STEELE RIPPING AROUND
By: William Simon
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #2 & #3
Summary: Remington confronts a killer who claims to be Jack the Ripper.
Disclaimer: This “Remington Steele” story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with “Remington Steele,” the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
He never did like guns.
Once, long ago, he had met a man in British Intelligence; Drake was the chap’s name. Drake had defined guns as “nasty, noisy, ugly, oily things. They could hurt someone.”
His sentiments exactly.
However, as Daniel had taught him more than once, in their kind of life, it was important to be familiar with a little bit of everything. Whether it was gambling, jewel appraisal, human nature, or pistol shooting, it took a bit of knowledge covering a wide range of subjects to make their way of life work without seeing it from some rotting prison cell.
Now, standing in the pouring rain, holding a borrowed Smith and Wesson 659 in his hands, pointed directly at the man he had hunted, he was glad for the knowledge.
He knew he had fourteen nine-millimeter rounds in the clip, he knew he had one in the chamber, and he knew if this animal that passed for a man so much as breathed incorrectly, he knew his finger would flex on the trigger, flex and pull, until the entire clip was spent.
At this range, he also knew he couldn't miss.
"Stop right there!" He yelled over the din of pelting water, thunder, and police sirens. His attention was trying to wander; the noise and lights were a distraction. He firmly closed his mind to it all, concentrating solely on holding this thing in his sights.
"Steele! Don't do it!"
The voice managed to cut through everything else in his mind, blocking the blood-lust. Without moving his head to the speaker, keeping his eyes locked on the animal in front of him, he asked, "Why not? End it now."
Detective Jarvis came up with several members of the SWAT team, who immediately surround-ed the killer and began a thorough and not very discreet search of his person. Jarvis gently put one hand over the pistol, and forced it to point at the ground.
"It's over, Mister Steele," he said softly. "We got him."
"Over for you, perhaps," Remington Steele said as he let his arm fall to his side.
"I talked to the hospital a little while ago," Jarvis said. "She’s doing fine."
Steele shuddered. "It was too close."
"Close, as she would say, only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades."
Steele's mouth twitched in the semblance of a smile. True, Laura would say something exactly like that. On a more primitive level, however, the one that no one likes to think about if one is a rational human being, was the knowledge that this animal had touched her, had actually put his filthy hands on her.
And after that, he had....
Enough of that. It was over now. Well and truly. What was done was done. The dead were dead.
He had the living to tend to.
He let Jarvis take the pistol from him, and stood silently.
The SWAT team had the killer standing now, handcuffed and in leg irons. No one was taking any chances with this one. He was crowded into a police car, two huge officers on either side.
At no time did the killer take his eyes from Remington Steele. There was no emotion in his gaze, no anger or hatred or anything at all.
Shark's eyes, Steele thought, as he matched the man.
Born for the kill.
Steele walked through the hospital corridors, his nerves finally letting go. He caught sight of Mildred; loyal, faithful Mildred, coming out of Laura’s room. She waved when she saw him, and waited for him.
“Oh, boss! It was on the news! You did it!”
Steele fought the urge to sigh. “It was a bit less than nothing, when all was said and done, Mildred.” No sense in frightening Mildred trying to explain how close, so very close, he had come to cold-blooded murder. He paused, his eyes flicking to the door. “How is she?”
“Miss Holt is fine. The doctors want to keep her overnight for observation only. She wasn’t hurt as badly as we thought. According to the surgeon, it was a bad wound, but not fatal. Not even close. There won't even be much scarring.”
Steele repressed a shudder as he remembered the moment.
He had walked into Laura’s loft, calling her name. When there was no answer, he searched the place .... and he found her.
In her bedroom.
On the bed.
Awash in an ocean of blood.
For one of the few times in his life, the man known as Remington Steele knew the meaning of the word ‘panic.’ He snatched the phone from its cradle, his hands shaking so badly he could not dial three simple numbers: 911. When he finally managed to do so, his voice was frozen in his throat. He managed to gasp out what had happened. The dispatcher told him to keep the line open, help was on the way.
Steele accomplished this by simply dropping the cordless phone to the floor as he crawled gently onto the bed to hold Laura’s bleeding body.
“No,” he whispered. “Not now. Not yet.” He gently cradled her in his arms, paying no attention to the blood soaking his clothes. “So much to say. So much we could have done. Not now. Please. Please, God, not now.”
