Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chapter 1

As the sun was setting in the west, the creatures of the night began to get ready for the hunt. Who was he going to hunt tonight? It had to be someone what was important; he loved seeing his name in the newspaper. Just last month, after his last victim finally died, he was impressed that he finally got a name for himself. They called him “El Diablo”; the devil. Little did they know that he was actually doing them all a favor. Those that he took care of were the kinds of people that should not be allowed to live anyways. Why couldn’t they see that?

Tonight was going to be a good night, he already had is prey in mind and all he had to do was find her. She was a wealthy business woman who was corrupt. She had taken millions of dollars from unsuspecting investors and pocketed it for herself. How did he know this? He had his ways. He could find out whatever he needed to in order to get his work done. The nights were getting colder and it was harder for him to move, due to a war injury that he has gotten years earlier. He should have gotten the medal of valor then, but maybe after he was done with the cleansing of the city of all its corruption he would receive it then. Tonight his knee was bothering him more than normal, but he knew that he could not give up. He had to do the job that was at hand, otherwise he would not get the satisfaction of seeing his name in the newspaper and on the television tomorrow morning. No, it had to be done tonight and so it shall be.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chapter 2

Grace was not use to having to make up as early as she did that Monday morning. It was almost as if she knew that there was going to be something big coming her way. There was no way that she could have anticipated what it was or when it was going to happen. She just knew that her alarm was not set to go off for another 3 hours, and yet she was laying in bed wide awake.

She check to see if her Dalmatian, Big Ben, was okay or needed to be let out to roam the backyard, only to notice that he was curled up next to her with his head on her pillow and the rest of his body under the covers. “You are pitiful, you know that Ben,” she said. He just opened one eye, uninterested and sighed and fell back asleep. “How could I have ever expected that you could be a replacement for a man in my bed,” Grace stated. Big Ben had been part of her life, ever since her mom had passed two years prior. She hated to be alone in the house and so she had gone to the local SPCA and found Big Ben. He had only been a pup then, but he soon grew and started to take over his house as if he was the owner and not her.

Since she was up, she figured that she might as well turn on the television and see what was going on at this ungodly hour. As she hit the power button on the remote control, the screen was filled with the look of horror from the reporter. “This is Becky Newman reporting from the scene of the horrific crime. It would appear the “El Diablo has struck again. There has not been an official statement made yet, but all signs are pointing to this conclusion.” Grace could not believe what she was hearing. This monster had started to overtake her town of Grangeville, Illinois.

In all the years that she had lived here nothing this horrific had ever happened. She was not that naïve to believe that it couldn’t happen to her town, but there had never been a serial killer on the loose in this town before. Her private investigation business had kept her pleasantly busy, but it had always been for small stuff. A missing persons report, a father who had skipped town on his child support obligations, and once she had to deal with a dog napping but nothing like this ever seemed to come to her town.

There was no real chance that she was going to be able to get back to sleep, knowing that there had been an other murder in her town. She had always thought of Grangeville as her town. She was born and raised here by her mother. Her father had passed away 3 months before she was born. Her mother, Lucy, had never been able to bring herself to marry again. After she had lost one husband to a killer, cancer, she did not want to put her only child through that ever again. It was bad enough to be raised without a father, her mother told her, it is another tragedy to have different men come in and out of my life. So that is how her life had been.

She had been an only child, but was not raised as a total brat. She did not always get what she wanted, in fact she always thought that her life was harder because she was raised as an only child. Her mom always made sure that she worked for everything that she wanted in her life. If she wanted a new toy, and it was not near her birthday or Christmas, she had to do chores around the house to earn the money. To this day Grace is eternally grateful to her mother for instilling such a great work ethic. She believes that this is what helped her to go to school and become the private investigator that she was today.

“There is no way that I am going to be able to head back to dreamland after hearing this,” Grace told Big Ben. He opened both eyes, yawned at her and then seemed to really concentrate on what she was telling him. She decided to just get up and get started with her day. After taking a warm shower, drinking some coffee, and feeding Big Ben she headed on into the office. Her office was in a small strip mall right next door to the cleaners and to the nail salon. Not the perfect location, but it did serve her purpose well and she got plenty of business.

Arriving at the early hour that she did, she realized that nothing else would be open and it would be at least 2 hours until her secretary, Amilia would be arriving. This was fine by her because she had some final touches to put on her report before she met with Mr. and Mrs. Hansen about where she found their missing daughter. They were not going to be happy to hear that their 17, almost 18, year old daughter had decided to run off to Vegas with their pastor’s son. There was no easy way to let them know that they had just gotten married. It was not her business to make the truth come easy, rather she was to just gather the information and give it to her clients. It was up to them as to what to do with it after they left her office.

After working for about 45 minutes, Grace was surprised to hear the bell on the door sound to announce that someone was there. She wondered if Amalia had decided to come in early today to try to leave early again for the second week in a row. “If you are thinking you will get out early today, Amalia, you won’t be able to,” shouted Grace. There was no response. “That is kind of odd,” she thought, “Amalia is always challenging me with what I have to say.” Grace decided to go to the front to see what was going on. It was when she got to the doorway leading to the front reception area that Grace realized that she was going to be having a very different day that she had previous thought.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Chapter 3

As Grace looked towards the reception area she noticed the Chief of Police. "Wow, I have never seen him in person before,"she thought. He looked more handsome that he did on the television and he smelled wonderful. Why is it that she always is able to figure out what a person is like by the way that they smell? She wasn't sure, but it had never let her down before. She straightened her back and instinctively brushed her hair off of her forehead, as she walked closer to the Chief.

"Hello, Chief Roberts, I am Grace Winters private investigator. How may I help you today?"

"I know who you are Ms. Winters, which is why I am here today. I am here to ask for you assistance in the case that we have at hand. I am sure that you are aware of the case that we are currently working on?"

"I believe so. Is it the El Diablo case?"

"Yes. Now I know that you don't normally work on large cases and that this would be a first for both our department and yourself, but I think that once you hear what I have to say you will understand the importance of this collaboration."

"That is understandable Grace, may I call you Grace?" he asked. She nodded. "As you will see as I explain what is needed from you, you are going to be a very valuable part of this investigation. There are not many people in the media that know who you are. No offence..."

"None taken," she said with a smile. Was that a twinkle in his eye that she saw when he called her Grace? "Stop that," she told herself, "you need to be listening to what he is saying and wondering how you can help him and not be worried about what he is thinking."

"The main reason that I am here today is because we want to know, or rather I would like to know if you would be willing to be part of the task force that I am putting together to catch this 'El Diablo' character that is terrorizing our city. I can guarantee you only one this with this case, Grace, and that is that it will not be easy. There will lots of long hours that will be put in and it will take lots of patience. Is this something that you would be willing to do?"

This really took her breath away. She was being asked by the Chief of Police to work hand in hand with him to try to catch this serial killer. It exhilarated her to think that this man knew who she was and was willing to go out of his way to ask her to be part of a bigger plan. How could she say no? But if she said yes would she be able to keep food on the table without being able to take on the needs of her clients. Now granted, currently she did not have a case that she was working on so this would be perfect, but she was still struggling with it. She knew that there was a possibility that if she turned this down today, she may never get another chance.

The look on the Chief's face made her realize that he was expecting an answer. "Umm, I would love to do this, however I am not sure if I will be able to," she said. "If it is about money, Grace, the Commissioner would be more than willing to pay your regular fee for your time." "Wow," she thought, "he seemed to know what I was thinking." How could she turn this down, it was guaranteed work and she would not have to worry about who was going to walk through the door on any given day. " The only thing that I am worried about is my secretary, Amalia, she would not have anything to do while I am working for you."

Oh don't worry about that," Chief Roberts stated, "we will find her some work to do. As long as you can continue to pay her, we would be more than happy to give her some clerical work to do downtown. You need to realize that this will not be easy on either of you because you will be in unfamiliar territory, but I do believe that it could be the step in the right direction for both of you."

"Then, Chief Roberts, I would have to say that I would be honored to be part of the task force to bring 'El Diablo' to justice. I understand that it will not be easy, but I know that I will not let you down. I will do my best to make you not regret asking me to be part of this team."

"By the way Grace, you are more than welcome to call me Jason," stated the Chief. "I will be in contact with you in the next couple of days to let you know what will be your role on this team." With that, Chief Roberts, Jason, walked out the door leaving Grace staring after him.

Grace could not believe her fortune. She had always wanted to do some police work, but was too afraid to go downtown and take the tests that would be required of her. She did like working alone, but this was going to afford her the opportunity to see what it would be like to work with the police on a very large case. She couldn't wait to get started. First she had to finish up the loose ends on the case that she had just completed, but that should not take her more than a few hours over the next couple of days. She hoped that she would be able to get it competed by the time Jason came back to talk to her about the role that she was going to play.">

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Chapter 4

Jason Roberts could not believe that he had actually gone to Grace Winters. It was not normal for him to admit that he needed help. There was something about the way that she handled different cases that she had that was going to be very important to the case at hand. She was not well known or seen on the television as so many of the police force had been. This was how she was going to be so useful to him. He needed someone to follow the leads that they had without bringing attention to themselves. She already knew how to do that and therefore was going to be useful.

