"I've killed them," the female voice said in barely a whisper. "I've killed them all."
This was followed by the sound of falling objects, like a bunch of marbles being dropped onto a metal table.
"Who, Bea? Who have you killed?"
This time, the reply was barely audible.
"All the girls."
Director Hampton reached over and shut off the small tape recorder.
"That sound you heard, kinda like beads being dropped? That was the jewellery, or as you put it, Chase, the souvenirs. Three of them have already been linked to missing girls, one of whom hasn’t been seen in seven years. All three were street workers."
All the girls…
That sentence caused a shiver to travel up and down Chase's spine.
"How old?" she asked, trying to force images of her sister out of her mind.
Hampton gave her a strange look.
"The girls who went missing?"
"The three girls who were identified were all between the ages of twenty-four and twenty-eight. Like I said, street workers. One was in the US illegally, as well."
“Where did the jewellery come from?”
“Bea had it in a bag when she was picked up. Twenty-five items in all.”
“Twenty-five?” Stitts said, incredulous. “What are we saying here? That this Bea girl killed twenty-five people and then… turned herself in?”
“That’s what she says.”
Stitts shook his head.
"Have they found any bodies?”
“Not as of yet.”
“Any mention of an accomplice? A male accomplice?"
Director Hampton sighed and leaned on his elbows onto the desk.
"I know what you're going to say, Stitts—you don't need to preach the choir. I know how rare a female serial killer is, especially one that targets other females. I know—"
"I've seen it in New York," Chase said quietly, remembering Ryanne Elliott, who had murdered several women and then wrote about it and published the books as fiction. "Ryanne—"
"—Elliott; yes, I’m familiar with that case, too, Chase," Director Hampton interjected. "But those were more murders of passion, and while the targets were random people, the woman was out for financial gain. That was her motive. Here…” Hampton shrugged.
“Bea hasn’t said anything about why she killed these people?” Stitts asked.
“No. And other than the jewellery, which the local PD is trying hard to match with other missing persons, there is no crime scene and no evidence.”
Stitts made a face.
“Then how do we know that a crime has even been committed, other than petty theft, that is.”
Hampton’s answer was immediate.
“What about Bea? What’s her story? Does she have a job? A criminal record? Anything like that?” Chase interjected.
“No record of any Bea Stigurl in any database. No Social Security number, no tax filings, no driver’s license. Nothing. She claims to only be able to remember her name. And that she’s killed—”
“Hold up,” Stitts said. “Wait a second. This sounds like someone just trying to get some media attention. Shouldn’t we actually wait for a crime to be confirmed before we get involved?”
Chase cringed; she expected Hampton to become enraged at this challenge, which she suspected that Stitts would have never made if he wasn’t spectacularly hungover, but was surprised; Hampton averted his eyes before replying.
“It’s a favor to an old friend. And it’s a messed-up situation down there, given where the girl was found and the fact that nobody wants to deal with missing street workers, some of whom are aliens.”
Chase got the impression that even though the Director’s words seemed like an admission, they were also pointed: the first half was for Stitts, the latter for her.
Both were playing to their emotions and sensibilities.
When Chase and Stitts both went silent for a moment, the Director leaned forward and interlaced his fingers.
“Look, go down there and look around. Talk to people, do what you do. If in a few days you’re unconvinced that this Bea girl is telling the truth? Come back. I’ll give you another month of leave.”
The man thought that he was doing them a favor, but the last thing that Chase wanted was more time off. The idea of a case that might not be a case wasn’t that appealing to her either, but it was something.
No matter the reason, it was clear to her that Hampton was asking for her help because she had a way of piecing together lost memories.
“Fine by me. What about—”
Chase was about to ask Stitts his opinion when Hampton’s face got hard again.
“It wasn’t a request. Your flight leaves at four. So, if you guys need to tidy anything up before you go, I suggest you do it in the next few hours. And try not to miss this flight, like you did for the one to Nashville."
Chase rose to her feet, but Stitts remained seated. He looked as if he were about to protest further,
which she got the impression wouldn’t go over well with the Director.
“Come on, Stitts. Let’s go.”
Stitts turned his eyes to her, and for a split-second, she saw something in them that she’d never seen before.
Chase swallowed hard and looked away.
Stitts, what in the hell is going on with you?