said sarcastically.

Call hung his head. "You're right Captain, I'm sorry. I'll get right on the reports."

Mallory nodded and went back to his office. A little later the group could hear him shouting into the phone.

"I don't give a damn what the bean counters said," he yelled. "As long as my people will do it, we'll work all the overtime necessary." Mallory listened for a minute. "Tell them to let their wives walk around after dark. We've got a rapist out there whose next attack could be fatal for the victim."

He listened again for several seconds. "I'm tired of the fuckin brass sitting on their fat asses and telling me how to do my job. And if y'all don't like it you can fire me when this is over. But until then I'm in charge of this task force and we're gonna do whatever's necessary to catch this bastard." He slammed down his phone and sat down.

"I don't think that phone's going to work after that," Rollie said with a grin. He walked to Mallory's office door and asked, "Trouble in paradise Boss?"

"Nothing I can't handle," the Captain said. "But you guys better catch this asshole pretty quick. My butt is on the line."

"Yes sir Captain," Rollie replied with a smile. Then he got a serious look on his face. "Warm up the holding cell; I'm gonna have a visitor for you real soon."

Rollie returned to the squad room. Everyone, including Jessica, was staring at Mallory's office. "Frank you and the others get on the canvassing," he said taking the lead. "I don't have to tell you how to do your jobs. Be polite but be insistent; get us something. Jessica will go with me to interview the other three victims. We'll meet back here tomorrow morning and see what we've got."

"Me? I don't have any experience with interrogations," Jessica protested.

"It won't be an interrogation, we're just going to talk to them," Rollie replied. "That's what you do isn't it? Talk to people?"

Jessica looked unconvinced but nodded.

In the car Rollie continued. "Women will tell other women things they wouldn't begin to talk about with a man, that's why I want you along. You can be a sympathetic shoulder for them." They stopped at a traffic light and Rollie turned toward Jessica. "Tell them you're a rape counselor, tell them you're part of a support group but don't tell them you're a psychiatrist. People, especially victims of physical assaults, freak out when a shirk wants to talk to them. Understand?"

"Better than you know," Jessica replied. "Even some of my patients are leery or don't trust me for a couple of session." She smiled and asked, "Remember Rollie?"

He returned her smile. "Don't remind me."

Twenty minutes later they pulled up in front of Sally Bankston's house. She'd been the first victim of their suspect. They didn't know she'd been first until other attacks with the same M.O. came to light. Sally had been interviewed by another detective but not by someone from the task force.

"Rollie knocked on the door, waited several seconds and knocked again. He could hear someone on the other side but the door didn't open. He held his badge and identification to the peephole.

"Police Miss Bankston," he said to the door in a calm but forceful voice. "I'm Det. Chambers and this is Jessica Talbert. We're following up on the attack you suffered. I'd like to talk to you if we could."

Several seconds passed and then the door opened and a young woman's face appeared. The door stopped because of the security chain that was still engaged.

"I don't want to talk about it anymore. Leave me alone please."

"We're trying to catch the man that did this to you Miss Bankston," Jessica said. "Perhaps you've remembered something that could help us."

"No I don't remember anything more than I told the first officers that questioned me."

Rollie could tell that the woman was becoming agitated. I've got to diffuse the situation, he thought. "Miss Bankston, I'm just going through the motions here," he told her. "The real reason I came by was to see how you're doing." He chuckled and added, "I have to pretend that I'm doing an investigation to keep my boss off my back."

Sally closed the door, removed the chain, and stood in the opening. "Why would you do that?" She asked. She sounded surprised and a little suspicious of Rollie.

"Miss Bankston, my wife was attacked and raped too," Rollie told her. "I know from firsthand experience how a woman can feel after something this horrible happens. I was there to help my wife but," he looked down at a folder, "According to the information you gave us, you're all alone. Your only family is a sister that lives on the west coast and she hasn't been to see you."

Sally nodded. "Yeah, her husband didn't want her to leave him and the kids to come back to see me," she said. "Some sister huh?" A tear rolled down her cheek.

Rollie handed her his handkerchief. "I can't even think of how hard this has been on you. I thought maybe I could help."