Jason was looking forward to working with Grace. He was not sure what it was about her that made him excited to work with her. Maybe it was the fact that hardly anyone knew who she was and so she could do the undercover work that was going to be needed to crack this case. It also did not hurt that she was easy on the eyes. He did not know if there was going to be any chance to get to know each other, or if she would even be interested in getting to know him. He had hopes that she would at least enjoy the time that they were going to spend together because it was going to be a tough time and they needed to be able to work well together. The one thing that he knew for sure was that they were going to be working very close to each other.

Jason Roberts had been Chief of Police for Grangeville for about five years now. In fact, he would be celebrating his fifth anniversary in just a little over a week. That is why this case was so important for him. The city had been asking the mayor to rethink about his appointment as Chief of Police. He had not had the best track record. It was true that he solved the cases, well most of them, with the help of the detectives and the men in blue but they were not always solved as quickly as the people would have liked. He always caught the man, or woman, that he was after. That was is motto, “Catch them and lock them up.” However, things did not always go the way that he wanted. With the increase of media cover of the way that the police department handled the cases, the police were unable to keep their undercover officers undercover. It was frustrating and it caused all his problems, at least that was how he saw it.

While growing up Jason had a picture perfect life. He had a mom who stayed at home with him and his sister, Jean, and a father who was a factory worker. He saw his dad come home every night dirty and tired and complaining about the pains that he was having in his back due to the hard labor. It was then that Jason decided that he was not going to work a manual labor job like his father did. As he looks back, Jason realizes that it was when he was about twelve years old that he decided that he wanted to work as a police officer. It is hard to believe that at the age of 32 he had already spent twelve years on the force in one aspect or another. His parents were very proud of him and often bragged to other members of society about him. It was embarrassing and flattering at the same time. As he moved out of his parents home he thought that he had it made.

Jason had life that he shouldn’t complain about, but it was not like the one he thought he would have as he was growing up. He felt that he was going to have the perfect life. What police officer doesn’t have a perfect life? He figured he would have a wife at home waiting to see if he is going to return safely every night after work and maybe even a child or two as well. This is how his world turned out however. He came home to two cats and a tank full of fish and that was it. Of sure he had had girlfriends while on the force, but none of them wanted to have to wonder if the phone would ring to tell them that the man that they were with was not going to be coming home again.

He loved his cats Socrates and Plato, but they were not the same as a human to come home to yet he did at least have someone to come home to. He had named his cats after his two favorite philosophers. He felt that if he named them esteemed names that they would not be as stupid of cats as the ones that he had had while growing up. The unfortunate thing was that it didn’t happen that way. If possible, it appeared that by naming them these revered names they had actually decided to dumb down their own names. There were many time when he would come home, only to find them stuck with their heads in the backs of the kitchen chairs. They were just stupid, but they were the only family that he had. At least he had someone to come home to and tell about his day. He would hold them and tell them about his day and then they would run off and act as if he had just tried to kill him.

Before he became the Chief of Police, he had worked as a beat officer for seven years. He had loved being on the streets. Getting to know the people of the street and being able to find informants. It was not easy to then move up to the role of Chief when the people of the streets saw it as a slap on the face. They thought that he was giving up on them and trying to get the higher powers that be to like him better. He no longer had the connections with the people he had had previously and this killed him. He had tried to get back to the streets, when the bureaucracy of the office would allow him to, so that the people would realize that they could still relate to him. It just didn’t seem to make that much of a difference. They had a set opinion of him and there was nothing that he could do to change that. They saw him as a traitor. There was really nothing that he could do except to except it and move on with his job.

When ‘El Diablo’ first reared his ugly head in Grangeville he could not believe that it was happening while under his watch. He believed that he knew who was causing all of the problems because he had been warned that something like this was going to happen while he was on the streets. A young man, George Hawkins, had been a known gang member and had not really done anything that bad when he ran into Officer Roberts. He was caught stealing a carton of cigarettes from the 7-11 downtown. Roberts just happen to be on patrol when Hawkins came running out of the convenience store. Roberts got out of his patrol car and caught him. Because he was a known gang member this arrest put him away for a minimum of five years.

As George Hawkins was being booked at the police station, he kept stating that something bad was going to happen on day in the streets. He would mutter to himself, saying, “It is going to happen. The devil will not rest until he has cleansed the earth of the corrupt. Just you wait until that time comes, it will be worse than anything you have ever seen.” Roberts didn’t know what to think. For all he knew Hawkins was high on some sort of drug and was not in his right mind. It was often hard to know if what an offender was saying held any merit or not. Unfortunately, it was often after the booking that it would become clear if they were under the influence or not.

It was not until four weeks earlier that Jason remembered George Hawkins. He did some research as to where he was and found out that Hawkins had been released from prison just two months ago and his parole officer could not find him. This was not a good thing. ‘El Diablo’ had already killed three innocent members of society. The three victims had nothing in common except for the fact that they were all wealthy. It did not seem that they knew each other or ran in the same social circle. If the murderer kept to his pattern that he had used so far, he was due to hit again in about four days. That was why it was so important that he got his task force together.

Now that he had Grace Winters on his team, he had the entire task force. It was going to include himself, Grace, William Young, a new detective who had been assigned the case, and Veronica Moore, the local D.A. who would prosecute ‘El Diablo’ if he was ever caught. He hoped that by having his group together that they would be able to pool their resources together and catch this monster. Jason was not looking forward to having to tell the people that the madman had struck again. There was only one way that they knew that the murders were all interconnected; the killer always drew a devil’s head with horns in charcoal next to each of the bodies. It was his calling card. Now all they needed to do was stop him before he struck again.

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Chapter 5

Grace had not lead an easy life. It was not easy to be raised by a single mother and also to have to take on all the responsibilities that were expected of her. She often felt that she had been jilted out of a childhood. As far back as she could remember, she was always expected to help around the house. It had not been fun, but she did realize that it was expected of her. Grace never openly complained to her mom because she feared the wrath that her mom might bring down upon her. Her mom had not been a bad person, but rather a woman that was constantly stressed.

Her mom had had to work two jobs just to keep them in the home that they had. Granted it had only been Grace and her mom, but she wanted to be able to provide the home for Grace that she had started her life off in. Grace believes that it was more likely that her mom did not want to give up the home because of the memories that she had of her husband in the home. Grace’s father had been diagnosed with lung cancer even though he had not smoked a day in his life. It was not only three months after he had gotten his diagnosis that he died. Her mom had often told her that the only thing that kept her going those first few months was knowing that she was going to be having her. She often told Grace, “You saved my life. Without you I don’t know what I would have done.”

The house that she had grown up in wasn’t much but it was home. That is why it had meant so much to Grace when her mother had given it to her on her 21st birthday. It was the best thing that she could have ever gotten from her mother. Even though she had been embarrassed to bring her friends over while growing up, she loved this house. It was her project to fix it up and to make it a place that still held memories but also was the style that she liked. Her life did not go the way she thought that it would be that was okay.

Grace was in constant amazement of how her life has turned out with all the struggles that she feels that she had growing up. She has had her own business now for 4 years and has been able to be successful at it. She is not always sure that her life was as hard as it could have been, but it was not easy in her eyes at all. Here she was a 29 year old woman, with her own private practice, a crazy Dalmatian at home who believes he owns the place, a home that finally feels like her own, and she has just been asked by the Chief of Police, Jason Roberts, to help on a major case. It would appear that everything was finally starting to work out for her. She was happier than she had been even earlier today.

When Amalia walked into work, Grace let her know what was going on. “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that he came here, to our office and spoke to you,” Amalia had said. She was just as surprised as Grace was by their luck. It was so amazing that this was all working out the way that it was. There were a few loose ends that Grace needed to tighten up but that shouldn’t take too long, at least she hoped that they wouldn’t. With the help of Amalia, she was able to contact the young woman who was having her watch her boyfriend to see if he was taking a second job and hiding money from her. This was the only contract that she was currently working on so that was easy enough.

She sure was going to be glad to have that case behind her. She was sick and tired of sitting outside the bowling alley where he worked just to see him hang out after work talking to the boys. The amazing thing was that his girlfriend refused to let the idea go. Grace had been following this young man for 3 weeks and nothing had come of it. It was getting frustrating and she was looking forward to having the entire case put in the case closed file.

During the next two days, Grace kept wondering when Jason was going to be returning to her office. She made sure that it was straightened up and that everything seemed to be in place. It was almost as if she was trying to impress him. Well maybe she was, but not in a conscious manner. She just wanted to make sure that she made a good impression upon him when he returned. She had been so unprepared the first time that it was important to her to make sure that it didn’t happen again. That she was ready.

On Wednesday, as she was driving up to the office, Jason was already waiting for her. He did not look happy. She was surprised to see him there and was afraid of what he might have to say. She parked her car and put some lotion on her hands, so they would be smooth to the touch. As she started to get out of the car, he was already walking towards her. “This can’t be good,” thought Grace.

“Hi there Jason, “ she said with a gleam of happiness.

“Morning, Grace. We don’t have lots of time, so can you get whatever you need from the office and follow me downtown.”

“Sure, not a problem at all, just gives me about five minutes and I should be ready.”

She inserted her key into the front door and walked into her office. She was not prepared and she was not sure what she was going to need, but she got a tablet of paper and a few different pens and a highlighter. She really hoped that she had everything together that she was going to need for whatever was coming her way today. She left a note for Amalia. “I will not be in today. Just come in and lock the door behind you. I will contact you after my initial meeting and I will let you know what I need from you.” She hoped that she would read the note and realize that she needed to stay in the office and not try to go out and do whatever it was that she normally did. She locked the door behind her.

