Woman Into Wolf

Chapter Six – The Visual Cliff

“Dissociative, violent behavior.” He repeated his point. “Bedwetting, animal torture, fire setting.”
She tore her eyes away from the distant woods. She knew he had seen her jerk of recognition.
“Mean something to you?” He smiled at her with twisted lips.
Roy had accused his brother of all those things. It was a coincidence.

“I heard of a guy like that, but he’s dead now. So what’s your profile?” “Pardon?” He regarded her thoughtfully. For the first time she looked deep enough into his eyes to note the chips of topaz buried in his peat-brown irises. Flaws, a jeweler would call them. Usually, a flaw denoted imperfection. Unless the jewel happened to be an opal. In which case, the more flaws, the more intriguing.
“I asked what’s your profile, Mr. Profiler?”

“I don’t have a formal one yet. I haven’t been asked for one. And God knows what the Feds would say. But I see a man who likes to play with dolls. Our unsub – unknown subject – keeps these corpses to play with until forced to get rid of them. He has such serious masculinity issues I wonder if he was raised as a girl, or something weird like that. On the other hand, he’s extremely well
organized in victim selection and body disposal, so you wouldn’t know him to look at. I’m sure he’s done time – probably for rape – and doubtless was a model prisoner. He knows how to play the game. Good manners, probably friendly and engaging. He’s older than his victims and physically fit. Whatever job he has allows him a lot of free time, but I can’t see him as married though he probably has a girlfriend. He has a private place with an earth floor where he can take his victims. Say a basement or a barn.”

No one she knew. Certainly didn’t sound like Jarod. She felt an obscure relief.
She teased him; “Want to see the basement before you leave?” Nothing down there. No earth floor, that’s for darn sure.

“I’m an investigator,” he joked back. “I like to see everything. Hey, you’re shivering. Would you like my jacket?”

So high school! A sweet gesture but – she could just imagine Roy suddenly appearing and her wearing this guy’s jacket. Now there’s an image to make you shiver.
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “Maybe I just need more coffee. How about you?” He said, “I’m fine,” echoing her phrase. Probably they both were lying.

“Got any suspects?” she inquired.
He seemed so reluctant, as if she was rushing him. “There is one fingerprint. Thanks to you.”

She should have taken him up on that jacket. She was forced to hug her shoulders. “Thought you had to wait to get results.”

“Not her fingerprint; his. We got it off the belly of the one you found. Center of her stomach. I doubt he realized what a favor he does us by handling them.” “You got a fingerprint off her skin?” News to her that this was even possible.

“We fumed her. Sometimes we get lucky if they’re fresh enough. Who’s to say how much longer that fingerprint would have lasted? Maybe not an hour. You found it just in time.”

I need a better poker face, she thought. Roy had always said so. She recognized this man’s stillness. His focus, his intensity — he was approaching his quarry. After all, he was just another hunter.
“Funny how things work out,” she said, dry-mouthed. Let him take his time. I have all day.
“Funny,” he agreed.
“You’ve identified the print? It was in the system?”

He pulled his upper lip, as if there used to be a moustache there. “We got a
hit. It’s a six-point match, which isn’t good enough for court but might be the best you can do with a single print. Naturally we’d prefer his whole hand.”
She recognized the storyteller’s pregnant pause. “So who was it?” She knew he was going to tell her.

He read from the sheet before him, as if he couldn’t trust his memory. “Bruce Bryan Royall, BD 1-22-75.”

Whatever she expected, it wasn’t this. She gaped at him, trying to process the words. “That’s not possible. Bruce is dead.”

So it wasn’t strange after all that Bruce had popped into her head. He’d been sitting here all along, just between them. Her eyes lasered to the unopened file still in Ned’s lap. The one anchored by the ringless finger.

He held it out. “I made copies for you,” he said. “You can keep this.”
She did not want to open it. You are not lost, the Bird Lady always said. Keep your eyes open and pay attention. When plunged awake into the land of dreams, learn the rules. Every system has rules. Figure out a way to keep control.