Once the EMTs arrived, Steele was shoved out of the way so they could do their jobs. He could do nothing but stand by helplessly as they loaded her onto a stretcher, and, as gently as they could, took her to the ambulance.
A cold rage swept through him.
From her loft, he went straight to police headquarters, scaring the living daylights out of poor little Detective Jarvis when he burst through the door, looking like a wildman.
Steele snapped himself back to the present, and to Mildred’s smiling face. “That’s good,” was all he could say.
“She’s wide awake, demanding to go home,” Mildred told him. She lowered her voice. “Boss, she was asking for some people while she was under the anesthetic. Very strange.”
“Whom? Whom did she want?”
Mildred shrugged. “No one I ever heard of. I couldn’t really make the names out. One sounded like ‘O’Leary,’ another sounded like ‘Quintain,’ Then she started to come out of it, and was asking for some guy named ‘Blaine.’ Do you know these guys, Boss?”
It was all Steele could do to keep a straight face. “No, Mildred. But they say anesthesia makes one do and say odd things. Perhaps they were friends of hers from long ago. A trick of the mind.”
Mildred was not convinced, but there were other priorities. “Whatever. Listen, Boss. You need to go in and see her. They’re getting ready to end visiting hours.”
Steele nodded. “It’s why I’m here, Mildred. It’s why I’m here.”
Impulsively, Steele grabbed Mildred and hugged her. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you for staying here, with her.”
“Boss,” Mildred said as she hugged him back, “we’re all in this together. I’m going home. You get in there. I’ll see you at the office in the morning.”
Mildred turned and walked away. Steele stood for a moment, watching her stride down the hallway, fearing for anyone who got in her path. Mildred, Mildred....what would we do without her?
Squaring his shoulders, he opened the door.
Laura Holt was sitting up in the hospital bed, her lovely face creased in a frown as she stared at the television set. The evening news was recapping the story of the man who had been tagged the ‘Sunset Slasher’ by the media, and how the great detective Remington Steele, at great risk to personal safety, had tracked and captured the killer.
She looked at Steele as he entered. He heaved a sigh of relief when he saw her; aside from looking paler than normal, she appeared fine. To his eyes, she was perfect.
He stepped close to the bed, taking her hand in his. “How are you?”
The abruptness of the answer startled him, but he passed it off to nerves. Both of them had been stretched pretty tightly the past twelve hours.
Laura withdrew her hand from his, and began fiddling with the television’s remote control.
“What did the doctor have to say?”
She would not look at him, and spoke to the bedcovers. “I’ll be fine. Lost some blood, but not as much as it looked like. A few days bedrest, and back to work.”
Steele reached out and took her hand again. “Laura, what’s wrong here? Talk to me.”
She refused to look at him, focusing on a small crease in the bedcovers. He gently reached out, touched his fingertips to her chin, and raised her face. He was surprised to see tears running down her cheeks.
Her hand flashed out, and she slapped him in the face with what little strength she had.
It all came rushing out in a choking sob tinged with a dash of that temper he knew so well. “You could have been killed,” she yelled through her tears. “He could have killed you. When I was aware enough, and Mildred told me what had happened and where you were, I couldn’t bear it. Running off after a lunatic with a knife. A lunatic who’s already killed sixteen people! Dear God, what were you thinking?”
Steele paused a moment, trying to restrain his own anger. “What was I doing? What was I doing? I was hunting down the bastard who hurt you, that’s what I was doing. And, while we’re at it, what the hell were you doing, parading around Sunset Boulevard like some bloody tart, like a decoy, hoping to catch his attention? It bloody well worked, didn’t it? You got exactly what you bloody well wanted! He saw you, followed you home, and re-enacted the climax from every Friday the Thirteenth movie ever made! You’ve got some bloody nerve yelling at me, don’t you?”
Steele took a deep breath. “Laura, listen to me. He hurt you. Badly. I thought I had lost you forever. I mean it. I honestly thought you were dead.”
“And getting yourself killed while going for vengeance would have been wonderful, wouldn’t it?” she yelled, wincing when she stretched her stomach muscles. “That would have made everything just fine, wouldn’t it?”
Steele paused, looking at her. He gently reached out and took her face in his hands. “I had nothing else to give you,” he said softly.