“Okay, I’m ready. Where are we going?” she asked.

“Just follow me downtown. I will tell the guards to let you park in the parking garage under the station. Let’s go, we don’t have a lot of time.”

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Chapter 6

It was quite exciting to realize that she was going to be part of the investigation and the process in which to catch "El Diablo". This menace has been taking apart their city for long enough and it was time that it came to an end. It was a great honor to be asked by the Chief of Police to be part of his task force. Grace could not wait to find out who else was going to part of the team. She knew that whoever was on the team would be highly esteemed by the rest of the society, otherwise Jason would not have chosen them.
As she got closer to the police station, her heart started to race. This was really happening. She couldn’t believe that her dreams were actually come true. She could not believe that all the work that she had put in to make sure that she was well known had not worked. It would appear that it was because of her not being noteworthy that she had been chosen to work so closely on this case. She had almost had the chance to work with the police two years ago when a case that she was working on turned in a manner that no one had expected or had seen.

She had been trying to find Teresa Hardwick, 16, who was a runaway; at least that is how it appeared to her parents and all of those who were involved in the case. It had seemed that it was going to be an open and shut case. It was about two days into the investigation that the ransom note appeared on the door step of Grace’s office. It stated that if they wanted to see Teresa again alive that they needed to drop all search efforts and leave well enough alone. The next morning, Grace had turned this information over to the police and Teresa returned home, only to admit that she had written the note herself to try to get out of being in trouble with her parents. She thought that if she had been kidnaped and then returned home that her parents would not be as angry at her.

It all worked out for the best, but Grace was not allowed to have the big career break that she had been hoping for. She was glad that the case had been resolved but she had wanted to work hand in hand with the police department and it just did not work out that way. It had been a disappointment to her because of all the hard work that she had put into the case. She always gave her all in every case that she was given. She knew that someday her card would be chosen and it would appear that "El Diablo" had been the one to choose her card.

After she had parked her car, Grace noticed that Jason was waiting for her. What a gentleman he is, waiting for me like this. She could not get over how handsome he looked. "I know that I shouldn’t be looking at the Chief of Police like this," she thought, "but how can I not when he is looking like that." Jason had on a simple gray suit with a white shirt underneath, nothing too fancy but it did the job. He could have just told me where to meet everyone and I could have found my way. She quickened her step to get to his side as soon as possible. He handed her a badge and told her that she would probably have to go through a search before she was allowed into the station. "It’s station policy, you know," he stated, with a gleam in his eye. She blushed.

When they arrived to the front of the police station, he walked through the metal detectors and they asked her to open her purse so they could examine the contents. She thought that this was a bit excessive, but she also understood. Nearly six months earlier, a mad man had entered into the police station and had taken it hostage. He was not all that smart because he had not realized that there was a back entrance and everyone but the three officers that he had first seen were able to get out before he even realized that there were more people in the station house. Ever since then, the station house had tightened their security.

Jason then escorted Grace into one of the conference rooms upstairs. She quickly recognized the faces around her. William Young was an up and coming detective that was well liked by all those around him and Veronica Moore was a very well known D.A. It was amazing to her to realize that she was surrounded by people that she had looked up to as top people in their professions. She was very excited to be within the walls that contained such a wonderful group of people. She knew that together they were going to find and take down "El Diablo." This was going to be an adventure unlike any other that she had been part of.

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Chapter 7

As the harvest moon started to rise over the crest of the mountains, “El Diablo” was busy planning his next attack. He could not believe that he was still able to run and hide from the police so well. He had already killed three times and they did not appear to be any closer to figuring out who he was. Every night after the “cleansing of the wicked” he would wait until the body was found. He liked the exhilarating feeling knowing that he was so close and yet no one was able to figure out who he was. He was actually able to see what the investigators were looking for and make sure that he did not leave anything behind that would tie him to the ritual that he had completed. Of course, the public did not see what he was doing as something right. They saw it as a crime against the innocent. If only they could see it though his eyes, then they would know why it had to be done; then they would understand him fully and applaud him for his efforts.

He knew many of the key players in the investigation on a personal level; at least he felt that he knew them. He had an unnatural need to know all of the people who were going to be involved in his life. Even though he did not want to have these people in his life, they were a necessity, without them no one would be able to hear his voice. He had watched the way that the Chief of Police was acting around the television reporters. Chief Roberts was acting as if it was a normal day on the job. He did not want to appear as if he did not have the situation under control. Of course, “El Diablo” knew that he did not have anything under control. There was no way for him to anticipate when or where or who the next attack was going to be upon. Once Chief Roberts figured out that this was not simply a murder case but rather a cleansing ritual maybe he would be able to get everything under control.

Roger had not always been a vengeful man. He had been well liked in high school and looked up to while he played on the football team. He was not the best player but he did help his team to victory on a few occasions. He did not have any girlfriends in high school but he didn’t really want any. Who had time to deal with girls who only wanted to go out with the jocks of the school? Of course, he was a jock but not like any of the others. He could feel that they felt sorry for him. Yes, he was a good player but yet he was nothing like the other players. So what had happen to him? After high school, he just could not find his niche. He attempted to attend college but that just didn’t fit him well. He did not like the conformity that it tried to place upon him. He did not like to be told what to do. He knew that he had an important role to complete during his lifetime and it was just a matter of time before it was reveled to him.

When he turned 22, he finally realized what he was meant to do with his life. He was sick and tired of everyone thinking that they were better than he was. Just because he did not fit into the mold that everyone expected him to be in. It angered him. Why did anyone have to be like someone else? Wasn’t it okay that he was his own person? Of course he wasn’t like the rest, none of them had a mission that they needed to carry though before they reached 30, he did. No one had the right to tell him what he could or could not do; where or where not to be. He was his own person and he was tired of everyone telling him that he was not good enough. If the role that he was to take on for the rest of his life was important enough to be delivered directly to him, though a dream, then he didn’t care what the rest of the world thought. He was important and they would soon all realize it.

At first he only thought about killing people, he did not expect to be able to actually act upon it. He wanted to make the world a better place for people like him, people who were eccentric. He liked that word, eccentric, it fit him well. He was not weird or strange or abnormal, he was eccentric. He would dream of what the world would be like without people thinking that they were better than others. Then the rest of the world would be who they were and not try to be someone that they were not. He thought that he was going a little crazy when he first started to make a list of people that he wanted to take out of the world. He wanted to wanted to cleanse every bad part of society so it would be perfect for everyone else that was still around to enjoy it, him included. He had to make sure that no one found it or knew what it was about.

He had had a scare when his mother had found the list about six months ago. He thought for sure that he was going to be caught. But she just thought that it was a list of people that he wanted to meet in his lifetime. She told him that she thought it was cute that he wanted to get to know so many famous people. She even had the audacity to tell him that she thought that if he got to know these famous people, maybe he would make something of himself. It was then that he had to add her name to the list. She was going to have to be one of the final “acts of cleansing” that was completed because it was going to hit home. They might actually be able to figure out who he was if he took her out of the picture too soon. He looked at his list on a daily basis to figure out who would be the next to be “cleansed.”

It was not that he was angry at those that he killed, but rather that he did not like what they were doing to the society as a whole. They were corrupting those around them and also others in the world. They did not look outside their own little world and see the impact that they had on others. This is what so upset him. How could people be so shallow to think that what they did would not impact others? He hoped that by bringing to light all of their transgressions forward that others would realize the errors in their ways and would change. The hard part was making people see the transgressions of “the wicked” instead of having them just reminisce about all the good things that they had done in their lives. He was going to have to change the way in which he left the bodies. They were not seeing what they needed to see.

Instead everyone was focused on the positive aspects of the victim’s lives. He was so feed up with the way that the media was handling this situation. He felt that this next “cleansing” might make them realize what was going on. He was going to leave a note explaining what had gone wrong in her life. Maybe then they would start realizing that he was not just doing this to be mean, but rather to do them all a favor. He had the perfect victim to “cleanse”; he was sure that no one was going to expect him to go after; he was going after Becky Newman who was constantly reporting the crimes. She always appeared to be shocked by the newest victim. How could she be shocked; it was so obvious why he was choosing who he was choosing? Maybe after he made an example out of her, the rest of the world would see what he was truly doing. He could not wait to see the fear in her eyes, when she realized that she no longer was going to be reporting the news, but instead was going to be the news herself. He knew that he had to act quickly because he did not want the police to get the upper hand; he liked to be in control and he planned on keeping it that way.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Chapter 8

William Young and Veronica Moore were waiting patiently for Chief Roberts and Grace to arrive. They had been waiting for about fifteen minutes before they finally had arrived. The two of them had not worked together before but they knew who each other was. It is always uncomfortable to be sitting with someone who you don’t really know. William did not want to have people ask him about where he had come from. He would always tell them that he was from Chicago and just wanted a change of pace of life but that was not entirely true.

William had been a detective with the Grangeville Police Department for only six months but he already had a reputation of being hardcore. He would not put up with anything or anyone for any reason. He wanted everyone to know that he meant business. It was hard to move to a new town where no one knows you. He had moved from Chicago to restart his life. He didn’t want to have to remember what had happened to him in his other life. No one needed to know about that.