"Thank you Detective, Chambers was it?" Sally asked. "You're the first police officer that's showed real concern for me. I mean they took care of me and got the paramedics but their interest seemed to be what information I could give them about my attacker."

She handed Rollie's handkerchief back. "How is your wife Detective? Is she doing okay?"

"No, she died a short time after the attack," Rollie said. His voice was thick with emotion. It wasn't an act; Susan's death and the way it happened still bothered him. He'd learned to accept it but he still felt the loss and sadness with her gone.

Sally noticed Rollie's reaction. "I'm sorry. Please come in. I'll go over it again; like you said maybe something will help."

Sally, Jessica, and Rollie sat in the living room and talked for over an hour. They went over the incident and things that Sally remembered. There wasn't any additional information but it was obvious that Sally felt better after talking to Jessica and Rollie.

As Rollie and Jessica were leaving, he stopped at the door. Handing Sally his card he said, "The number at the station is on there and so is my personal phone. If you remember anything or need me for something call me please." He smiled and added, "We survivors have to stick together you know."

Sally returned his smile and put her hand on his arm. "Thank you Rollie. I promise I'll call if I need help."

"Well we didn't get anything we didn't already know," Jessica said when they got to the car. Looking at Rollie she said, "But we, I mean you, certainly helped that young woman. You did good Rollie. I think she's going to be okay now."

The next house they visited looked abandoned. The yard was overgrown with grass and weeds, there were a few newspapers on the front porch, and the windows didn't have any curtains on them. As Rollie knocked on the door an older woman walked over from next door.

"You looking for Debby?" She asked

"Yes ma'am. I'm Det. Chambers," he answered showing her his badge and ID card. "This is Dr. Talbert. We hoped to talk with Miss Dawson."

"About her being attacked I guess." At Rollie's nod she said, "Damn shame it was. Debby's a nice girl."

"Do you know where she is?" Jessica asked.

"Back east someplace. She wasn't out the hospital for more than two weeks when a moving van pulled up in front of the house. That's the only time I saw her. She'd been staying with friend. Debby told me she was going back home."

"Did she leave a forwarding address or phone number or anything?"

"Nope. She said there was nothing here she wanted or wanted to remember. Thanked me for being a good neighbor and left."

In the car Jessica said, "We can get the info and track her down."

"No reason to. If she left like that she probably wouldn't want to talk to us anyway," Rollie answered. "We'll go see the last one on the list. She's the one that seemed the strongest from the situation reports taken by the other officers."

"Miss Cooper, Diane Cooper?" Rollie asked the young woman behind the counter. They were in the perfume department of the largest store in the city.

"Yeah, I'm Diane Cooper. Who are you?"

A big difference between her pictures and her in real life, Rollie thought. Of course one of the pictures showed the results of several punches to the face. This woman isn't sad or scared; she is just plain pissed off.

"I'm Det. Chambers and this is Jessica Talbert a police consultant." He held out his badge and I D to the young woman.

Miss Cooper actually took the badge and I D wallet from him and actually looked at it, comparing the picture to Rollie. "Okay, what do you want?"

"We were hoping you might agree to talk to us about the attack," Jessica said.

"If you have a lunch break coming we could talk then or after you get off if that would be more convenient," Rollie told her.

"You're different," Miss Cooper said. "Not many police would be concerned in what was convenient for me." She nodded in approval. "Let's go to the break room; less interested ears in there."

They followed her to the break room and sat at a table. "Miss Cooper..." Rollie began.

"You can me Diane. I think we'll probably be talking about some pretty personal stuff."

After forty minutes of talking there was one additional piece of the puzzle revealed.

"The asshole put that rag over my face and it knocked me out," Diane said. Rollie nodded and she added, "But I wasn't completely unconscious. After he hit me a few times and when he was ripping my clothes off I heard him say 'Wait until the guys at Benny's hear about this one".

"Don't know what he meant and I passed out right after that."

Rollie sat up straighter in his chair. "That's the first we've heard about that. Are you sure he said Benny's?"