Patiently he explained. “He has to be alive. Dead men don’t leave fingerprints. Not on fresh corpses.”

“I thought fingerprints could be faked.”

She could tell by his twanging jaw muscle that he was working to hold his
face steady. “Not in the victim’s blood. When did you think that he died?”
“He was supposed to have hanged himself the Christmas he was seventeen.

That was years ago. His family talks about him all the time… but as if he’s dead.” Could they be faking it? She asked herself privately. Could the fog
surrounding Bruce’s death be deliberate?

He seemed to pick up on the all but imperceptible hesitation in her tone. Bish would have, too. He pounced.

“But that was just something that you heard? You heard it at the time?” “It’s a family story. I didn’t hear about it till … Roy and I got married years later. When we were in high school Roy never even mentioned his brother. I’ve never met Bruce.” That you know of, a voice sneered horribly inside her head. The fine platinum hairs along the back of her neck lifted and quivered. Her husband’s identical twin brother. Was it possible that two men could share the same wife, or was she the sick one for even thinking it? Would it explain loving, gentle Roy and angry, raging Roy? She had thought nothing could be worse than the pictures she had just seen. This idea was worse.

“I can see you’re upset,” said Ned. She could feel him backing away from her, as if he’d learned she was contaminated. She was a suspect, to him, she could see it now. She had never been this man’s peer. She was another quarry to be tricked and trapped. Maybe Roy and Babe were right when they said you can never trust anybody.

“I’m not upset!” Her voice was so loud even she could hear the panic. That was a dead giveaway. Persey never yelled. Persey never cried and she never yelled. Who was this man, her tormentor? She had to forget about him and whatever he might be thinking and focus on herself. Protecting herself and her way of life.

The troublemaker said, “I can understand that a family might want to keep this guy quiet. Bruce has a prison record …that’s why we had his prints. He served time for rape. 1995 through 2003. Several rapes, actually. They let him out early. “

He pushed open the file in her lap. “He was a model prisoner.”
Was he laughing at her? Odd-sized Xeroxed pages spilled out as if fleeing.

They wanted to get away from her too. As she bent to pick them up she saw they were copies of newspaper pages from The Pocono Packet, December 1995. Relief: these pictures were in black and white. So distancing. Maybe she could handle it. It was important she not humiliate herself again.

Trailside Rapist Gets Twenty-Five Years. That name triggered a memory. When she was at college in California her father used to send emails and links about the case. He only had two subjects of interest to him, seemingly, this horrible case and his wife’s failing health. Made Persey afraid of computers. She hadn’t wanted to hear any of it. Maybe Will seemed so attractive because she desired a new unencumbered existence. A blank slate on which anything could be written. But it turned out all she had really been doing was preparing herself to be sandbagged now.
No, it wasn’t as bad as she had feared. It never is as bad as fantasy. This gaunt man with the scraggly hair didn’t look like Roy at all. She had been correct in thinking that terrible deeds marked a person. In his prison jumpsuit and raggedy beard he looked more like the kind of protester who waves a sign, “The End Is Near” than he resembled her beautiful husband. A homeless man, pathetic. Just about everyone’s idea of a rapist. The man who couldn’t get a date, a man who makes girls run away from if he comes up behind them.

Roy told the truth when he said his brother was sick; crazy in fact, needed medication to control destructive urges. The only thing Roy had lied about was saying his brother was dead; and really, who could blame him, reading out his brother’s reign of terror?

Her previous idea – the shared wife – that was just disgusting. No way this man could ever impersonate Roy. Jarod would know. Babe would know. Even Digger would know and would back away snarling. See here, in this picture, how he towered over the plumply burnished deputies, a wolf beset by mountain men. Turning the pages she encountered an amazing picture of Babe when young; how beautiful she’d been! Babe’s beauty was something else Roy disparaged, saying it was all in her head, she looked like a man in drag, that his father couldn’t get away fast enough. But in these court pictures she resembled a movie star.

Because of the family dissolution, she hadn’t met Babe when she first knew Roy. But the white faced goddess with the jet-black hair was in every trial shot, in tight short-skirted suits and chunky gold jewelry, holding tightly to her shackled son, telling reporters about her other son, proudly protecting his country in the Gulf.

