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Chapter 15 -- Clues and Confusion
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

I quickly prepared spells for the day, then I cast Flight from scratch on myself and on Mara, followed by Invisibility and Mystic Vision for each of us.

"How does this work?" she asked as we stood, invisible, on the front porch. "What do I do?"

"It's hard to explain, but I think you can do it. It's like walking; you don't really think about it." I rose off the ground a foot or so, to show her. I was invisible, of course, but the Mystic Vision would allow her to see me glowing faintly, just as I saw her. "Just relax, and then take a step off the porch."

"Oh!" she cried, as I saw her spectral form step into the empty air. "It's working!" she exclaimed. "I'm floating! I can fly!"

"Take my hand, you beautiful ghost," I said, and we flew off together into the sunrise.

Romantic, eh?

We arrived at the Burke residence about nine-thirty. That early in the morning, the front door of their west-facing house was in deep shadow, so we stepped into the recessed entrance and I dismissed our Invisibility spells.

Once again I was poised to knock when Mara, grinning, rang the bell. I smiled sheepishly at her.

The door opened after a moment, and Miyuki Burke beckoned us inside. "Come in, please. I understand you want to speak to me this time?"

"Yes," I said, "we do. Are any other members of your family here?"

"Well, Walter is at work, of course, and Kimberly spent the night at a friend's house. Daniel is in his room upstairs, probably still asleep."

She led us into the living room, and offered us tea. Mara and I both accepted a cup, and I sipped at mine once out of politeness. I don't see how anyone can drink such a flavorless beverage; even coffee is better.

Mara and I took seats on the couch, while Miyuki sat down on an adjacent overstuffed chair. "Now, how can I help you?" she asked.

"Miyuki, there's no easy way to ask this," I said, bracing myself for all sorts of responses. "Is Daniel Walter's son?"

"Oh," she said, surprised. "I wondered if you would ask that." She took a long sip at her tea. "No, he isn't," she answered quietly.

She opened her mouth to speak, then thought twice, and quietly she went up the stairs, waving at us to remain there. After a moment she returned.

"He's asleep. I wanted to be sure." She sat down again. "I was raped," she said.

"Tell us all you can, please," Mara said. "I know it's not a pleasant thing, but it may be important."

"Yes. Well... Walter and I had just come to San Francisco, after he left the Air Force. He took a job for an import firm, in the sales department, and he had to go on a lot of business trips. They were never more than a few days, and I spoke English fairly well, but I was lonely when he was away.

"One night I awoke to see a man in a ski mask standing over me. Before I could scream, he had covered my face with a pillow. I tried to fight, but he was too strong and heavy for me, and I passed out.

"When I woke up again, I was in my bed, lying on my back, just as I had been before, but my panties were gone and I could tell I had been... used." Here she paused, drinking her tea and pouring another cup for herself. Her composure was amazing, but I sensed she was working hard to hold on to it.

"I did all the wrong things then. They didn't talk much about rape in those days, so I didn't know what to do, and I just wanted it all to go away. I showered, and I threw my nightgown and panties in the washing machine along with all my bedding. I checked every door and window in the house, and found one on the first floor which didn't latch properly; I was sure he had entered the house there. I couldn't leave it that way; but Walter was something of a handyman, so I got his hammer and some large nails and I nailed it closed.

"After I had done all that, I remade the bed, found new nightclothes and went back to bed.

"In other words, I tried to believe it had never happened. For the most part I succeeded; I had terrible nightmares a few times, and several panic attacks, but no one would have known, except for one thing.

"You see, we had decided to start a family, Walter and I. When I told him I thought I was pregnant he was so happy. He could see I wasn't, and he asked me what was wrong... well, I told him everything.

"I was afraid he would think I had cheated on him, but Walter trusted me. We had no way to know if the child was the rapist's, or Walter's, but he told me he didn't care. He said, 'no matter who the father is, this child will be your child, and I will love it as I love you.'" She poured herself the last cup of tea then, and drank it slowly.

"When did you know it wasn't?" I asked.