Laura’s chest hitched, and the dam broke. She moved into his arms as much as she possibly could, and cried it all out. “I’m sorry,” she managed to say. “I’m so sorry. I thought I would lose you. I was so scared. All I could do was lie here and be frantic. I’m sorry.”
Remington Steele said nothing, just held her sobbing figure, and wondered why hospitals couldn’t have better air conditioning systems installed.
Something had gotten into his eyes, and was making them water terribly.
Steele softly shut the door to Laura’s hospital room. He was tired, so tired. He had not been home in forever, and the combination of Laura’s blood, rain water, and living in his clothes had made his usually immaculate appearance fall far below his normal standards. He walked down the corridor, heading for the exit where Fred and the limo waited. Fifteen, sixteen hours of sleep, that was the ticket. Wake up, call and make arrangements to have Eggs Benedict delivered to Laura’s room for brunch, perhaps a bit of champagne. Dom Perignon ‘68 seemed appropos.
He turned at the voice. “Yes?”
The nurse held out a telephone. “It’s the police. Detective Jarvis.”
Oh, balls, Steele thought as he took the phone. Now what?
“Mister Steele,” Jarvis said politely, “how is she?”
“Laura’s doing fine. She should be released in a day or so.”
“Wonderful!” Jarvis paused, and Steele knew the infamous other shoe was about to drop.
“Well, uh, ummmm, I know this is a bit awkward, Mister Steele, but I need a favor.”
Jarvis had been there every step of the way with Steele, using his police authority in places where Steele could not go, standing by him, as concerned for Laura as Steele was himself. “Name it.”
“Well...as you know, we have the Sunset Slasher in custody. But he won’t talk to us.”
“Time for the rubber hoses, eh?”
“In this instance, I wish,” Jarvis said. “He says he’ll talk to you. And only you.”
Steele was honestly puzzled. “Me?”
“I know, I know,” Jarvis said, and Steele could almost see him shrugging. “He says he will speak only to the man who captured him. No one else. He refused an attorney, waived his rights, the whole thing. But he won’t talk to anyone but you.”
“I see.” God, he was tired. Exhausted. Beaten down. The release of nervous tension had left him as drained as if he had run a marathon. But, what possible option did he have? “I’ll be there shortly.”
“Thanks, Mister Steele.” Jarvis hung up.
Steele stepped outside, crossing to the limo. As he opened the door, he said, “Police headquarters, Fred. Step on it.”
Fred turned and looked at him. “Begging your pardon, Mister Steele, you haven’t slept in a very long time.”
“I know,” Steele replied as he settled into the backseat. “Drive rapidly but gently. Perhaps I can get a quick nap.”
“It’s almost four in the morning, sir. Breakfast?”
Steele shook his head. “No, thanks, Fred. Last time I agreed to breakfast at this ungodly hour, Miss Holt showed up with something atrocious called an ‘Egg McMuffin.’ Never again.”
“Yes, sir.” Fred put the car in gear, and pulled into traffic.
Less than thirty seconds after he pulled out, Fred heard soft snoring from the back seat.
INTERIOR. A HALLWAY
A surrealistic place. The walls are almost but not quite red in color. There is no sound whatsoever.
INTERIOR. HALLWAY. LONG SHOT
Down the hall, a man comes. As he gets closer, one can see that he is Remington Steele. Dressed in an immaculate dinner jacket, tie perfect, shoes gleaming, every hair in place. He carries a bouquet of flowers in one hand, and a bottle of vintage champagne in the other.
STEELE'S POINT OF VIEW
He stops in front of a door that looks as if it should belong in Fort Knox. Heavy, solid steel, seamlessly integrated into the wall.
A very small handle can be seen on the right side of it, with an even smaller lock. The handle and lock are so small as to be almost invisible.
Steele reaches out, and gently tries the handle. No go.
He knocks on the door. There is no answer. He knocks again, harder. Still, no response. Again, just a bit more force. No answer.
In frustration, he pounds on the door with the side of his hand.
A voice comes from off-screen. This is Laura Holt.
Steele pauses, then knocks again.
I said, GO AWAY!
Steele pauses again, considering his next move. As he gently sets the flowers and champagne on the floor, a figure appears out of nowhere, and walks rapidly past him. Steele reacts with shock when he recognizes the approaching man as Murphy Michaels.
I’d give it up, if I were you. You haven’t got a chance.