No wonder the mention of his brother’s name made Roy so angry!

Here were photos of his “accusers” – or “victims”, depending on whether it was the defense or the prosecution talking — women who allowed their identities to be revealed in the sentencing phase, “to set an example.” Scarily, both were blondes, but that was all they had in common. Jo Lee Palladini, a waitress, called herself a grandmother but certainly didn’t look like one, and pretty young Monica Falkin was a high school student.

According to the paper, the Trailside Rapist had as many as twelve other victims and the prosecutor was holding back four more cases he was prepared to bring to court if Royall achieved an acquittal or turned down a plea agreement. As it was, all victims declared themselves satisfied with the verdict and the ones who had not testified were relieved to be spared the grilling Jo Lee was subjected to by Defense Attorney Tim O’Banyon.

Prosecutor Jeremiah Everett declared that it had been necessary to try a case with at least two victims: “We needed to show the jury they were dealing with a serial.” Bruce’s defense, that sex was consensual, “and some like it rough”, while weak in the instance of a high school student to whom he had never been introduced, gained some credence in Jo Lee’s case when it was proved that he was a frequent patron at her place of employment, she had been known to date customers, and had accused at least one of her previous husbands of abuse and later withdrawn the charge.

But ultimately the idea of virginal high school juniors cruising walking trails to solicit rough sex from strangers was too hard for this jury to believe. Bruce got twenty-five years for each rape, sentences to run concurrently.

The story gave background on the other cases. Most occurred in the proximity of the Green Path hiking trail in early morning hours. The rapist targeted fine-boned blondes, small women he could easily overpower. In one case he attacked a woman whose boyfriend was running just up ahead of her (he didn’t notice she was missing for ten or fifteen minutes) and in two instances, he attacked women with dogs. One would-be victim chased him away with pepper spray and several testified they had left scratches on his body, especially on his face.

The rapist invariably wore a black knitted ski mask with red-outlined eyeholes to prevent victims from getting a look at him, but most could testify that he seemed to have blonde facial hair and no body hair, and one had succeeded in tearing off the mask. The composite drawing that had been generated was no help; looked nothing like Bruce Royall. The rapist frequently stated, “If you show me your breasts, I won’t hurt you.” It wasn’t true.

The rapes took place fast, and the rapist often praised the women’s looks, apologized to them, or acted as if this was a social occasion and he was on a date.

Frequently he requested their names, and in the case of one woman, who refused to even give a first name, stole her wallet. He restrained victims forcibly and seemed very strong, but he did not beat or punch women who did not resist. Those who put up a physical fight were slammed in the face with his fist, turned over and sodomized.

The prosecution’s psychologist, while declaring him competent to serve trial, called him a “power reassurance rapist” who “probably feels he is doing nothing wrong in securing compliance to his wishes which in his own mind take precedence over those of his victims. They are not real people to him.”

However, it is obvious that he knew what he was doing was wrong and that he took steps to avoid identification. He usually used a condom and took it away with him, although in the case of Monica Falkin, the high school student who was attacked on the high school jogging trail, he had no condoms and asked for one from his victim. (She didn’t have any either. She was a virgin.) In spite of the risk of leaving identifiable biological evidence, he could not resist raping this victim and leaving the evidence that would ultimately convict him. He never confessed – detectives on the case stated that the most you can expect from this type of criminal is that he might brag to another felon.

Veteran court watchers expressed surprise that such a fortunate young man from such a good family “could not get a girlfriend.”
Persey closed the file.

“What happened to Bruce? When he got out?”
He shrugged. “We don’t know. He was supposed to register as a sex offender but he never did. His mother says he disappeared.”

Babe! Trying to drag her to Bruce’s “grave!” She had a lot of gall! To soothe herself she focused on the distant trees.

He popped The Question. The one he’d been holding inside his cheek ever since she opened her door to him. “No idea where he is?”