"When he was born. It was obvious to everyone that he wasn't, but our family and friends were too polite to mention it." She paused a moment, then said "We never told Daniel he wasn't Walter's. Maybe we should have."

"Miyuki, tell me, please... did the rapist raise your nightgown," said Mara, gesturing to indicate that she meant, "did he expose your breasts" without actually saying it.

"No," she answered quickly. "It seemed to me that he hadn't done anything but remove my panties and commit the act."

Mara spared be a glance. It fit with Kimberly's rape.

"Do you think that my rape had something to do with my daughters?" Miyuki asked.

I didn't dare to voice my true suspicions yet, so I said "Possibly. There may be a connection, or there may not."

"Solo Jones, I must tell you that I trust you. My sister is very wise in many ways, and she has recommended you to me. Please do your best for us."

"I will," I said, rising. As I walked toward the door, I saw Daniel at the top of the stairs. How much had he heard? I moved toward the stairs, but he turned away quickly and half-ran back to his room. I looked at Mara, and I suppose I frowned.

A thought came to me then, so at the door I turned around. Miyuki, of course, was following her guests. "One more question," I said. "The police have been investigating this case for more than a month; I should like to talk to the detective in charge of the case. Can you tell me who he is and where to find him?"

"It's a lady detective, Mister Jones," Miyuki answered. "Her name is Moretti." She told us the precinct's address, which Mara took note of. (My handwriting in English was still terrible, and in fact has never become much better to this day.)

Outside, we began a leisurely walk toward the afore-mentioned police precinct office. We both still had the Flight spell in effect, and I had two Invisibility spells prepared, but I thought we might be being watched. I leaned close to Mara and told her so.

We walked, more like strolled, hand in hand down the streets. There were people walking, jogging, skating, and driving all over, and once again I remembered how many people lived in the world these days.

"I think we need to talk to Daniel, probably before Joel comes back," I said.

"He didn't want to talk to us," she answered, smiling as if we were sharing a secret joke. It seemed a good cover, so I tried to emulate her.

"Maybe we need to wait until he leaves the house, then surprise him somewhere," I said. It was impossible not to frown then. "I don't know if this was such a good idea."

"What do you mean?"

"This role that Mark has created for me, an investigator, may not be the right thing for me. I am a warrior, and a mage; most of all I'm a man of action. The strategy and tactics of fighting or of magic, I know them pretty well. This business of puzzling out what happened... I don't know if I can do it."

"Your accent is getting thicker."

"Ah, well, perhaps when I am frustrated trying to tell my feelings I revert. I've been speaking English less than a month, you know." I looked off into the sky.

"You can do this, my love. You are smart, and you have the best help." I saw the impish smile on her face, and I kissed her, right there on the sidewalk. A young woman in gothic dress passing by whistled at us, and I gave her a wink and resumed kissing Mara.

At least, I assume it was a woman. San Francisco often surprises me; but I had no idea what strange surprises I would soon face.

Fortunately it wasn't far to the precinct office. We went inside, making way for two uniformed officers guiding an orange-uniformed man out to a waiting police car. Inside, things were much more orderly than the police departments shown on television, which of course was the only way I knew anything about police departments.

I am smart enough not to believe everything I see on television, by the way...

The desk sergeant told Mara that Detective Moretti was out on a case. Mara turned back to me and we started for the door, but just then a dark-haired woman in business attire came in. "Moretti!" called the desk sergeant, "these folks want to talk to you."

"Yeah, what can I do for you?" she said, approaching us.

"I'm Solo Jones. I was hired to look into the rape of Kimberly Burke. I'm told you are in charge of the police investigation?"

"Yeah, I am," she said, making a face. "Come with me." We followed her back to a desk in an adjacent room. There were several desks there, some with detectives behind them, and there were a few people scattered around talking with the detectives. No one was very close to Moretti's desk, which I considered fortunate.

"By the way, this is Mara, my assistant." Detective Moretti nodded at her, and we all sat down.

"There's not much of an investigation at this point," she said. "Forensics managed to find a few hairs for comparison, but we don't have any suspects, or any leads."