Steele ignores this piece of advice, and Murphy walks off, muttering under his breath. Reaching into his pocket, Steele removes a complete lock-pick set. He selects two tools, puts the case back in his pocket, and kneels down for a better look at the door.
STEELE'S POINT OF VIEW
The door is quite seamless, with no apparent way in. He gently inserts one of the tools into the very tiny opening, and delicately, oh so delicately, probes. Laura’s voice screams through the door.
I said GO AWAY! I don’t WANT you! I don’t NEED you! I don’t want you AROUND me. Get out of here!
Steele ignores the noise. Footsteps alert him, and he stands. The figure approaching this time is Felicia.
Really, darling. All this time wasted, all this effort. We could be having so much fun in Cannes about now. The film festival is on, you know.
I know. Believe me, I know.
Felicia wraps herself around him like a second skin, pressing as close as she possibly can under the circumstances.
I mean, really, Michael. Why bother? She’s made herself rather clear. You haven’t got a chance.
I’ve been told that before.
Felicia’s actions are getting more intense. From the look on Steele’s face, her offer is quite tempting. He looks at the massive door, then back at Felicia.
I have to try. Do you understand?
Felicia stops as if a switch has been thrown, and disentangles herself from him. Her face is pinched and bitter.
No, I don’t understand, but I suppose I have no say in all of this. She really is a scrawny little thing, you know.
Felicia walks off in a huff without another word.
Steele returns to the delicately excruciating task of picking the lock on the door. More footsteps.
Daniel Charlmers comes in.
Dear God, Harry! Did I see what I just saw?
Since it is Daniel, Steele kneels down again, and delicately probes the lock.
Yes, Daniel, you saw correctly.
Are you sure about this, my boy? I mean, really...is Linda worth all this?
Her name is Laura.
(shrugging) Laura, Linda. They’re all the same.
No, Daniel, they’re not. Not even close.
Harry, I have no doubt that Miss Bolt is an exceptional young lady. But are you sure about this? I mean, really certain?
I am, Daniel. More so than anything I have ever done in my life. And her name is Holt. Laura Holt.
Holt, Bolt, Laura, Linda. What does it matter? We should be on the Continent, my boy. Just think of what we could do this time of year!
Daniel, sometimes people change. There comes a point in every mans’ life where what was once so important, he realizes now how trivial it really is. Or was.
Trivial? My God, Harry, she’s really gotten to you, hasn’t she?
Steele does not reply. He has succeeded in picking the lock on the door. He stands, put the tools away, and carefully adjusts his jacket. He picks up the flowers and champagne, and pulls the door open. As he steps through, he turns to Daniel.
Not to worry. For once, I know exactly what I’m doing. I promise we’ll keep in touch.
Daniel shrugs; he is wise enough to know when to fight and when to surrender. He walks into the darkness.
INTERIOR. THE ROOM.
Steele enters, and is immediately caught in a blinding blizzard. Sub-zero winds batter him as he blindly fights his way through the storm.
It seems to go on forever. The ice and snow and cold almost do him in. Still, he struggles on.
The storm stops with sudden abruptness. Steele is now standing in the middle of a jungle, lush, overgrown.
He takes two steps...and starts to sink into a quicksand bog. The more he struggles, the faster he sinks. Spotting a low hanging vine, he manages to grasp it in both hands, and pulls himself from the bog.
After dusting himself off, another two steps, and he is face to face with a King Cobra. The snake rises up, extending its hood, tongue flicking. Steele slowly, gently, removes the pocket square from his jacket pocket and tosses it over the snake’s head. The silk ‘pops’ open and floats to the ground. The cobra strikes at it, and entangles its fangs in the cloth. Steele leaps over the writhing snake, and moves on.
He is suddenly in the middle of a barren desert. Sun blazing, his feet begin to falter. He is moving up an almost perpen-dicular hill, and the soft sand gives him no traction.
Each step is a struggle, for every two feet he gains he slides back one. A windstorm begins, almost knocking him off his feet. Still, Steele perseveres.
Finally, he breaks through.
In an elegant Victorian parlor, Laura Holt is sitting in a chair holding something in her lap. He cannot see what it is. Steele approaches her carefully. Her face is grim and determined, almost angry.
Here I am. I made it.
So? You expect a medal?
No. A medal is not what I want.
I know what you want.
Steele says nothing. He stands before Laura, extending his hand to her. She looks at it for a very long moment, then into his eyes. She slowly stands from her chair, and holds out the object she has been holding.
