Barry Hoffman's HUNGRY EYES

Chapter Nine

Shara watched, the headlights of her car off, as Robert Chattaway dropped the teenager off. She had seen enough to confirm her worst fears. Bobby had come back into her life, as dangerous as ever.

He had enlisted in the army two months after her suicide.

She had totally lost track of him until two years earlier, when with her hacking skills honed, she'd been able to access certain military files. Curious, she had checked to see if he was still serving his country. He was. Based in Germany for eight months, he had just returned to the States. He was posted at Fort Bragg his last five months in the service.

She found it somewhat odd that he'd never risen in rank. And while she knew soldiers were routinely transferred from base to base, she noted he never remained in one place more than two years; usually far less. He'd separated from the service, of his own volition, a year ago, but there was a flag on his record used to alert civil authorities of misconduct that should be made available under special circumstance; those dealing with sex crimes.

There'd been a number of complaints in his records of his penchant for underage girls. The word rape was never mentioned, but apparently wherever stationed, he'd soon worn out his welcome and been transferred. The complaint at Fort Bragg had been filed by a Major, and Bobby's behavior apparently could no longer be swept under the carpet with another posting.

Shara found he'd been given a choice of a court martial or resignation. He'd chosen the latter then moved back to Philly. Shara had been haunted by his presence ever since. Only now would he have her full attention.

Shara had followed him to the night club, remaining in her car until he'd come out with the teenager. She parked outside his apartment until he brought the shaken girl downstairs, and followed him to see what he planned to do with her.

While curiosity burned, she fought the urge to question the youth when he let her out. She had to maintain a low profile. Anyone associated with Robert Chattaway would soon be questioned, and she couldn't chance any encounter with one of his victims. A victim, she knew the girl surely was, from the way she stumbled to the front door of the house.

A part of Shara wanted to instantly know what had occurred at the apartment. Was the girl forced to perform oral or anal sex? Had he videotaped their sexual escapades with threats of blackmail? Shara didn't need instant gratification, though.

The mystery actually intensified her curiosity. As before, Bobby Chattaway's secret would unfold in time. Learning his secrets would be infinitely more satisfying than their final confrontation; though in this particular case, she longed for the confrontation itself more than any of the others.

She'd follow Chattaway for the next week. Learn his patterns. At the appropriate time, when he was off hunting, she would break into his apartment for a thorough search, bug his place so she could document what he did, then retrieve the device, if he stuck to his habit of taking the girl home when he finished with her.

She was more than satisfied as she got home and freed herself from the confines of her clothes. More often than not, her initial surveillance was uneventful. Days, even weeks had passed before the offender would make the move that confirmed her research. Bobby had gone hunting the very first night she'd sat in wait for him. He must be a busy man, she thought. What aroused her curiosity, now, was what he had done to this girl, and undoubtedly others, since his return that dissuaded them from going to the police.

She paced her room, marveling at the new tattoo that adorned her breasts, while mulling over the possibilities. He must have learned something from his indiscretions in the army, for there hadn't been one complaint filed since his return. It was a puzzle, but far from being frustrated, when she found no answers it only excited her more.

Now, just after two, there was something more she had to do. She carried the phone from her desk to the opposite corner of the room, where two mirrors converged. While on the phone, she would watch the silent eyes watching her, as she watched them. If she kicked back and lay down, she could stare at herself from the mirror on the ceiling.

Surrounded by herself, she dialed Deidre's number.

# # # #

Deidre picked up the phone on the first ring, and Shara was surprised there was no sign of sleep in her voice.

"Did you get my package this morning?"

There was a gasp on the other end of the line. Shara lay back, looking at herself in the mirror, her back resting against the cold concrete floor. She was enjoying this. C'mon, Dee, she thought. Get a grip on yourself.

"Renee . . . " a tentative question?

"Not any longer, but I guess it will do for now. How's my favorite reporter, or should I say, Mayors Media Liaison. You've come a long way since I made you."

"What are you talking about?"

"Without me, you'd still be covering the opening of the new Convention Center or a baby born in an elevator during a power outage."

