Barry Hoffman's HUNGRY EYES

Chapter Twenty Six

Sitting a block away from Eddie Pasqual's rowhouse with Jonas, Deidre for the first time was able to relax enough to sift through her conversation with Shara.

At first she had felt strangely vulnerable, as she waited for Shara to arrive. Briggs had told her eight members of the Task Force were nearby, but the street appeared deserted. She could picture Shara knocking on her window, waving and escaping the net Briggs had weaved for her.

While the thought was unsettling the feeling of unease that crept through her had nothing to do with a possible confrontation with Shara that night. Buried within her subconscious she knew she had missed something. Why was Shara so sure her rampage would end with Pasqual's death? The one victim for each day of her captivity was too pat; something an amateur psychiatrist would grasp at. It had to be something about Pasqual that would release the hold the eyes had on her. But on closer inspection, Pasqual was no different from the others. He wasn't the first of those she had killed to victimize children, so why was his death of such tantamount importance?

Deidre had been stunned by the revelation Costanzo had been a mere pawn in the kidnapping. It was difficult to believe Renee's sixteen-year old brother could have plotted such an elaborate scheme so he could have his way with his half-sister. He must have been a psychopath even then.

Deidre bolted up in her seat, almost knocking a cup of coffee Jonas held.

--a psychopath even then

--even then

--even THEN

If he had been a psychopath then, what had he done in the intervening thirteen years? Either Shara was pulling her chain, or she was on a wild goose chase. Could Shara have steered her to Pasqual, knowing Deidre would intervene, so she would be free to kill the one person whose eyes still haunted her? Free her to kill Robert Chattaway -- her half-brother; a psychopath who was guilty of God knew what horrendous crimes. No, Shara had told her his crimes. Crimes against children, teenagers, young teenage girls. She'd laid it all out for her before. It was Chattaway she was after, not Pasqual.

She couldn't go to Briggs with her theory. How could she explain a second suspect. Her instinct, though, told her Chattaway was the last victim, and she couldn't sit still and do nothing.

"Jonas, you've got to trust me. I've been duped again, but I know Shara's next victim. Will you drive me?

"Yours to command," he said, starting the engine. "Just don't keep me guessing."

She told him her theory as they drove, and he concurred.

"What a fool I've been, Jonas. It was staring me right in the face the whole time. I was going to interview Shara's, or Renee's . . . whatever, half-brother for my series. He had been discharged from the army and returned here a few months before Shara began her rampage.

"That's what triggered her. It's bugged me all along. Why the gap of over a decade before she felt the urge to kill? She'd been through hell and back, but survived until a year-and-a-half ago."

"Then her half-brother returned," Jonas said.

"Right. She couldn't screw up enough courage to confront him, so she went after others like him."

"It didn't work, though," Jonas added.

"No." It was all falling into place for Deidre now, hopefully not too late. "Each killing brought less . . . I don't know, satisfaction. That's not the word, but the killings didn't rid her of her half-brother's presence. In fact, each strengthened his grip on her. At some point she must have decided she could kill forever, but until she rid herself of the source of her dread, he'd still be there, just around the corner. Still there taunting her. The only way she can be certain this will be the last killing is . . . "

"If it's her half-brother," Jonas finished for her.

But how did she know to plant Pasqual? Deidre thought to herself. How did she know I'd find her? How could she know I'd break into her house, snoop around, and be waiting for her?

With each answer a dozen new questions surfaced. She sat sullenly the last three blocks, tension mounting within her. She was glad for Jonas' presence; glad, too, he knew her well enough to let her brood without making small talk or overanalyzing the situation.

When Jonas stopped outside Chattaways' apartment, Deidre bolted to the front door. Jonas caught up to her as she looked at the mailboxes, and saw he was on the second floor. Upstairs, her heart sank as she saw his front door opened a crack. The killer had done this each time, so the victim would be found quickly, by a curious neighbor.

She must be too late. Shara wouldn't leave the door ajar if she were still inside.

With Jonas behind her, she opened the door, and when she saw him on the bed she felt lightheaded and her knees almost buckled. From behind Jonas steadied her.

On the bed lay Robert Chattaway, a sock in his mouth, his eyes and the skin around them charred from acid. On the mirror, Shara's message in lipstick. NO MORE HUNGRY EYES. This time, with a double line under the word NO. Only Deidre would understand its true meaning. This time the message was meant for her.