"I'm sure. I didn't remember it until you came to my counter. It just sort of popped into my head," Diane said in amazement.

"You've been very helpful Diane," Jessica said. "Thank you."

Rollie nodded in agreement. He was excited; they had a direction to follow now instead of stumbling all over the city.

"Do me a favor please," Diane requested. "When you catch the bastard give me five minutes alone with him will ya?"

Rollie smiled and then laughed. "I almost wish I could do that Diane. I'd like to see how he looked after you got done with him."

They drove back to the station. As they got out of the car Rollie started laughing. Jessica looked at him in surprise.

"Diane's going to be fine," he answered her unasked question at his laughing. "She's a tough woman. The perp better hope we find him before she does. I don't think he'd like meeting Miss Diane Cooper again."

They checked the squad room and found that the other members of the task force had left for the day. Good, Rollie thought. The boys, hell even the Captain, is on overload. We can all use a night off.

"No need of hanging around," Rollie said to Jessica. "We can go over our news at the meeting tomorrow morning." He hesitated for a few seconds. "I guess I'll go to First Squad and get a burger and a beer. Would you like to join me?"

"First Squad?" Jessica asked. "What's that?"

"It's a cop bar." He saw her confusion and explained. "A cop bar is just that. It's a place that a lot of off duty officers go for food and a drink or two. First Squad is owned by Ted Crowe. He put in 30 years on the force and then pulled the pin." Rollie laughed hard. "Ted was retired for about a year when his wife, Donna, told him to get a job, develop a hobby, or take up golf. Just go do something. She said if he didn't get out from under her feet that she wouldn't be responsible for her actions."

Jessica smiled and then giggled.

"We were all at a dinner one evening shortly afterwards. Donna said she'd married Ted for better or worse but not for lunch every day. Three days later they bought a little neighborhood bar and grill. They renamed it First Squad because Ted had been a member of the first squad when he retired." Rollie and Jessica stopped at the elevator. As he pushed the button he added, "Ted says that he should have retired with 20 and got into the bar business earlier. He says if he has any more fun, it would probably be against the law."

The elevator doors opened and they started for the ground floor. "So would you like to have the best burger and coldest beer in town?" Rollie repeated his invitation.

"Rollie, we've already talked about this," Jessica replied. "I can't date one of my patients."

"Two things Jessica. First this isn't a date. We just finished a very long day and I'm hungry. If you were Sam or Jim or even Frank I'd invite you to join me. Well, maybe not Frank; he drinks like he's got a hollow leg. Anyway people who work together sometimes have dinner and a drink together."

She waited for him to continue. When he didn't she prompted, "You said two things. What's the other one?"

"You're not my doctor anymore. I stopped being your patient when you cleared me for duty."

The elevator stopped and the doors opened. "If you don't want to go to dinner because you don't like me or my company, well that's one thing. But I think you don't trust yourself. Like I told you before I think we made a connection; not a doctor/patient connection but a man/woman connection." He turned and walked toward the exit. "First Squad is on 7th just north of Olive. Join me if you want, if not I'll see you tomorrow."

He doesn't give up does he? Jessica said to herself as Rollie walked away. I can't see him socially, he's my patient. He's not your patient anymore; a little voice in her head told her. And anyway it couldn't hurt for two colleagues to have dinner together.

It's like I've got an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other arguing about what I should do, she thought. She made her decision and in her mind's eye she watched as the little devil walked over and kicked the angel in the butt and off her shoulder. Jessica hurried to her car; she didn't want to keep Rollie waiting too long.

Rollie waived at Tina the bar maid at First Squad as he walked to an empty booth along the back wall.

"The usual Honey?" Tina asked smiling. Rollie nodded and continue to the booth.

Tina set a beer in front up him just seconds after he sat down. "Burger will be read in ten," she said and patted his arm.

Rollie nodded his thanks and took a drink. Tina was on the short side of 50 but looked fifteen years younger. She had long red hair, freckles across her nose, and lively green eyes. Tina was Irish and had the temper to prove it. Not many of the cops and none of the civilians, including the owner Ted, would mess with her. The few that argued with her did so at the risk of getting throw out on their butts.

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