"There are some things about this case which are strange," I said. "Only one of her assailants actually raped her, and neither one of them really seemed... interested in her otherwise."

"You mean like, they didn't play with her? I know what you mean. Rapists do it for power; they like to talk to the victim, play with her, inflict as much fear as they can. These two didn't." She sat looking at me, as if debating something with herself. "I bet you know some things I don't," she said.

"Probably, but I don't know what to make of them." I decided then to tell some of what I knew in the hopes she would reciprocate. "Kimberly Burke is pregnant, and she insists it's by the rapist."

Moretti leaned forward. "Pregnant? That's like, impossible! Didn't the doctor do a D&C at the hospital after the rape kit was collected?"

"That's what he says. I'm inclined to think he's lying. We spoke with Doctor Rabo, and he insisted that her pregnancy must be by some other man, and that it had been enough time for that to happen. It's a stretch."

Moretti made a perplexed face. "Even if the D&C was a fake, she still shouldn't be pregnant. The Forensics team downtown had a hard time finding any sperm in the rape kit, or on the sheets. The rapist's sperm count was almost zero."

I had heard that before, and now I had confirmation; but what did it mean? I decided to take a different approach. "Did you know that Daniel Burke is the result of the rape of Miyuki years ago?" She shook her head. "There was a single rapist in that case, but he behaved much like this one did... he didn't play with or talk to Miyuki. He overpowered her, smothering her with a pillow until she was unconscious, then removed her panties and did what he came for. She told us that she didn't report it because she wanted to forget it, but she told her husband when she found out she was pregnant."

"I thought there was something strange about that boy." She absently chewed her lip, thinking. "I'm going to tell you some things I probably shouldn't. I think you probably have a better chance to solve this case than I do, but if you don't mind I'd like you to call me before you approach any perps."

I nodded my agreement, and she opened a desk drawer, retrieved a stack of file folders and handed them to us. As Mara and I began to look through them, Moretti said, "I'll save you a lot of time here. Those are all unsolved rape cases from the last twelve months. There are lots more before that. All of them have one or two perps, but just one actually performs the rape. The rapist doesn't show any other interest in the victim, doesn't even talk to her. In a couple of cases where there are two perps they talk to each other. It seems to be strictly business to them."

She took a sip of her coffee as we looked briefly through the folders. "The strangest thing to me is, almost all of these rapes resulted in a pregnancy. People usually aren't that fertile. It seems real unlikely to me that all of these women were ovulating at the time; several were on the Pill, and one even had her tubes tied."

There were eight folders here; if there were eight reported cases, how many went unreported?

"How did you find all these?" asked Mara.

"Well, I was telling one of the older detectives what a strange case this was, and he told me he had worked one like it a few years back. I went looking for that case file, and once I knew what I was looking for I found all these also."

Mara said, "Some kind of serial rapist, then."

"The chief says no. There are too many discrepancies between the cases. Look, in this one there's just one man, in a T-shirt and shorts, with a bandana around his hair and another over his nose and mouth. This one has two men, wearing ski masks and sweatsuits. This one here has one man in a Halloween monster mask, and this other guy wore pantyhose over his head like a bank robber." She sat back, looking disgusted. "I called an old friend who joined the FBI, and asked her about this kind of case. Once she went looking she found a lot of similar cases in New York City, plus at least a few in every major US city she examined. She had a profiler look at a few of the case files, and he couldn't even guess at a profile."

"That's strange," said Mara. I didn't know what a profiler was, but I nodded in agreement anyway. (Mara explained it later.)

"So I took what I had to the chief, and he said he thinks it's just a fluke. There's no way it could be the same guys all these times, and he just laughed when I suggested it was some kind of club or something. Told me to forget it." She looked disgusted.

"Detective Moretti, I promise, if we come up with something you can use we'll let you know." I stood then, and shook hands with her. "You may be hearing from us," I said as we walked away.

"Good luck, Solo Jones."

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The Adventures of Solo Jones Last Updated 07/18/2005