"Bullshit," Deidre snapped at her.

"Whatever," Shara said nonchalantly.

"Don't patronize me, you son-of-a-bitch!" Deidre fumed.

Shara kicked her feet in the air with glee. She'd hit a raw nerve, and could feel the anger reaching out from the other end of the line. She could picture Deidre trying to regain control, and remained silent.

"Why contact me now? This morning, I mean? Deidre asked. I knew you were the Vigilante, you know," she said smugly, "before your little message.

She's bounced back, Shara thought, and, oddly enough, she was glad. She relished the challenge Deidre presented. She had so little human contact; no close friends at all since the first Shara. She'd secretly hoped this confrontation would be one between equals.

"Of course you knew, but honey, I knew you knew. That's why my little visit. It was in your eyes during your press conference. Trying to get to me by saying how I `get off' by killing. Please, it was a little too transparent. Just blowing hot air. Your eyes told the story. When did you figure it out?"

"You tell me, since you know it all."

"C'mon, Dee, if you're going to be hostile, I'll just hang up. I didn't call for abuse." A ruse, but a necessary risk. How much did Deidre want to keep the dialogue going? As much as she? Maybe more?

"Don't hang up," Deidre said hurriedly.

More, Shara thought, and had to stifle a laugh.

"I . . . I didn't know till that day. I hadn't been involved until then. It was the message on the mirror."

Shara was silent for a moment, thinking how Deidre could have linked her to the missive on the mirror. It was true she had mentioned Hungry Eyes to her often enough after the kidnapping. She saw the connection, but marveled how quickly Deidre had noticed it.

"You're good, Dee, I've got to admit that. The message wasn't for you, but you must have known that. Hadn't thought of you in years, no offense. But you picked right up on it. Good for you, Dee. So, should we meet and talk about old times?"

"Don't play with me, Renee. I know you're no fool. You're not about to meet me and risk a trap. Tell me, Renee, why the killings. And why now?"

She was sharp, Shara thought, and again felt relief. She needed Deidre to understand. Not all of it. And not all at once. But, as she'd given little bits and pieces thirteen years ago, she would offer just enough now to establish a rapport; a working relationship, so to speak.

"There'll be no cutting to the chase yet, Dee. You know you'll get what you want in time, if you're patient. I want someone to talk to, okay. Someone to understand. We were pretty tight back then. We set the ground rules for the police and they agreed. Ignored the rest of the media, and there was nothing they could do about it. But, I wasn't about to give it to you all at once. You had to earn each morsel. And there were some things you never learned."

"I don't think so, Renee. Sure, it was like pulling teeth, but in the end you gave it all up. Maybe I played your little game, but you were a child, after all. I gained your trust, and you laid it all out. So, don't try getting me to second guess myself."

She was fishing, Shara knew, but she wouldn't take the bait. To fill in the missing piece from thirteen years ago would lead Deidre to her now, and she wasn't quite ready. She'd allow Deidre this little victory; a hollow victory because it was a lie, but she was enjoying her chat, and would most definitely call again. It had been seven years since she'd really talked to anybody, and Deidre, after all, was one of only two people she'd ever confided in.

"Do you remember, Dee, the last day in the hospital; the third day? We'd talked twice alone, and then I'd answered questions from the police. All they wanted were the facts. Why did I go with that fool Costanzo? What did he do to me? `Did he touch you?' you asked once, and accepted what I said. But, they asked at least a dozen times. And in different ways, like I was lying and they could trap me. They seemed disappointed that he hadn't touched me, hadn't raped me. Then they left and . . . remember what you asked?"

"Why didn't he touch you?"

"Yes, YES! You and only you asked the important question." Least you thought you did, Shara though to herself, but wasn't about to alienate her again. "The fucker never touched me because he was afraid of women."

"He'd touched your half-brother, you told me. I remember, Renee. Remember it like it was yesterday. Then I asked you if you were scared of him?"

