Mary Had A Little Lamb: Chapter Three
Your Comments Are Enjoyable
It is gratifying to read your comments as you follow along with this story. How is the killer doing it? Who is the killer? How will he slip up and be caught, or will he go on and on and on?
I love “who done its” and evidently many of you do as well.
So let’s get back to the story. Dawn and Bill are as confused as you are about this killer dubbed “Houdini.”
He was playing with us.
This was a game to him. The murdered children were the game pieces, the City of Olympia the game board, and the note I held in my hand was the first clue.
How many children will it take to find closure?
The note had been mailed to the Chief of Police five days after Mary Burnett’s body had been found. It had been dropped in a mail box outside the main Post Office. It was computer-generated. The envelope was handwritten, in block letters, black ink, next-to-nothing distinctive about it. Both the letter and the envelope had been dusted for prints. There were none.
The Precinct shrink believed the killer to be above average in intelligence, well-educated (some college), methodical, and most likely the victim of abuse at some point in his life.
In other words, we had next to nothing.
And then the next body was found.
The Next Move on the Game Board
Boston Harbor is a quiet little community at the mouth of Budd Inlet, five miles north of downtown Olympia. It consists of a marina and residential homes. There is no downtown area, no shopping mall, nothing but the taste of salt on the breeze, unimpeded views of Puget Sound, the ever-present gulls, and a slower pace of life.
Tammi Ferris was five when she died. She was abducted from a birthday party, a party where fifteen other five-year olds were enjoying life, and their ever-vigilant parents watched on. One moment she was there, the next she was gone, a matter of, quite literally, two minutes while her mother went to the bathroom and Tammi played “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” in the backyard. The frantic mother had called police ten minutes after Tammi disappeared, and ten hours later Tammi was found hanging, by the neck, from the mast of a thirty-two foot sailboat in the Boston Harbor Marina.
The M.E. finished up, walked by us muttering “same guy,” and turned the scene over to us to process.
Strangled . . . molested . . . number four!
A note was pinned to Tammi’s forehead:
Puff the magic dragon, lived by the sea.
The next move is yours.
“Do you believe in magic?” Dawn asked me as we looked down on Tammi’s body, such a small body, delicate bones, narrow face, blond curls the dominant feature, seemingly exploding from her head in disarray, still dressed in her party dress, pink, frilly . . . so delicate.
“No, Dawn, and neither do you. Don’t go down that road. This guy is no magician. He’s no sorcerer. He’s a human being, a sick bastard, and he’ll make a mistake, and when he does we’ll mash his grits and take him off the board.”
She knelt down next to the small body. Ligature marks were clear against the white skin. A strand of blond curl had blown across Tammi’s eyes. Dawn reached down and gently moved the curl, a meaningless gesture, as though, by doing so, life could be returned.
“Is he telling us that he lives by the sea?” She looked up at the mast, at least twenty-feet in height. “How the hell does he do it, Bill? People live on these boats. He had to be out in the open as he carried the body down the main gangplank, walked with it for what, fifty feet? Then he wraps the rope around her neck and hoists her up the pole. Sure it was dark but still, it’s a pleasant evening. Someone had to be out enjoying the late evening and gentle temperatures. What do you want to bet our canvas of the area comesup empty? What do you want to bet that, after we interview every sonofabitch who lives in this marina, we’ll be no closer to the answer?”
“You’re probably correct, but let’s get to it. We need answers and maybe we’ll get lucky.”
No Luck to Be Found
We were at The Spar Restaurant in downtown Olympia, eating breakfast, at half-past seven. We had interviewed twelve live-aboards during the night and gotten absolutely nothing. No one had heard a thing. The latest anyone was on deck, outside, was eleven, so the body had been dumped sometime between eleven p.m. and two a.m., the time it was discovered.
“The gangplank leading down to the boats is damned loud. Did you notice that?” Dawn asked after finishing her eggs. “Even if everyone was asleep, how could they not hear someone walking down that gangplank?”
I took a slip of coffee.
“Maybe he didn’t walk down the gangplank. The way he dumped Mary Burnett’s body, and now this one, suggests he approached the two dump sites from the water.”
“So, the perp is Puff the magic dragon, and he’s saying he lives by the sea?” Dawn motioned to the waitress for a refill. “Makes sense, I guess, although I’m not sure how it helps us. This is the Puget Sound. We just narrowed our suspect list down to about twenty-thousand boat-owners who live within twenty miles of here.”
“Closure from what?” I asked. Dawn tilted her head in question. “His previous note asked how many deaths before closure. We’ve got a perp who owns a boat, lives reasonably close, on the water, and is seeking closure. But closure from what? How many of those twenty-thousand boat-owners you mentioned are in need of closure? Did any of them recently lose a child? Are any of them getting treatment for abuse?”
“And how the holy hell, Bill, are we supposed to find that out? Go talk to every psychologist from here to Seattle and ask them to share their patient records with us?”
I put a twenty down on the table and stood.
“Let’s go read the newspaper,” I told her.
The Online Morgue
The Olympian is our local newspaper. It’s not going to win any Pulitzer Prizes anytime soon, but it does have every issue published since its inception, and we needed information.
Dawn and I walked into the main lobby of The Olympian a few minutes after eight that morning. I showed my badge to a wide-eyed, twenty-something, eager-to-help receptionist.
“Good morning!” I told her. “We need to see the editor about a murder investigation, and now would be better than in a half-hour. Would you be so kind as to page him, or her, and ask them to join us here quickly?”
The first murder, that of Angela Mullins, had occurred back in April. I explained to Dawn, on the way to the newspaper office, that maybe something had happened to start the killings just before April, and maybe that something had been written about by our local news staff.
Most murders are pretty cut-and dried, and most are about passion. A domestic dispute turns physical, an argument at a bar gets violent, a death occurs and the killer is found within hours of the deed. But then there are those murders, like the ones we were working on, where the motive is missing and the clues seem to be non-existent. That’s when cops start tugging at loose threads, randomly, hoping to discover one thread which will lead to another, and another, until the whole fabric of the case is unraveled and the answers are laid bare. It is tedious work, frustrating by its very nature.
Serial killers are the worst. There is no apparent rhyme or reason for their actions, and it takes some serious excavation to dig down to the bare-root cause of the killings.
Dawn and I were at the Olympian with our shovels in hand.
SEE YOU NEXT WEEK
And thank you for joining me on this latest trip through the darkness of the soul. Hopefully you’ll join me again next week.
2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)