It is a giant red heart.
She hands it to him.
Please...please be careful with it.
Steele holds it as delicately as if it were a fragile eggshell; which, in essence, it is.
Laura, you have my word. You don’t know how long I have waited for this....
Suddenly, from the left side, comes a figure. Dressed in black from head to toe, running all out, the figure snatches Laura’s heart from his hands, knocks Steele to the floor, bolts out the door, and vanishes into the darkness.
(absolutely, breathtakingly furious) You PROMISED! You SWORE!
Steele says nothing, but takes off in hot pursuit of the thief.
Grumbles. Rumbles. Grunts and groans.
A hand out of the darkness, on his shoulder.
Steele’s eyes snapped open, and he grasped the wrist, prepared to break the arm if he had to.
“Mister Steele, wake up,” Fred said, freezing in place and not moving a muscle. “We’re at the police station.”
“Dear God,” Steele said, releasing Fred’s hand and sitting up. He ran his hands over his face, trying to wake up. “I’m too old for this.”
Fred grinned. “Lethal Weapon One, Two and Three. Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Warner Brothers, 1989, 1991, and 1993, respectively. Right?”
Steele almost laughed out loud. “Very good, Fred. Wait until I tell Miss Holt. She’ll accuse me of being a bad influence.”
“No doubt, sir. Shall I wait, Mister Steele?”
Steele focused his eyes, and looked at Fred. The chauffeur had made himself available since this case started, and was probably as exhausted as everyone else. “No, Fred. Go home.”
“Call me if you need me, sir. I’d like to drive Miss Holt home.”
“Deal. And tell Mildred I authorized a twenty percent raise for you. You’ve been invaluable.”
Fred grinned, remembering some of the people and places Steele had directed him to in the past twelve hours; what with the various informers, pimps, panderers, pickpockets, thieves and assorted other low-lifes, front row seats at Ringling Brothers Branum and Bailey Circus would not have been more entertaining. “Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, sir. But thank you.”
Steele got out of the car, and slapped the roof twice as was his habit. “Good night, Fred.”
“You mean Good Morning, sir.” Fred put the big car in gear and smoothly pulled away.
Steele stood for a moment, watching the dawn.
He walked up the steps that led to the precinct, prepared for almost anything.
He was expected. A Sergeant named Hooker led him into the rear areas, escorting him to Jarvis’ desk. “If I may, Mister Steele, a damn fine piece of detective work today.”
“Thank you. It was a bit rough, but it all worked out.”
Sergeant Hooker walked away as Jarvis came out of the men’s room.
The two men, the private detective and the police officer, shook hands.
“Where is he?”
“Interview Room One,” Jarvis said as he turned, beckoning to Steele to follow. “I really hate like hell to drag you into this part, but he won’t say a word to any of us. We have sixteen murders to clear up, so I thought I’d ask.”
“No problem,” Steele replied as he stifled a yawn. “I’ll do what I can.”
"Hey, Lieutenant," one of the men at a desk yelled, wagging a phone. "Some FBI guy named Mulder's on the phone for you. Says he knows something about all this."
Jarvis made a face, expressing his opinions of the 'Feebs,' as they were called in police jargon. "He's a little late. Tell him I'll call him back."
"You got it."
Steele said nothing. Jarvis turned to him with a sheepish grin. "Experts all over the place when something like this happens. They come out of the woodwork. These Bureau guys know all the answers."
They came to a door with a large “1” painted on it. Two police officers, obviously chosen for their bulk, stood on either side. They nodded at Jarvis.
“Anything?” he asked.
“Nope,” said the larger of the two. His nameplate read Collins. “Not a peep. Hasn’t even asked to use the john.”
“This is Remington Steele,” Jarvis said with a jerk of his thumb. The two officers acknowledged Steele with brief nods. “He’s the one this mutt wants to talk to. No one else in or out but Steele. We don’t know what’s going to happen, so listen close and heads up. I’ll be back in a little bit myself.” He looked at Steele and pointed at a door marked ‘Closet.’ “Our video camera is broken, but there’s a full audio setup in there. Try and get him to talk about anything and everything he wants.”
Collins opened the door without putting his body in front of it.
Steele took a deep breath, and walked in.
The closing of the door reminded him briefly of a jail cell gate. He shook off the imagery, and looked at the lone occupant of Interview Room One.
