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33

It occurred to Merylo, once again, that he should have requested that this meeting take place somewhere other than the coroners office. The front lobby was too busy and Dr. Pearces office was too small, so the only logical place to have the meeting was in the autopsy room. And the fact that Merylo had been here more than a dozen times on various cases had not in the slightest altered the fact that the place gave him the heebie-jeebies. Happily, there were no corpses currently on display, but there had been before, and there would be again. He couldnt help but look at each of the compartment doors that lined the south wall and wonder whether there was a headless body hidden behind it.

Merylo had pushed the operating table to one side and arranged some folding chairs in the center of the room. Zalewski was seated beside him. Sir?

Yeah?

Do you think theyre coming?

Yeah.

Theyre late.

Well, theyre important people.

Which ones? The doctors, or the safety director?

All of them.

In that order?

Merylo allowed himself a thin smile. No comment.

Through the glass-windowed door Merylo saw the good doctor Arthur Pearce enter the room with another man of the same height but considerably slimmer build. He wore glasses, thick ones, and he was clutching a black leather bag. He was wearing a checked suit, too big for him, and even more notably, no hat.

Kraut, Zalewski whispered under his breath. Probably a hebe, too.

What difference does it make?

Im just sayin-

I havent heard any characters named Zalewski on Jack, Armstrong lately.

Im just sayin. I never cared much for Krauts.

The two men entered the room. Eliot Ness was just a few steps behind them.

Detectives, Dr. Pearce began, let me introduce you to my colleague, Dr. Ernst Hunstein.

The two detectives rose, but the new doctor did not extend a hand.

I believe youve already met the safety director.

Merylo tipped his hat slightly. Weve had the pleasure, yes.

We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to consult with Dr. Hunstein. He has only in the past year emigrated from Germany.

Zalewski gave Merylo a decided told-you-so look.

Im surprised you could leave the Fatherland, Zalewski said. I hear most of you people like to stay home.

I love my home, Hunstein said. His voice was quiet, and between that and the thick accent, he was difficult to understand. But I now reside in New York. Given the changes of late, the Nuremberg Laws against my people, I thought it best to leave as have so many others.

You talking about Happy Hitler?

Hunsteins eyes narrowed. That is not how we refer to him in Germany. Are you familiar with the actions of the F"uhrer?

Zalewski hedged. I saw him in a newsreel once. This summer, at the Berlin Olympics.

Ah. Of course. Your Jesse Owens performed very well. He won four gold medals, I believe. Hitler was not happy about that.

He probably didnt like seein his medals leave Germany.

Hunstein fingered his glasses. I do not believe that was the problem.

Didnt Hitler get ninety-nine percent of the vote in the elections?

Hunstein sighed. That is what they say.

Merylo figured this was a good time to intervene. Dr. Pearce says youre some kind of head doctor.

I am an alienist, yes. I studied under Dr. Freud himself.

And he thinks you might be able to help us on this case.

And you are skeptical of this, no?

Merylos head pulled back. How had he known that? Well it isnt how we usually go about our police work.

Perhaps it should be.

The tried-and-true methods-

Have not caught this criminal. Possibly if you had brought me in sooner, the killer would not have remained at large for so long.

Merylo did his best to hide his irritation. Yeah, and possibly if the moon were made of green cheese wed all be fat and happy, but whos to say?

Dr. Hunstein bowed his head. Indeed. It is all a matter of speculation.

I dont mean to be rude, Merylo said, but weve got a lot of work to do, plus reporters checking up on every move we make, so if you dont have anything for us-

I have taken the liberty of reviewing the police documents my colleague Dr. Pearce was able to obtain from Chief Matowitz and the safety director. I have spent the past three days doing so.

Three days? That slowed Merylo down. Then you know that weve done a lot of work, but havent found information that would tell us anything useful about this killer.

I disagree entirely. I was able to discern a great deal from reading your files. Most interesting.