At the age of 24, he had already suffered greater losses than a person should in their lifetime. He was raised by his grandmother because his mother had been unable to take care of him. She had been a teenage mother and never really wanted to have him. His was grateful that his grandmother had taken care of him, without her he did not think that he would be the man that he was now. He had grown up in a well to do neighborhood but never knew that his grandmother had money. She always made him have a good work ethic so that he would always work hard. He was glad that she had raised him that way.

When he was 19 he had fallen in love with the girl of his dreams. They had so many plans but he wanted to make sure that he had a stable job before they settled down. There was just something about her that made him realize that he was going to be happy with her. When he first met her she was a nurse at the local hospital. He had come to the hospital with his partner who had gotten shot in the leg while chasing an offender. It was not life-threatening but he knew he should be there to support him. She had caught his fancy from the very beginning. He told his partner that she was going to be his wife someday. His partner had just laughed and told him he would wait to see if it was true.

Two years later, Sarah and William were engaged to be married. It was two weeks after the engagement party that everything started to go downhill. Sarah had been on her way to a party when a stray bullet pierced the windshield of her car and lodged in her head. She had been rushed to the same hospital that she worked at, but the prognosis was not good. There was swelling on her brain and the doctors did everything possible that they could for her. She was on life support for 3 weeks before her family came to the understanding that there was nothing that could be done to help her and they let her go. It was nothing that he would ever want to go through again.

It was from this incident that William decided to move to Grangeville and join up with their police department. He wanted a new life and he had found it here. No one knew where he came from or what his previous life had been like, and he wanted to keep it that way. Small town life was just the thing that he needed. He was grateful to have found a town that had an opening in their police department and quickly moved to start his life over. This case was going to be his opportunity to show everyone what a brilliant detective he was.

As William and Veronica sat in the conference room, they both were pleased to see Grace and Chief Roberts come through the door. They both knew that it was going to be time for them to buckle down and figure out what everyone’s role was going to be during this investigation. It was obvious that everyone in the room was anxious to start the process and to try to figure out how they were going to find the person who was causing so much confusion among the inhabitants of Grangeville.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Chapter 9

With everyone gathered for the meeting Jason Roberts felt confident that he had selected the best people for the investigation. It was not going to be an easy task and it was also not one for the faint of heart. The tasks that they needed to complete were lengthy. They needed to be done quickly so that they would be efficient with their time. There was going to have to be visits to the morgue to see the autopsy photos and reports to see what consistencies could be found between the cases, and there was also the possibility of having to go on to the scene of the next crime if the person who was committing these heinous crimes was not found first. It is always hard to work on a case that there is no pattern. Of course, there is always a pattern of some sort or another. It is just a matter of finding that pattern and then using that information to the best of your ablility.

Jason was very proud of the fact that he had thought to include Grace into the mix of people. Of course it didn’t hurt that she was easy on the eyes and to the ears. She had an uncanny way of putting a person at ease without them realizing it. She had an interview technique that could be matched by no other. She was a no nonsense type of woman who would always get the answers that were needed to be gotten however, the interviewee would not know what they were giving up the answers. She could coerce just about anyone to give up the information that they were withholding and that is what he needed.

Once everyone was seated and the introductions had been made around the room, the real reason why they were there was put out on the table. The introductions went very smoothly as William and Veronica had already been waiting some time before Grace and Jason arrived. It was now time for them to get down to business. There was a person who was terrorizing their town and it was going to be up to them to find out who this person was. They also wanted to find out how they could stop them from doing it again. This did not appear to be an easy task as there was not real evident pattern to their behavior. If there was some sort of pattern, Jason was sure that Grace was going to be able to find it.

The police who had gone on all three murder scene calls were not sure but they believed that it was a crime committed by a male. They were not one hundred percent certain but it would seem consistent with the behavior that they were seeing. It was erratic and there was passion behind the killing. The murders had been horrendous and were not done in a manner in which to give the victims any chance to get out of the way of their murderer. There appeared in the initial reports that there had been no defensive wounds on any of the victims but that would be the responsibility of the person who was chosen to go down to the morgue. They were going to have to find out as much information as they possibly could.

“The reason why we are all here is quite apparent to all of us, I am sure,” state Jason. He could actually feel tears welling up. He did not want to show weakness or any emotions yet. “We are here to figure out what all of our talents are going to be and how to best use them to crack this case. As you all know we have been working on this case for over a month and ‘El Diablo’ has already struck three times.”

It was apparent to Grace that this truly pained Jason. “El Diablo” was almost taunting him. She could see it written all over his face. She could not figure out why this case was hitting so hard for him, but there had to be a reason. The more that Jason spoke about the case, Grace realized that he was truly passionate about this. Not that it was important to her as to why it was so personal for him, but it did strike her as strange. It just caused the mystery to enshroud him even more.

“Grace and Vanessa I would like to see the two of you take the bull by the horns and speak to the family members of the victims. I believe that Grace will have a way with them and that you will make them feel comfortable and yet able to speak to you at the same time. William, you and I are going to go to the crime scene and talk to the people around the streets. Maybe they have seen something that they have not been willing to express before. If we are not successful we might bring Grace in with us to see what she can do. I believe that if we work in teams of two we will be able to get to the end of this quickly.”

Grace raised her hand. “Yes, Grace did you have something to add?” Jason asked, with a raised eyebrow. “Umm, I was wondering if there is any way that I could look at the case files before I tried to meet with the victim’s family. I always like to feel like I already know who I am speaking to so that I can put them at ease.” Grace smiled hoping that it did not seem to assuming that she would get to see the case files. I always feel better if I am able to know where the people are coming from. Everyone has a skeleton in their closet and it was best to know about it before she spoke to them so she made sure not to bring that up right at the first chance.

She had always made a point of getting to know who she was working with, family wise. She did not want to seem like she didn’t know who they were. It did not always work in her favor however. There had been the one time with the Grey family, that she had gotten a bit too personal and spilled the beans that the husband had a second family and that it had been there that he had been spending all of his extra time. Grace had taken that as a learning experience and made sure that it never happened again. It was a good thing to get to know the families but it was not a good idea to find out about all of their dirty little secrets.

Grace looked up at Jason and realized that he must have asked her a question because he was waiting for an answer. “I’m so sorry Chief Roberts; I was thinking about something else, could you repeat your question.”

“Not a problem at all, Grace,” Jason smiled. “I wanted to know if you would want to look at them today or if you wanted to meet with Vanessa first?”

“Well if it is all the same with Vanessa, I would love to look over them today by myself and maybe meet after dinner tonight to discuss what we should do from there. Is that okay with you Vanessa?” Vanessa looked a little bit shocked, “Sure, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. Maybe I will just call the families and set up times to meet with them. Would that be okay with you Grace?” Vanessa looked very smugly. “That would be wonderful Vanessa. I will meet you back here at let’s say 6:30.” “Perfect,” Vanessa snapped.

It would appear as if everything was starting to fall into place. Grace was looking forward to working so close to everyone else and to also be able to showcase her expertise. It was not every day that a young P.I. was given the chance to work hand in hand with the police department. She looked over at Jason and realized that he was deep in thought. She really hoped that she would get a chance to work closer to him. There was something about him that kept her wanting to come back for more. She was not sure what it was, but she was going to find out.

Jason looked around the room to make sure that everyone understood how important this was to him. Did they realize that there was something about this case that was eating him up on the inside? He truly hoped that they could not see it because then they would know what his true motive was with this case. It is never easy to have one of your close, personal friends die, let alone be murdered by a mad man. I can’t believe that I was not able to keep her safe; she had depended upon me to make sure that she was safe. She knew that something was coming after her but she could not express it fully to him. Why couldn’t he do more? Hopefully this taskforce would be able to help him bring this monster to justice and the murders would stop.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Chapter 10

When Roger had come upon Becky Newsome she did not know what had happened. He had found out where she lived and followed her to the gym. He knew that she always did the same thing at the same time every day. She was a creature of habit and it was that that was going to cause her downfall.

As Becky went to the gym, on that Monday, he was waiting for her. He was standing by the door and opened it for her. As she walked by, he whispered, “I have some information that might give you a lead to the “El Diablo” case.” At hearing this, Becky turned around and faced him.

“Really, I could really use that. I hate not knowing anything and the police are not giving out any information.”

“Oh if you come with me and have a cup of coffee with me, I will tell you all that you want to know. I will let you ask questions and I will tell you all that I know. Now I won’t tell you how I know this information, but I will tell you everything you have ever wanted to know.”

Becky could not believe her good fortune. She knew that if she came into the news station with information that no one else knew, she would be assured to win the Best Newscaster of the Year award. This was something that she had been trying to achieve for so long. She could not believe her good fortune. She really didn’t care who this person was, as long as they could help her achieve her goal.

“Of course, I would love to have a cup of coffee. There is a coffee shop just around the corner. I will meet you there.”

“Oh I hate the coffee there. I know the perfect place. Why don’t you just come with me? I promise you that I am completely harmless. I will take you to the coffee shop and then when we are done with the interview, I will bring you back here. It shouldn’t take more than a half hour.”

Becky wasn’t sure, but she did not want to take the risk that he would leave and not give her the information that she so desperately need. “That would be perfect. Let me get my pad of paper and my recorder from my car. You can bring your car over and I will be right there.”