The murderer that had been named “The Sunset Slasher” actually smiled at Steele as he walked in. Sitting quietly at the interview table with his hands in cuffs folded in front of him, he looked the picture of innocence. Leg cuffs were around his ankles, passed through the table which was bolted to the floor.
“You are Remington Steele, correct?” he asked politely.
Steele nodded. “I am.”
“I would stand, but I am a bit inconvenienced,” the Killer said as politely as if he were at high tea. “Please, sit down. We have much to talk about.”
Steele pulled out a chair, and sat.
“Would you care for a cigarette?” the Killer asked. “I know how terrible they are for you, but I simply adore American cigarettes. One of the officers, the little one who looks like he’s twelve years old, was kind enough to supply them.”
“No, thank you,” Steele said tightly. Get this bloody show on the road, he thought.
The Killer lit a cigarette, and exhaled expansively. “I suppose, the best place to start is at the beginning.”
Steele said nothing.
“It was long ago,” the Killer said. “So very long ago. My father was a sorcerer, or so he claimed. I assume this conver-sation is being recorded?”
“Yes. Standard procedure.”
“Today’s technology is truly remarkable, is it not? I mean, devices that can actually record conversations, can record events with sound and video and color. Amazing, isn’t it?”
Steele did not reply.
“Anyway...where was I? Oh, yes. My father. A sorcerer. He told me, as he was dying, he had finally figured out the secret to eternal life. A bit too late for himself, but he passed it on to me.”
“Patience, Mister Steele. Patience. Anyway, I read my father’s journals, read of his experiments. Fascinating stuff. I wish I had saved some of them. They’d be quite fascinating reading.
“At first, I scoffed. Phases of the moon, incantations, ritual sacrifices. What a mess of gobbledy-gook. But, one ages, sir. One ages. And, if one is honest about it, one hates the process. The mind dulls, the reflexes slow, things are never the same. So, one day, I decided to test my father’s theories, see if there was any validity to them. I started small. I mean, really, what’s one streetwalker, more or less?”
Steele gripped the arms of his chair. Some people were good, some were bad, but all had the right to live and attempt to find happiness.
“I was shocked, afterwards. I had not felt so vital and alive in years! It seemed my father was correct in his research. How old do you think I am?”
Steele shrugged, not really caring. “I have no idea.”
“Come on now. You enjoy a challenge. Take a guess. A wild surmise.”
“I could hardly being to estimate.” Steele’s skin was beginning to crawl being in the same room with this animal who looked like a man.
“I am,” the Killer paused dramatically, “old enough to be your great-great-grandfather.”
“Isn’t it? I mean, really. Wouldn’t you like to live forever? To be young and vital and potent for all eternity?”
“Not if it entailed murder of innocents.”
The Killer laughed. “Innocents? Dear God, man. Are those glasses you wear rose-colored on purpose? There are no ‘innocents’ as you call them. Not anymore. I don’t think anyone ever really was. My God, man. Read your own newspapers! Weekly, daily, almost hourly. It goes on and on, and no one stops it.
“I had a disciple once. A young lad who showed real promise. He got himself caught up in wanting more power than he could handle. Now, the poor moron sits in one of your prisons, carving swastikas into his own forehead, preaching of a day called 'Helter Skelter,' pretending he still has a following of simpering young women.”
Steele could feel his temper begin to rise. “One of the women you attacked was someone I care deeply for. She was not one of your ‘more or less’ types.”
The Killer shrugged as he lit another cigarette. “An honest mistake. How was I to know? She certainly looked the part. Is she any good?”
Steele put every ounce of self-control he possessed into not hurling himself across the table and choking the life out of this creature. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” the Killer laughed. “You don’t know?” He paused to take a breath. “She certainly has the equipment in all the proper places, you know.”
“Be that as it may....” Steele prompted.
“Yes. Be that as it may. After a while, after the first one I mean, I found that the effects of it all don’t last long. Not nearly long enough. Where one worked before, at the proper time I had to escalate a bit. I remember I got up to five in London, all in one fell swoop. After that, I came to America. God, these Americans! So naive, so stupid, so silly, so trusting. I was a wolf among sheep. I could go anywhere, be anyone I chose, do anything I liked. When the Cycle, as I call it, approached, there was plenty of, ummmmm, material to choose from. Simple little farmers, ranchers with their livestock. I find it amusing that they were truly the livestock. This time, for example, calls for seventeen. I have sixteen. Your little friend that you spoke of would have completed things, but I understand she did not die. No matter.” The Killer shrugged. “There is always time.”