Merylos eyebrows crinkled. Youre going to stand there and tell me you know who the killer is?

No. I cannot tell you who the killer is. But I can tell you what he is.

With respect, Doc, Zalewski interjected, we know what he is. A cold-blooded killer.

No, sir. You do not know what he is. And that is why you have not caught him. He paused. Have either of you any familiarity with the work being done in Vienna on the psychosexual aspects of crime?

Merylo thought back to his experience on the vice squad. Are you saying these are sex crimes? Cause I also-

Not exactly. I see no evidence of a sexual motivation. But an investigation into the likely sexual history of the killer yields much information about his psyche.

And why is that useful?

Dr. Pearce answered for him. This is what I was trying to explain to you before. If you know what he is, and why he does what he does, then you can anticipate what he might do next. And if you can do that, you just might be able to catch him.

Ask yourself, Hunstein continued, what could produce such hostility, such anger, as to make a man capable of committing the atrocities that have been perpetrated on these victims?

Merylo thinks they all worked together on some scam, Zalewski volunteered, to Merylos dismay. Or maybe they were all involved with the same woman.

I think that unlikely, Hunstein replied. I think it much more plausible that the killers psyche was scarred by a traumatic incident, or a series of incidents, in his childhood.

Now I have a real problem with that, Ness said, scooting forward in his chair. For the first time, he seemed interested in the conversation. Merylo couldnt help but wonder why. Lots of people have bad childhoods. Doesnt make them repeat killers.

Hunstein lifted an eyebrow. Indeed?

Gosh, I work almost every day with troubled boys, in my new Boys Clubs, or in my Boy Scout troop. Many of them have come from seriously troubled homes. But theyre not crazy. They just need a good role model. Someone to show them the way.

I think perhaps, Hunstein suggested gently, that you do not understand the magnitude of the childhood trauma I am describing.

Like you think the killer witnessed a murder or something?

Perhaps. But in our experience, it is more likely something of a sexual nature. It is most probable that your killer was abused as a child.

Abused? Zalewski screwed up his face. You mean, like slapped around? Cause my ma used to-

I mean sexually abused. Repeatedly.

Oh. He fell silent. By who?

In most cases, a close friend or relative. Probably a male, since most of his victims have been male. A father. Grandfather. Friendly uncle or neighbor. It doesnt matter. But this killer exhibits all the pathology of a mind twisted by sexual abuse, deranged by the conflicted feelings arising from being abused by people he adored.

Does that happen? To boys?

Im afraid that it does. And it can work devastating effects on the personality. Particularly when coupled with other elements of instability-broken homes, single parents, alcoholism, drug abuse. He was probably isolated as an adolescent, or even earlier. Lonely, withdrawn, always suppressing feelings of great rage. He probably engaged in fantasies in which he was a person of great power. An "uber-man. Interpersonal relationships would have been difficult, so he probably did not play sports or join clubs. He may have indulged in pornography, if he could find it, as a way of redirecting his interest in sex, since he would be unlikely to sustain a healthy relationship with a female of his own age. He might turn to drugs or alcohol for relief. Eventually, he found the means and ability to carry out his power fantasies. On other people.

Merylo couldnt remain silent any longer. This is all well and good, hearing about the killers tragic childhood. But who is he? You havent actually given us any information about the murderer himself.

My dear detective, have you not been listening? The information is all around you. I can tell you much. He is almost certainly male, probably between the ages of twenty and forty, probably white.

How can you-

He is smart, well-read, familiar with chemistry. Strong.

This is old hat.

He may very likely have a physical deformity.

Merylo fell silent.

He was probably raised in Cleveland. He knows it well. He has some kind of income flow, some means to support himself while he plans and executes his crimes. Given the unlikelihood that he is able to maintain a job of any substance, he may come from a wealthy family.

Come on!