Roger thought that this was too easy. How could she so willing jump into his car? He didn’t really care, as long as he was able to get his next victim within his car. He made sure that the vinyl seat cover was completely covering the seat. That was the one thing that he could not stand, having another person’s body against his car seat. It was his only worldly possession that he would die for.

When Becky got into Roger’s car, she would never imagine that she was going to become “El Diablo’s” next victim. He asked her if she had any tattoos. He already knew the answer, but he wanted to make sure that she had it. She did, it was on her right ankle just like everyone else that he had “cleansed.” He told her that he was glad that she had it because it meant that she would be the next person that he would be “cleansing.” As soon as Becky heard this, she knew that she was no longer just a reporter of the crimes but now she would be playing the staring role in her own news report; not as reporter but as the victim of the biggest crime in Grangeville history.

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Chapter 11

She knew that everyone had a great work ethic but she had expected some laughter or joking while having their first meeting. She was use to a much more relaxed setting and that is why she had asked to have some time alone with the case files. She did not like the uppity attitude that she could sense from Veronica. She did not appear to have much of a personality at all. Maybe that was why she was such a hard nose in the courtroom. She didn’t know how to have fun so therefore she was all business and nothing else. How boring was that?

Once the officer had brought up all of the case files, Grace just sat there and tried to figure out where to begin. She didn’t know if she should start with the first victim or if she should look at all of them briefly and then try to decide who was going to be the best family to begin with. It is always hard to get a true sense of a person by paper alone, but it was that entire she had at this point and time. She was going to have to use her best instincts on what a person was truly like by just looking at the files. It has always worked best for her to use her instincts. So far they had not let her down and she certainly hoped that it would not start to now that she was working on a really big case. She wanted to show that she could play with the big boys.

While looking through Vincent Ramos files she was surprised to find that there did not appear to be anything of value within it. It appeared that the first victim’s family had not even been interviewed, or if they had there was nothing in the files that indicated that. Grace felt that it was very strange that the next of kin would not be contacted and at least given a basic interview, because they could give the police at least an insight into the victim’s life. The police had gone to Vincent’s up scaled apartment, where he lived alone, and had found nothing of consequence. They found out that his parents live in New York, but the police had not even picked up the phone and did a phone interview.

Grace opened up her notebook and made a point that the first thing that needed to be done was a trip to New York. By getting to know the victim’s family it can often be a window into the victim’s life before they became a victim. She was not sure if it was possible that the police had not followed through with talking to his family. She picked up the phone to call Vincent’s family and then changed her mind. She thought that she might want to speak with Veronica about this before going forward. She wanted to at least make it look like she was looking forward to working with her.

After looking through all of the case files, Grace decided that she was going to focus on the first victim, Vincent Ramos. She wanted to see what is life was like. If that meant that she needed to take a trip to New York then so be it. She really didn’t want to have to travel, but if the police department had not done a complete job on their end then it was up to her to complete it. She did not want to accuse them of negligence until she knew for sure, however there seemed to be quite a few segments of the investigation that had not been completed. It was up to her to find out what was going on.

When Veronica arrived, Grace was ready for her. She had all of the notes that she had taken on each of the cases planned out and organized. She even had them photocopied so she would have her own copies. Veronica was pleasantly surprised. She had not liked the fact that the Chief had asked her to work with Grace. Grace did not have the same style of investigative practices as she herself did. She was afraid that the two of them were going to butt heads. Then to make matters worse, Grace had asked to work by herself before meeting with Veronica. Who did she think she was coming into a set group of people who were use to working together, at least at some point and time during a case, and acting like she owned the place? She was the one that was supposed to be trying to fit in, not running the whole show.

Veronica was use to working by herself. As an only child, she was not use to having to share the spotlight with anyone else. She did not like it when people came in and tried to steal her thunder. She was a smart, attractive woman and she knew it. No one had to tell her that she could be on the cover of any of the glamour magazines if she wanted to be; it just wasn’t her style. She did not want to be out there for all to look at. She liked to be known but not looked at all the time. It often killed her when she had to put on the show in the courtroom as the woman who knew everything. She always made sure that she knew what she needed to know before she went in for her day in court. She hated to be hit by surprises. She had a feeling that this case was going to be one that she was not going to have total control over and she did not like it one bit.

“Hey there Veronica,” Grace said, trying to sound excited that she was back; secretly she was upset but what could she do.

“Hello Grace. How has the work been going? Did you find out anything that is of real consequence with this case?

“Actually, I have.” Grace could see the look of surprise on Veronica’s face. “I realized that in Vincent Ramo’s case no one seemed to have met with his parents in New York. Now I know that they live a far ways away but there does not appear to even have been a phone interview conducted. Before I go accusing anyone of not doing their jobs, I would like to go up to New York and met with them. Let me take that back, I would like both of us to go up there.”

Veronica looked surprised. She had not expected that Grace would be this thorough with what had been given to her. “I can see that you have taken the bull by the horns and that you really want to do this case justice. I would agree with you that we could interview the family but I do not think it is necessary for us to travel all the way to New York. I believe that it is just as effective if we conduct the interview over the phone.”

“I would have to disagree with you. A person can lie through their teeth over the phone but when they are eye to eye with you, it is a lot harder. I want to make it hard for them to lie. I want them to tell us everything that they know about Vincent’s life so we can find out if there is anything that we should know. I believe that there is an unmentionable past that we have not found out about, and I am hoping his family and friends can do that for us.”

Veronica could not believe that Grace was being so forceful. She had not seemed like that sort of person, from what she had seen before. She was actually pleased to see that she was acting like this, because it meant that she was not willing to put up with anything that was not going to be harmful to the case. It was proving to her that she meant business and was willing to do whatever it took to get the job done.

By the time Grace had filled Veronica in on the case, the decision was made to go ahead and call Vincent’s family and plan a trip to New York. Both of the women were not looking too forward to it, but Grace hoped that it would help her and Veronica to feel closer to each other. Who knew, maybe by the end of this case they could actually consider each other friends. She was not going to push for that, but it would be nice if that happened.

The call was placed and the plane tickets purchased for both of the women. They would be leaving in the morning and meeting with the Ramo’s family at 9:30 in the morning. The hope was that they would be able to take the return flight later on in the late afternoon. There were two other victim’s families to contact and they wanted to make sure that they were making the best use of their time. It is not always easy to manage time when working with the living as they tend to have other things to do as well. Hopefully everything would go as planned and they would be able to have something to show for all of their hard work.

Their day would begin early the next morning, so it was determined that it would be best for them to call it a night and get some rest. They were going to be quite busy in the morning and they both wanted to be able to put their best foot forward. They were both going to compile questions that they felt would be important to ask the family and then they would collaborate in the morning during their flight. The women said good night to each other and went their separate ways. The search for the connection between the victims of “El Diablo” was started, and it was not going to be an easy road ahead.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chapter 12

Walking towards her car, Grace had a hundred different thoughts running through her head; what if the interview did not go the way she thought it would, what if there was a reason that the police had not interviewed his parents. There were all kinds of unanswered questions. It was going to be up to her and Veronica to find out what those questions were and to seek out the answers. It was not always easy for her to come up with questions before an interview. She always liked to have a conversation with another person rather than having a bunch of questions that needed to be answered. That always felt so cold and clinical and she did not want to have that type of an interview with a victim’s family.

On the drive back to her place, Grace had AC/DC blaring on the radio. She always thought more clearly when she could not hear herself talk. For some reason the heavy metal music was soothing to her. It helped to block out the sounds of other things and allowed her to focus on whatever she needed to think about. Today she needed to focus on what was going on in Vincent Ramos’s life when he was killed. What made him a target for “El Diablo?” Was there a clear cut reason or was it just a random act of violence. If it had been the one and only murder by this monster it could have been seen as a random act, but there were now two other victims and there had to be some sort of pattern to their murders.

The hard part of all of this was coming into the investigation while it was on going instead of at the beginning. Grace could not understand what had caused Jason to feel as if this task force was necessary. Yes he had said that he wanted to catch the murderer, but isn’t that what the police are there for. There had to be another reason behind him wanting to gather everyone. She realized that she did not need to focus on the reason why but rather the focus needed to be on finding out as much about each victim as she possibly could.

When she arrived home, Big Ben was waiting at the front door for her. “You want to go outside, big boy? Have you been a good boy for me while I was gone today?” She was greeted by a wagging tail and a gentle bark. “Why is it that I truly believe that one of these days you are going to look up to me and just start talking to me?” She chuckled to herself to think that the only one that she had for company was her dog and she was fine with that. Of course, she would have loved to have someone to come home to but she had settled into her routine and it was fine with her.

After letting Big Ben outside, she looked into her refrigerator and found that she had nothing to make for dinner. She decided to call the local Thai restaurant and have them deliver some Pad Thai to her house. She was told that it would be about thirty minutes before her food would arrive so she decided to jump into the shower. She figured that the sooner she got all of the stuff done that she needed to do before leaving in the morning, the more time she would have to think about the interview and how she wanted to conduct it.

As she got out of the shower, she heard Big Ben barking at the front door. She thought that the food had arrived earlier than expected, so she threw on a pair of sweats, got her checkbook, and ran to the front door. She was surprised when she opened the door and did not see the delivery man but instead Jason Roberts. She was taken back.