She flushed awkwardly beneath his professional gaze, feeling like a liar while telling the truth. This is why innocent people fail polygraphs, she thought.
“They insist he’s dead. He even has a gravesite.”

“They may wish he’s dead, but if he’s hanging around here, it’s hard to believe he’s not maintaining touch with somebody. I spoke to your mother-in- law but — ” he shrugged helplessly, “it’s hard to get a straight story out of her.”

Persey had to laugh. “No kidding. Have you talked to my husband?”
“I can’t force him to return my calls. I was hoping you’d do that.”
More panic at the very thought of bringing this up with Roy. How could she
explain the surrounding facts to exculpate herself? She’d hate telling Roy about the bodies now. If he knew she could keep secrets from him of that dimension, he would never look at her the same away again.

“I can’t believe Bruce would contact his brother. Roy hated Bruce.”

The detective raised his disbelieving eyebrows, as if it was manifestly impossible that twins should ever be enemies.

“Would he pay him to go away?”
And keep it a secret from me? Persey considered. Was it possible? In Roy’s stories, Bruce was all-powerful and he was the weak one.

“Bruce was always bigger and meaner,” she tried to explain. “They grew up in Germany and were home-schooled – so they were stuck with each other. Bruce had that homicidal triad thing – that thing you mentioned before. Roy says he didn’t even know what happiness was until his parents split up and he – Roy — moved in with his dad. Bruce stayed with Babe. Then supposedly Bruce died, long before the rapes. But they must have sent him somewhere.”

And Roy, determined to start fresh, changed his name, began high school, met me.
A cell phone rang. Ned began fumbling with his belt. “Is that me ringing or you?”

It was Persey’s phone. Alas. “Hi, hon. No I haven’t had lunch yet. OK, I’ll meet you there.”
She was glad of any excuse to terminate this conversation. “My husband. I’m meeting him for lunch.” She ducked her head to unlock their eye contact. “I promise I’ll ask him what he knows about Bruce.”

On the way to the restaurant she would think of a way to bring it up. It would be so much easier in a public place. Jarod would probably be there. He would know all about Bruce, too. Maybe she could think up a lie, say she’d come across these articles, or something on the Internet. Get them talking. If she told Roy the policeman came to her house, he’d be so angry.

She kissed a regretful goodbye to her fantasy about Jarod, Serial Killer. Be careful what you wish for! Persey understood the illogicality of magical thinking, but she couldn’t help feeling guilty and responsible. She found the bodies. She unleashed these furies.

Detective McKick assembled his files, but slowly, as if he really didn’t want to leave.

“I appreciate it.” She left the file he had given her behind her on the chair. Where was the place her husband was least likely to look? She’d have to hide it in the laundry room to keep this red-hot material away from Roy’s eyes.

In the hall the cop hesitated at the umbrella stand. Something new for him to look at; previously been concealed by the open door.

“What’s that?”

She sighed. This guy was so outstaying his welcome. “It’s a Mossberg M-9.” “I can see it’s a shotgun, but who does it belong to?”

“It’s mine.” Carefully she rearranged the umbrellas and walking sticks so the
gun was invisible once again. She opened the door pointedly.

“May I ask what it’s doing there? I have to tell you as a public safety officer that’s not responsible storage.”

Persey attempted to master her irritation. “I hate guns, but my husband worries about intruders. He says if you use a shotgun you don’t even have to aim.”
“Well, that’s true enough. I hope it’s not loaded. May I look?”

“No.” She stayed his hand. Of course it was loaded! Otherwise, what would
be the point? Tell a home invader, “Just a minute, I think I have some ammo upstairs?”
He chuckled; discomfited.

“I can see I’m persona non grata. You’ll give me a call?”
She recognized that look he gave her. As if to say, you’re one high
maintenance dame.

She agreed but her voice was frosty. “It’s been a lot for one day.”

He touched her hand briefly, then relinquished the link between them.
“I’ll be in touch.”

She was afraid of that. This man had only bad news. On the doorstep he
looked back.

“Your name…” he asked. “Is it short for something?” “Persephone,” she told him. “It’s Greek.”

Then she was alone.

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