I will go further. He may not only be connected to money-it is very possible that the other members of his family know, or at least suspect, that he is a dangerous man. They, perhaps, may even suspect that he is the notorious Torso Killer.

Then why wouldnt they say anything?

Would you want it known that the Torso Killer was your son? Or nephew? Or husband?

Merylo did not reply.

At best, you might try to hide him away, or somehow remove his ability to kill. But you would not turn him in, especially if you were well connected. Prominent. To do so would be to destroy yourself.

If this guys so rich, Zalewski asked, whys he hanging out in Kingsbury Run all the time?

Where better to find easy prey? People no one will miss. He has killed five, perhaps six times. And you have identified two of his victims. Kingsbury Run will provide him an endless supply of unknown or little-known victims.

Merylo scratched his head. I dont know. This all seems pretty farfetched.

I assure you, it is not.

But if the guy is just some loony rich kid preying on vagrants for no reason other than that he got hurt when he was a kid, how are we ever going to catch him?

Pearce leaned forward. Dr. Hunstein is an alienist, not a detective.

Hunstein held up a hand. That is true. And I would not presume to interfere in your work. But if I were to be allowed to make one small suggestion

Yes?

Hunstein paused. I believe that in the past you have interviewed people in Kingsbury Run looking for connections. Associations. But this killer is much more likely to select victims with whom he has no association-so they can never be traced back to him after the bodies are found.

Im not sure, Merylo, Zalewski said quietly, but I think hes say-in were barkin up the wrong tree.

Im sure, Merylo grunted back. So you think we got it all wrong, huh, Doc?

Hunstein considered. I think you are looking in the right place for the wrong person. Instead of looking for connections, I would look for someone who has no connections. I would go to Kingsbury Run and look for the man who does not belong, but still does not attract attention. The man who is not a vagrant, or hobo, or small-time criminal, even though he might pretend to be. Look for the man who is there solely for the same reason that you might go to a well-stocked trout pond. He drew in his breath. Look for the man who is stalking his prey.

Merylo considered. He still didnt buy into all this childhood trauma hugger-mugger. And the killer being well connected? Preposterous. But the idea of looking for the man who did not belong

It was almost worth considering. He had to try something new. What he had done so far hadnt produced any results.

Thank you for your time, Dr. Hunstein, Ness said, rising. We appreciate your contributions. Im sure theres much to what you said. Im all for using science whenever possible. Though I prefer the sciences that are you know. More certain.

Hunstein seemed to hesitate. Ye-es

Was there something else?

Hunstein obviously thought carefully before he spoke again. There is one aspect to this case that troubles me. That does not fit the usual pattern.

And that is?

As I told you, the killer is likely in the thrall of a massive empowerment fantasy. Delusions of grandeur, we call it. Something he has nurtured since he was a small boy. I would expect such an individual to be self-absorbed. Narcissistic. To believe himself superior to all others. Unbeatable. Untouchable.

Ness bit down on his lower lip. And you dont think he is?

Hunstein batted his lips with his finger. I would expect such a man to be playing games with the police. To be taunting them. Perhaps even to be sending them messages.

Out of the corner of his eye, Merylo saw a change in the expression on Ness s face. It was small and subtle. But he was almost certain it was there.

Really? Ness replied. That seems risky.

Jack the Ripper did it. Repeatedly. And of course he was never caught. Why does this killer not do the same? It is the one element that does not fit.

Well, Ness said, smiling, Im sure every case cant be exactly alike.

No, Hunstein said somberly. Not precisely. But-

The door to the room opened and Pearces secretary stepped through. Mr. Safety Director? I-I have a message for you.

Merylo rose to his feet. He didnt need to hear what it was. He could tell just from the expression on her face.

Yes? What is it?

Its-its from Kingsbury Run. A stagnant pool near East Thirty-seventh. A huge crowd has gathered.

Ness s face sobered. Why?

Sir-theyve found another body. Or to be more accurate-pieces of one.


| Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness | c



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