"I liked that. I'd never said anything about ever being scared. Everything I told you would make that question seem ridiculous. Was I scared? Shit, yes, I was scared, and told you, too. I knew there was something wrong with Costanzo. He'd never kidnapped anyone, as far as I knew. He was so jumpy, like once he got me chained up, he didn't know what to do with me. He left me alone for long periods of time. Sometimes I wondered if he'd ever come back. That's what scared me."

"The unknown, it would scare anyone," Deidre said.

"I was never afraid he'd hurt me. I was a hard-assed kid; thought I was sorta invulnerable. He couldn't hurt me, no matter how hard he'd try. But I thought he might panic. I mean, could he let me go? I knew the police were looking for me. It was all over the TV he let me have. He'd painted himself into a corner. But I didn't think he'd hurt me. No, what frightened me, terrified me, was that he'd abandon me. Leave me to rot in that cell. I'd never be found, least not until it was too late."

Shara was silent, the past rushing back at her. Yes, she'd been afraid of Costanzo's abandoning her, but there was something else that terrified her even more. Something she hadn't told Deidre, and wouldn't. Not yet, and maybe never.

Deidre brought her out of her reverie.

"That's when you won me over, Renee. All these doctors on the tube were talking so much psychobabble without having spoken to you. Imagine, they said, how traumatized you must have been, feeling Costanzo might kill you at any time. They based their conclusions on studies of others. That you might not fit their profile didn't bother them at all."

"I used to yell at them, those doctors on the tube. Until they got used to it, nurses used to run in to see if something was wrong," Shara said.

"They deserved to be yelled at." Deidre paused, as if in thought. "But, were they right after all, Renee? Did what he do so traumatize you that you've now got the urge to seek revenge on those who rape and molest innocents without getting punished?"

Shara laughed. "You are good. Lull me into your protective womb by talking about the past and then question your conclusions to get me to talk about the present. Sorry, though, no sale. Let me lay it out for you, Dee. You follow certain rules, and you'll get everything. Not now. Not all at once. But I'll be an open book for you by the time we're done."

"I'm not going to lie to you and promise not to track you down."

"I want you to try to track me down. I want to see how good you are. I want to see if you've changed in thirteen years. Actually, I know you haven't."

"What's that supposed to mean."

"You were always so straight with me. You always asked permission to print what I told you, even after I'd told you you were free to print anything I said. You weren't just being polite. It's a weakness of yours. Some might call it a strength. Compassion and all that shit. Even now, you can't lie to me. You won't betray me. You want my permission to outsmart me, to locate me. I told you this morning. Catch me if you can."

"You're no longer a ten-year old, Renee. I'm not asking permission to hunt you down. You're a cold-blooded killer. I have an obligation to catch you before you hurt others."

"That's not what I read in the papers. I'm performing a community service. Ridding the world of scum the police and courts can't or won't."

"There's got to be more to it than that."

"There is. Want to find out?"

"You know I do."

"All right. Then it's you and me. No cops. Let them look for their killer. You find me, then you can tell the cops . . . if that's what you want. But no interlopers now."

"And if I agree, what do I get in return?"

"Answers to your questions. Why I faked my suicide. Why I let you know I wasn't dead. What kind of life I've led since. Answers to questions the cops don't give a fuck about."

"I'm still a puppet on your string."

"That's the price you pay to satisfy your curiosity. And you're fee to track me down, at the same time. And, Dee, if the police do get me, it'll be you and me against the world again. I'll deal with you exclusively."

"Why do I get the feeling you're still toying with me? That's I'm still coming out on the short end of the stick?"

"I guess you have your demons you have to come to grips with, just like me."

She was aware that Deidre ignored the comment. Maybe it was too close to home.

"How do I get in touch with you?"

"You don't. I contact you."

"All right, Renee. No police. Just you and me."

Shara could feel Deidre's anger building again.

"But I'm not the novice I was then," Deidre said. Don't underestimate me. I will track you down. And when you've told me everything, I'll hand you over to the police. And then you'll still deal with me and only me."

"Give it your best shot, girlfriend. Catch me if you can." She hung up.

Follow this link to sign up for your FREE copy of "Guardian of Lost Souls"
and to learn more about Barry Hoffman and his writings



There have been 17,775