“Hello, Chief Roberts, I was not expecting to see you here.”

“Grace, call me Jason, you know that. I know that this is unexpected, but I was wondering if I could speak to you about what you found out today.”

“Of course, come right on in.” Grace stepped aside and then realized that the sweats that she had put on had a huge coffee stain on the front. She could not believe that she had so hastily put on her clothes. She wasn’t expecting any visitors and now she had the handsome Chief of Police in her living room.

“Can I get you something to drink? I have water, orange juice, and milk. Sorry I have not made it to the store lately; I was going to go when I got back from New York.”

“That is fine Grace. I will take a glass of water, if it isn’t too much trouble.”

She went into the kitchen and got a glass and filled it with ice and water. She hoped that Big Ben would behave himself. He did not always do too well with visitors, as she didn’t have that many. When she went back out into the living room she realized that she had nothing to worry about. Jason was sitting very comfortably on the couch and Big Ben was laying next to him with his head on Jason’s lap.

“Here is your water, Jason. You know I have never seen Big Ben like that before. He is usually quite hyper.”

“I have my way with dogs. For some odd reason, they all seem to like me. I am not sure why, but it does help out in the field at times.” He smiled at her and seemed quite relaxed.

“I would offer you something to eat, but I had to order take out myself. When it gets here I would be more than willing to split it with you.”

“Oh, I don’t think that I will be here that long. I just want to know what your thought process is with the case files that you looked through today.”

“When I started looking through the files,” Grace started, taking a seat across from Jason, “I noticed that there were no interviews with any of the victim’s family members. I found this to be quite unusually since I generally want to get to know my victim’s family before I start an investigation. Maybe the police do things differently that I would do in my private practice but it seemed odd.”

Jason looked as if she had just hit him over the head with a frying pan. She wondered if this was news to him. Had he not looked through the files himself to see what had been done so far? It was pretty obvious to Grace that there had been some lack of communication somewhere and she did not know where to begin.

“I know that the lead investigator on this case has been a bit overworked. I don’t think that he thought that it was all that important as all of the victims were not originally from the Grangeville area. He had told me that their lives outside of our town would not be something of great importance. He did tell me that he would try to find time to go and interview them, if he ever had a spare moment.”

“You see,” Grace interrupted, “I think that it is very important for the family to be interviewed. I do that on any case, but I would think that in a murder investigation that it would take a top priority.”

“I understand where you are coming from, Grace, however it is not always possible for everything to be done the way that you would in a small, private practice.” Jason looked up at her and hoped that he realized where she was coming from. She was a very intellectual woman and he hoped that she would be bringing her intelligence to the task force. That was something that he was wanting when he sought her out.

“I would think that that would be something that you would want to see happen as the Chief of Police; that you would want to make everyone feel at ease with the police department. It is not always a public office that is viewed in a great light. In fact, I know many people that would come and seek me out before they came to you for that one reason. They know that I care about them and their family and not just about the case.”

Jason smiled; he could tell that she was doing exactly what he had wanted her to do. She was thinking about how to improve the police department. He had heard that she would like to work hand in hand with the police department at some point and time and it would appear that now as the best time that he could have brought her into the fold. She was a real spitfire and he was looking forward to seeing what she could do.

“You are complete right, Grace, and that is why I have put you on this case. I feel that the police department has lost its human touch and I am hoping that you will be able to bring it back. I am not talking just on this case, but on future cases as well. You have a very successful practice and I have noticed that people go to you before they will come to the station. That is why I have brought you on to this case.”

Grace was shocked. She knew that there was a reason why she had been asked to work on this case but she had not expected this. She knew that she had a successful practice but she did not realize that she had been looked at by the Chief of Police. She was both happy and a little scared that she had been looked at without her knowing. She thought that there was some other reason that she had been asked onto the task force, but she was ecstatic to know that he knew about her work and had taken that into consideration when he asked her to work on this case. This was going to work out better than she had ever expected.

“I am quite flattered and I hope that I don’t let you down. I am working very hard on this case and I am taking it upon myself to find out who and why “El Diablo” has been terrorizing our town. I think that this best starts with me interview each victim’s family. I know that it is going to be a lengthy process, but I hope to have it completed, with the held of Veronica, in three days.”

“I can respect that Grace and I will do whatever you need me to do to help make the process go quickly,” Jason smiled. He was glad he had come over to visit her tonight and he was not disappointed at all but the fire that he saw in her eyes. She wanted to find this guy as bad as he did.

“Well I would like to thank you for inviting me into your home, but it is time for me to get back to my own home,” he sighed.

“Well the food should be here in a few minutes, if you would like to wait I can share.”

“Maybe some other time, I really need to be heading home. I have a busy day ahead of me and I know you do as well. Thank you for all that you are doing on this case and remember that you can call me whenever you need anything.” He handed her his business card. When she turned it over in her hand, she realized that he had written his personal number on the back.

“Thank you for stopping by Jason,” she smiles as she walked him to the front door, “I will let you know if I need anything.”

“No thank you for everything that you are doing on this case. It means more to me than you will ever know.” He leaned down and gave her a quick peck on the cheek; she blushed.

With that he walked out of the door and passed the delivery man. Grace paid for her food, but she found that she was not even hungry. When she had seen the intensity in Jason’s eyes she had realized that there was more to this case than she had been told. She was going to do whatever it took to help him, and the rest of the task force, solve this case. She just hoped that they were able to receive a break before “El Diablo” struck again.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Chapter 13

When Grace and Veronica met at the airport, it was obvious to both of them that neither one of them had gotten much sleep. They both decided that this case was more important that the sleep that they could get on the flight to New York. As they were waiting for their flight, Veronica decided that it would be best if they shared their interview questions with each other so they could sleep on the flight if they wanted to. Grace could have cared less because she knew that she would not be sleeping. She rarely slept when she was working on a case. There was too much anticipation with each lead that she would get on a case and it would not allow her to sleep; she was always afraid she would miss out on something.

"I think that it is going to be very important for us to bounce questions back and forth between each other, so we know who is going to ask what," Veronica stated.

"I would disagree," Grace quietly said. "You see if you plan out a conversation, then there is no way to let things just happen. If a person knows that you are expecting a conversation to go a certain way, then they are going to be suspicious as to what your agenda is."

"And this is a bad thing?"

"Well of course it is a bad thing. We want this to be a conversation not an interrogation."

“I would disagree with you,” Veronica was now standing and almost yelling at her. “You see, if they think that we are just having a conversation then they might leave out some important information, but if they know that we are there to interrogate them then they will tell us what we need to know.”

Grace sighed, “I would like to know exactly how many victims’ family members have you actually interviewed?”

“Well…..actually none,” she cased down her eyes.

“I have had to interview hundreds of people’s families when I am trying to find out all I can about them. It is not easy and it is simpler if they see it as a conversation then as the police asking them questions. The family tends to feel more at ease if they are not being considered a suspect. Do you understand?” Veronica nodded. Grace did not like to make it seem like she knew it all, but this was her area of expertise. She knew that this was one of the reasons why Jason had asked her to be part of the task force. He knew that she would handle these types of questions with the utmost delicacy; she did not want to let him down. She was grateful to him for allowing her this opportunity.

“I guess you do know what you are talking about Grace. I am sorry that I doubted you at all. Please understand that I am use to working alone and working with just papers and no humans until I get to the courtroom. This is a bit daunting to me.”

“Not a problem at all. I understand completely.”

As if the airlines knew that they had completed what they needed to get done, the boarding call was made and they were allowed to get on the plane. As they got on the plane it was apparent to Grace that the flight was going to be full and the idea of being able to sleep was going to be impossible. There were too many small children flying and that was never a good mix when one is trying to sleep.

Other than the restless children, the flight was uneventful. There was no baggage to be picked up as they were going to be only staying for a brief time; actually they had already booked their return flight for 5:30 that evening. They both hoped that this would be enough time for them to get through the conversation that they were going to have with Vincent Ramo’s parents. They were also hoping to meet with some of his old college buddies but they had not set that up beforehand. They were just going to call them up and see if it was possible.

After picking up their rental car at the airport, they headed down to Soho. When they arrived to the gate of the Ramos’ home, it was apparent that they were very well off. It was amazing to Grace how much people who showcase their wealth. It was almost as if they did not care who knew that they had money; in fact it appeared that they wanted everyone to know that they had it. There were four cars in the driveway; a Lexis, a Mercedes, a H2, and a classic Mustang that had been fully restored.

Veronica and Grace arrived at the top of the driveway; they were greeted by a man. At first Grace thought that it was Mr. Ramos, but she was mistaken; it was the butler. “How can people actually want to work for another people just answering their door,” Grace asked Veronica. Veronica just shook her head. She often wondered the same thing but there wasn’t much that she could do about it. She had been raised by a mother who worked for another family as a maid and it often made her mad that her mom had to be with them on special occasions instead of being with her and her dad.

When they were shown into the house they were both blown away by the enormous space that was in the foyer. They were told to wait there and that Mrs. Ramos would be meeting with them shortly. Grace felt very uncomfortable being placed in a home that did not feel like a home; it was much closer to a museum. There were huge artifacts covering the walls and there were sculptures that were larger than life. It really made her wonder why someone needed to be so showy with their money.