"Damn it to hell," she said, wanting to scream, yet knowing it would draw attention. "Played me like a Goddamn violin." She turned to Jonas, her face ashen, tears streaking down her face.

"Jonas, could I have subconsciously known she would go her half-brother, but buried it so she could? Am I an accomplice to this last murder?"

Jonas shook his head no. "She manipulated you. Given more time, you would have figured it out. She didn't give you that time. Part of her plan."

He paused a moment.

"What now?"

"Now?" Deidre tried to clear the cobwebs. Did it matter? Yes, it wasn't over. She thought over her options for a few moments. She couldn't call Briggs. He'd pummel her with questions she wouldn't be able to answer. As it was her credibility with him was shot. Unless she told him all she knew, which she still refused to do, he would never trust her so-called sources again.

As it was, if the media found out the Task Force was staking out Eddie Pasqual's house the very night of the latest killing, Briggs would not only have egg on his face, he'd lose command of the Task Force.

No, she would deal with him in the morning. For now, she had to confront Shara; find out how she had been one step ahead of her, and made her look the fool. Again.

"I'm going to her house. Alone." Her tone left no room for argument. "I left my car there, so I'll be able to get around when I'm done. She won't hurt me. She'll want to gloat, I suppose. Want to see if I'll break my precious code of ethics and turn her in. It's all part of the game she's playing."

"Will you turn her in?"

Deidre shrugged. "To be honest, I have no idea. A part of me wants to, just to show her she can't read me like an open book. But can I live with myself if I do?"

"Can you if you don't, and she kills again?"

"I'll let you know. I just need to be alone with her."

# # # #

When she got to Shara's, the door was unlocked, and Deidre was surprised to find it vacant. Not just unoccupied, totally cleared out. What few belongings Shara had were gone. Only the chair and desk remained. On the desk was a brief note with a "D" at the top.

"Sorry, but it had to be this way. Meet me at my parent's house tomorrow at noon. Come alone."

The note was unsigned. For a moment, she thought Shara meant Loretta Barrows' house, and wondered if this was another loose end Shara had decided to tidy up. But she had said parents, and Deidre knew she meant the Sheffields' That was, of course, unless the note was another hoax; further manipulation while she made good on her escape. Deep down she thought it the truth, and decided to find out the next day. For now, she would drive back to the stakeout. No sense, she thought, in antagonizing Briggs anymore than necessary or arousing his suspicions.

# # # #

Deidre was dozing when she heard tapping on her window. She was staring at Briggs; a mixture of rage and defeat etched on his face.

"Wake up Caffrey. Open the fucking window."

She did.

"The bastard's struck, but not here. Your source had the right night, but the wrong victim. Looks like my ass is in a sling, as soon as the word gets out."

"How . . . ?"

"Chievous or McCauley. Don't think they're not relishing my failure. Way I figure it, the price for keeping our little escapade from the media will be my removal. The Mayor doesn't need the embarrassment, so he'll hush up our little indiscretion, but replace me to placate the Chief.

"Tell you the truth, I don't give a shit. Got the feeling there'll be a lot more careers going down the tube before this joker is caught. We got squat, and our man's not cooperating in the least."

"Don't be so hard on yourself," Deidre said lamely. "You hardly had time . . ."

"Thanks, but I know when a trail's cold. You don't catch serial killers with old-fashioned police work. Leastways, not this time. This guy has no pattern. If we had a chance in hell Logan, from the FBI, would be down here so he'd could claim credit. He knew better, though. Gave us a little hope, and got out of Dodge while the going was good. If our guy's found, it'll be a fluke. And, know what? It doesn't faze me too much that I won't be a part of it."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Damage control. Washington and Hodge are at the crime scene with the lab boys. Press will get wind of it soon. Give them some innocuous statement. Yes, it looks like our killer, but we won't know for sure until at least the late afternoon. MO's the same, but it could be a copycat. Feed them the information we're allowed to divulge. Call the Mayor's office. I assume he'll want to issue a statement. My replacement."

"All right. Should I follow you?"

"Yeah, sure." He began to turn, then thought better of it. "Dee, want to tell me your source? Just might save my ass."

"C'mon Briggs. You know I can't. He fucked up, anyway, didn't he?"

"Got that right. Hell of a coincidence, though, getting the night right. An off the record chat . . . ," he let the words hang.


He shrugged. "Can't blame a guy for trying. C'mon, follow me."

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