When Mrs. Ramos walked into the foyer both Veronica and Grace were surprised as to how she was dressed. From all of the money that was apparent she appeared out of place. She was wearing a jogging suit that had seen better days. It appeared that she did not care about her appearance and that it did not bother her that she did not seem to fit the part. She told them that they could come into the family’s living room and take a seat where they would be much more comfortable

As they walked into the living room it was a much more homey feeling. They could tell that this was the room that the family spent most of their time. The couch had two Bassett hounds laying on it and it did not appear that they were going to be moving any time soon. As soon as the two women took their seats on the two chairs next to the couch, it was apparent to both of them that this interview was going to be different than any other that the two of them had conducted. Mrs. Ramos had a pad of paper in her hands and told them to please wait as her lawyer was going to be meeting with them in about three minutes. Grace could not figure out why a lawyer was needed at this meeting, as it was routine.

Grace could not have been farther from the truth. This was not going to be a normal interview. There were defiantly some skeletons in the closet and it would appear as if they were going to be rearing their ugly heads early on in the process. Grace wondered if her technique was going to work with this woman or if she should have had Veronica deal with it. It was going to have to be done off the cuff and it was not going to be easy. Grace just hoped that Veronica was up to the challenge if need be.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Chapter 14

Well Mrs. Ramos, I would like to start our conversation by asking you what it was like to have Vincent as a child," spoke Grace. Veronica sat there next to Grace and tried to act as if this was the most normal setting to be in. She felt very out of place. She did not like it when people treated others unfairly and that is how she felt that the Ramos had done with their help. She hated feeling this way because she knew that everyone had the right to do what they were going to do as long as they are not hurting another human being.

Mrs. Ramos wrung her hands and seemed quite concerned having to think about what Vincent was like as a child. This is kind of strange, thought Grace. I thought that most moms would love to recount what their child was like when they were younger. She reminded herself that not every parent had had an easy time raising their child; maybe this was the case with Vincent. Grace gave Mrs. Ramos plenty of time to start talking, when she decided that maybe she needed some prompting.

"Mrs. Ramos, could you tell me what was Vincent's favorite sport to play when he was growing up."

"Well you see, I really didn't see Vincent very much. He was gone to boarding school for most of his life. I did not want to really be bothered by having to raise a child. When he was at home, the nanny looked after him. I just gave birth to him, I didn't really want him. It was his father who had wanted to have him."

Grace could not believe what she was hearing. How could a woman who had given birth to a child want nothing to do with the rearing of the child? She wondered if this was going to play a part in what had happened to Vincent. She was sure that it was going to impact the way that he viewed the world. He probably knew that his mom had not wanted to have him and that was bound to impact him. Now the task was to find out how much it had impacted him. Grace wondered if she would be able to find that information out from his mother or if it would be more profitable for them to go and talk to his friends.

Grace decided that it would be best to finish the interview and to find out as much as possible from Vincent's mother. Yes, it would appear true that she did not have much to offer to the case, but there might be some pearl of wisdom from her. She was trying to figure out how to get the mother to offer some more constructive bits of information. Grace then looked over at Veronica and realized that she had her ace in the hole. She asked Mrs. Ramos if they could have a minute, and she actually looked relieved; Grace couldn't believe it.

"Veronica, in this instance I think that it would be best for you to conduct the interview."

"I thought that we had agreed that you had an interview style that was more appealing for this case."

"I know that is what we had decided but I think that you might have more success with this mother. I have never seen a mother less motherly than this woman. I am just at a loss as to what to do. I have never encountered a woman like this before and I am going crazy. Please take it over."

"Okay Grace," Veronica placed her hand on Grace's shoulder, "I have no problem doing that. But I would like to know if I will be handling all of these cases or if it will be just this one interview?"

"I don't know Veronica; I think that we should take it person by person. I would hate for use to settle on one thing and then have it go the other. It is always good to be flexible. I know that you are not use to it, but I think that it is the best thing that we can do."

Veronica looked hurt by what she had said, however she nodded and then started looking through her note pad. She had her questions that she had decided upon the night before and she decided to use them now. It was too late into the conversation, as Grace called it, to change the questions that she had already prepared. She knew that the questions were not polished but they were going to have to do. She would show Grace who was flexible and who wasn't.

When Mrs. Ramos returned to the living room with glasses of ice tea for all of them, Veronica stood. Right away, Grace did not like the stance that she was using. It was too much of her to handle but that is what she had to do; she needed to let her to take the bull by the horns and find out what she could from this mother. It was not going to be easy but Grace knew that if anyone could do it that it would be Veronica. She was a no nonsense type of woman and that was exactly what needed to be seen right.

"May I ask you, when was the last time you saw Vincent?" Veronica asked.

"Well, let me see....He was killed what two weeks ago and I saw him three weeks before that. So that would make it five weeks ago that I saw him. He came up here to visit with my husband."

"I see. And did he stay over night or was it just a quick visit?"

"Oh he was here for about three days. He also visited a couple of his old friends from his high school years. I am always amazed that they have stayed in contact after all of these years."

Grace was wondering if they stayed in contact because it was the only family that they had. Often when a person does not get along with the family that they were born into, they will seek out thos who they spent the most time with to consider their family. She could not figure out why anyone would want to send their children away for school. It made her think on Harry Potter. He had a family that did not love him and so he had to make friends from school. Maybe the same was for Vincent.

“Okay so you say that you last saw him three weeks before he was killed is that correct?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Ramos seemed distracted.

“Did anything unusual happen during the time that he was here?”

“No, I can’t think of anything. I do know that he tried to reconnect with his old girlfriend from high school, but she did not want to rekindle what they had had. If I remember correctly she had since gotten married and has started a family of her own.”

Veronica was very carefully taking notes. It appeared to Grace that they were getting no where. She didn’t really see the value in this conversation. Yes it was true that they needed to contact the ex-girlfriend to see if she had noticed anything unusual but other than that there was nothing of consequence here. Veronica asked a few more questions and then they let her know that they would be contacting her if they had any further questions. Grace made sure to ask for the phone number of Vincent’s ex-girlfriend, she thought that she might have some pertinent information to give them about the way that Vincent was acting the last time he came up here. Grace did not think that they would have anything else to talk to her about but they wanted to keep the door open incase they did.

As Veronica and Grace were walking to the car, Veronica looked over at Grace, “Well I think that we might have figured out why Vincent did not have much contact with his mother. She is not exactly the warm motherly type that you would want to come home and talk to on a weekly basis.”

“I would agree with you. I think that we might have more luck if we speak to his ex-girlfriend. Maybe she can give us some insight into what he was like.”

With that the two of them got into their care and made their way to Manhattan to the office building where Dawn Tally worked. They were hoping that they would gain more from her than they did from his mother. It was a sad day when a mother could not really tell you anything important about the way that their own child was raised. Grace could not get that out of her mind, but she needed to so she could focus on what she hoped to learn from Dawn.

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Chapter 15

"El Diablo" could not believe his good luck. He was going to be able to actually stake out his next victims house before he was going to go in and take care of the "cleansing" that needed to be done.

When he drove up to Ms. Tillerman’s house it was obvious that she was not at home. The car was not in the driveway and he noticed that there were two newspapers on the front porch. H knew that he needed to be careful about how he entered the house because he did not want to bring attention to himself. He wanted to make sure that he knew about the lay out of the house before he had to enter it and take care of her.
He went around the backside of the house and noticed that there was a huge sliding glass door the would allow him to enter into the living room. When he went up to the door he noticed that it was locked but he thought that he could get it off its track. He rocked it back and forth and could not believe the fact that it actually worked. The sliding glass door came off of its track and did so very easily.

As he entered into the house he could smell the sweetness of the cookies that Ms. Tillerman had made earlier in the week. He was surprised that there was so much of the smell left behind when it was apparent that she had not been in the home for the past two days. He looked into the kitchen and noticed that she had left some cookies in the cookie jar. He reached in and was rewarded by the wonderful taste of her chocolate chip cookie. How he had missed them. It had been so long and he could not believe that he was getting the opportunity to taste them again.

After he had finished relishing a taste that he had not had in quite awhile, he started to look around the house. He wanted to make sure that he knew the layout of the house well enough that there were going to be no surprises when he returned. He went up the stairs and quickly noticed the master bedroom. He was happy to know that it looked quite the same as it had to him earlier in his life. He could not believe his luck to have found her.

It was true that she had moved since he last has seen her, but it appeared that she was a creature of habit. She set up her room the exact same way it had been in the other house. He was not sure how many homes she had lived in since he had last seen her, but he was very glad to know that she had not changed the way that she decorated the house.

He sat down on her bed and could not believe that she still used the same laundry detergent. He could smell in it her sheets. He sat there until he was almost overloaded his senses and then he started to think about what he needed to do. He was happy to be within her home, but he knew that he could not focus too long on the feelings of the past. He had a job to do and he could not jolted this path.

Looking into the rest of the rooms of the house and he was content with the fact that he knew the layout well enough to reconstructed it on paper. He then went into the office and got out a piece of computer paper and a pencil. He then drew out his own rendition of the house. He knew that he needed to do it in the house otherwise he would not be able to check on the validity of the rendition.

Once he is done with his drawing, he walks through the house to make sure that he had not left out any details that were going to be important. Content with the way his rendition has come out, he goes into the kitchen again and grabs one more chocolate chip cookie to enjoy as he is putting the door back onto its track. Once he realizes that he has put everything back the way it was the way he first saw it, he gets ready to leave.

Just as he is leaving the back of the house, he notices that there is a police car looking at his car. He breaks out into a cold sweat. He is not sure what he wants to do. If he goes straight to the car then he might be caught before he is able to complete his "cleansings." He decides to sit on the back porch and wait a while.

After waiting for about twenty minutes, he gets up and notices that the police are gone but that there is a ticket on his card. Just his luck, he was parked in front of a fire hydrant and he has received a ticket. He started to laugh at the realization that the police had almost caught him and all they were worried about was the fact that he was parked illegally. It was quite ironic and made him understand that the police department was really stupid and that it would all be realized soon enough.

Jason Roberts, the beloved Chief of Police in Grangeville, was going to be so upset to know that his officers had "El Diablo" within their grasps and they allowed him to get away with just a parking ticket. How disappointed he was going to be to know this once all of the "cleasings" were taken care of. "El Diablo" was not going to let him live this down.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Chapter 16

On the drive to Manhattan, Grace tried to stay focused on the conversation that she wanted to have with Dawn. It was not easy with the thoughts and images that she had in her head from leaving the Ramos house. It did not feel like a home at all. She could tell that it was just a place to live and not really a warm inviting environment. It was not something that she was use to. Every time she entered another person’s home, she was able to figure out what their home life was like. This was a place that was not very warm and inviting and it scared her. She hoped that Dawn would be able to shed some light on what Vincent had been like so soon before he was murdered.

“I want to try again, with me asking the questions and trying to have a conversation with Dawn,” stated Grace. She really didn’t care what Veronica said or felt about it but she thought that it would be a common courtesy to let her know what she was thinking. Even though Veronica never gave Grace any insight as to what her thought process was, it was the way that Grace was. She had been raised to give curtsey to everyone, no matter how they treated her. It was one of the things that her mother had instilled in her. Always treat others the way that you would want to have them treat you. It was not always easy, but it was what she had to do.

“That is fine, Grace. However, if it doesn’t work then I will take over. I already have the questions that I want to ask her figured out and I think that I can find out everything that we want to know from her,” Veronica said with a snide smile.

Grace could not believe that she was being forced to work with a woman who thought that she was the best thing that had ever happened to this case. Grace wanted to bring her down a notch but that hadn’t happened when they met with Mrs. Ramos; she really was hoping that it would be different with Dawn. It was something that bothered Grace. She was so use to working by herself that it was quite hard to have to work side by side with another person; let alone a woman. She knew that she would adjust to it, but it was not going to be easy and Veronica was not making it any easier.

When they arrived at the office building, Grace tried to walk a stride ahead of Veronica. She did not trust her and was worried that if she got to speak to Dawn even a split second before she did, that it would ruin everything. She could tell that Veronica did not like her walking in front of her, but she didn’t really care. She was treating her with respect because she would not have cared if she had been in front of her or not. Of course it was a bit mean, but it made her feel better about herself to be in front of a woman like her. They took the elevator to the 15th floor and found the office that she worked in. Dawn Tally was the secretary for a major law firm. It was not a very prominent law firm, but they did do well. Grace was sure that Dawn was use to having police come in and out of the office. Hopefully that would work to her advantage.

“Hi, are you Ms. Dawn Tally?” Grace asked the receptionist.

“Yes, that would be my maiden name, I am now Dawn Grover.”

“I am Grace Winters from the Grangeville P.D.” That sure felt good to say, thought Grace.

Dawn looked taken back. She must have heard about the murder of her ex-boyfriend. “I am here to speak to you about Victor Ramos and the circumstances that surrounded his murder.”

Dawn started to shake, “What do you mean his murder. I just spoke to him two weeks ago. When did this happen?”

“He was murdered on December 12th, just a little over two weeks ago.”

“But I spoke to him on the 11th. Everything was fine then. He did not sound like anything was bothering him. In fact he was finally getting over the fact that I had gotten married and that it wasn’t to him. That didn’t have anything to do with him murder did it?”

Grace wasn’t sure what to think. She knew that Victor didn’t have many friends in Grangeville but she did not know that he had gotten so buddy buddy with his ex-girlfriend. Maybe this played some sort of role in his murder. She was not completely sure, because the person who had been committing these crimes appeared to be a man. She was just wondering if there might be some connection between Victor and Dawn. Maybe she would be the next person on the murderers list. She hoped for the sake of Dawn that it had nothing to do with it, but she was not very optimistic about it.

“I know that you are upset but I need to ask you a few questions about Victor?”

“That is fine, I think that I can handle that. It is just that I am very shaken up by the fact that he is no longer alive. I wondered why he didn’t return any of my phone calls.”

"What can you tell us about the way that he was acting the last time that you spoke to him?"

"Oh he was acting completely normal. In fact, I had not heard him happier in a long time."

Grace thought that this was completely strange. Why would Vincent be acting normal when he had just recently been told that his ex-girlfriend was married? It just didn't make sense to her, it would seem that maybe Vincent had come to terms with the fact that Dawn was no longer available and he was just happy to see her happy. That did make some sense, but it still did not explain anything about him at all. She was going to have to look into the fact that there might have been something more that Dawn was not telling her. She was not certain what it was, but it was obvious to her that there was something. Now it was just a matter of trying to get it out of her.

“Okay so when you last spoke to him, he was happy. I can understand that but what do you mean when you say that you had not heard him so happy?”

“Well he and I had spoken about the fact that I had married my college sweetheart and he was upset at first, because we had been high school sweethearts and he thought that should count for more than a college boyfriend. When I explained to him that when he moved away and never contacted me again, he started to understand; he was coming to terms with it. I think that he was finally realizing that I was happy and was starting to recognize that we could still be really good friends. I mean we did have lots of fun at Xavier School.”

Veronica tapped Grace on the shoulder, “I think that we need to check out this school. You do have the list of the other victims, right?”

Grace was trying to figure out where Veronica was going with this, “Yes, I do have the list, but I don’t see why it would be so important.”

“I will explain it to you in the car. Let’s wrap up this conversation with Dawn so we can get going I don’t think that we are going to find out anything else from her,” whispered Veronica.

Grace was really mad at Veronica. She was starting to find out some stuff that was really important and yet Veronica seemed to want to stop her conversation. It really ticked her off that she would think that Grace could not handle things on her own. Yes it was true that she was use to working on her own, but she thought that she was adjusting quite while to the situation that she was given. It was fairly obvious that the conversation was over, when she looked over and heard Veronica say to Dawn, “Thank you for your time. We have heard everything that we need to hear from you.”

Grace knew that she was going to have to do some quick thinking in order to keep the door open in case she needed to interview Dawn again. Grace looked towards Dawn, “I think that you have given up plenty of information about Vincent and what he was like in his last days. We greatly appreciate all that you have told us. If we need to find out anything else, we will be in contact with you. Also if you can think of anything else that you would like to tell us, here is my card and you are more than welcome to call me.”

Dawn took the card and looked thankful that the interview was over. “If I think of anything else, Ms. Winters, I think that I will go directly to the police and not to a private investigator such as you.” This really stung when she said it to Grace.

“I am currently working with the police so even thought my card says, Private Investigator, I am here on official police business.” At this time Veronica gave Dawn her own card and that seemed to calm her down. This really pissed Grace off, just because she didn’t have a fancy card that stated that she was working hand in hand with the police should not mean that she was to be looked down upon. She hated the fact that this was the way that she was being treated. She hoped that would change if she was able to help catch this killer.

It had not really taken that long but it probably felt like forever to her since she had not heard that Vincent had been murdered. She wondered why no one had informed her since she had left messages at his home. That was going to be something else that she was going to have to investigate. Grace made a note to speak to the officer that had searched Vincent Ramos’s apartment back in Grangeville. She hoped that it would give her some more insight as to why this case was being handled the way that it was.

When Veronica and Grace reached the car, it was apparent to Grace that Veronica had quite a bit that she wanted to say. She could hardly stand still and was doing even worse having to sit in the car confined. It was quite comical to see a grown woman fidget like a young child who had been seated in a car too long.

“I think that we should find out where this Xavier School is and plan a trip there. I think that there might be some sort of connection there. I mean all of the people who were murdered were from a wealthy family, right?” Veronica started rambling. “You see I am wondering if all of the victims went to the same boarding school. If that is the case then there might be something to it.”

“Maybe you are correct. Let’s call the Chief and ask him if he can find out where this school is located. We probably could not get there until tomorrow but at least we could have that figured out already.” Grace picked up the phone and called Jason. He said that he would try to find out where it was located and to book a flight for the two of them for the next morning. Meanwhile, he wanted them to get back to Grangeville, as he thought that he and William might have found something as well. Grace asked Jason what the information was, but Jason refused to tell her what they had found out. He said that he was going to wait until they got there to share it with her. Grace detected a slight giggle in Jason’s voice, it made her blush.

Grace passed the information on to Veronica as they were heading to the airport. Grace was not looking forward to having to sit so close to her but there was not much that could be done about it. Veronica seemed upset that they were going to have to wait until tomorrow to follow up on her lead, but that is what was going to happen. Grace hoped that when they got back into town that they were really going to be one step closer to finding out who “El Diablo” was and what his motive was behind all of these killings. She could not stand the idea that there might be another killing while she was working on the case. She was determined to make sure that didn’t happe

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