“How about this,” Steele said quietly. “You are a psychopathic murderer who simply enjoys letting other people’s blood flow. As far as I am concerned, you should be put down like a mad dog.”
The Killer erupted in laughter. “‘Mad dog’? Oh, yes. They called me that once. I think I was in Germany that time. They’ve made up all kinds of names for me over the years. I especially liked what one reporter in Las Vegas, of all places, had to say about me. Fascinating, how superstitious people are, isn’t it? Give something a name, and perhaps it can be understood.
“It is hard for me to explain, Mister Steele, what one can receive. The moment when one knows one will receive a gift, a priceless gift from the Gods. The Nether Gods, of course. But, a gift is a gift. One takes what one can.”
Steele remembered what Jarvis had said, and swallowed down the bile rising in his throat. “How often do you do this?”
“Oh, every ten years or so,” the Killer replied casually. “The times get shorter, and the needs grow larger. Right now, after this one, I’ll probably have to go to nine years, or thereabouts. I haven’t had the chance to sit down and actually figure it out. But I will.”
“The only thing you’re going to do,” Steele said through gritted teeth, “is sit and rot in a jail, where you belong.”
The Killer erupted in laughter again. “A bad judge of character you are, Mister Steele. A very bad judge.”
“We’ll see.” Steele stood up. “Excuse me for a moment.”
Steele opened the door, and stood face to face with Lieutenant Jarvis. Shutting the door, Steele leaned against it and exhaled heavily. “Any luck?” Jarvis demanded.
“Sort of. It’s all on the tape.”
“Why did you quit?”
“I needed some clean air,” Steele said, straightening up. “Men’s room?”
“Down the hall, last door on your right,” Jarvis replied. “I’ll wait right here until you get back.”
Steele walked down the hall, stretching his arms, trying to work some of the kinks in his neck out. Once inside the lavatory, he splashed cold water on his face.
“Human sacrifices, immortality,” he mused aloud to his reflection. “Didn’t you and Laura watch this the other night on Channel 9?”
His reflection didn’t answer.
Walking back down the hall, he resolved to cut through this nonsense and get to the truth. Laura was waiting for him. She was far, far more important than playing verbal games with this... thing that called itself a man.
Jarvis and the two behemoths stood exactly as before. “Are you up to more of this?” Jarvis asked.
Steele nodded. “Yes. We have no other choice.”
Collins opened the door again. Steele stepped through.
The room was empty.
The leg irons were on the floor, still locked. The handcuffs rested on the table, holding a single sheet of paper in place.
Steele stepped forward, and read the letter without touching it.
As much I enjoyed our little chat, it was time for me to leave you. Perhaps we will meet again, and the next go around we can have more time. But, I want you to know, you really are a very impressive
man. After all, you’re the only one to ever catch me.
Jack the Ripper
Steele's blood literally froze in his veins. Until that moment, he always thought the phrase was dramatic hyperbole on the part of fiction writers. He struggled to take a breath. His lungs resisted. Finally, he was able to coordinate everything, and it came out in a rush.
“JARVIS!” Steele yelled. The door flew open, and the three police officers burst in.
“Oh, my God!” Jarvis exclaimed, seeing Steele was the only one in the room. “What happened?”
“I don’t know! I came back in, and he was gone.”
The policemen stared at Steele, then at each other. Collins spoke first. “No one, and I mean no one, went in or out while you were gone, Mister Steele.”
“Damnit!” Steele yelled. He tore out of the room, racing next door.
The tape recorder sat humming, its reels of tape rotating. Steele punched the correct buttons, and listened for the playback.
“Dear God,” he moaned. He looked wildly at Jarvis. “Was he booked?”
Jarvis nodded. “Yes. Pictures and prints.”
“Let’s go. And get someone in that room. He left a letter.”
Jarvis turned to the other two officers. “Seal the building. And I mean seal it. Now!”
Steele and Jarvis raced down the hallway, pausing only long enough for Jarvis to get an investigative technician to go into Interview Room One. “Preserve all prints,” Jarvis snapped. “Take extra care with that note on the table.”
The two men ran the rest of the way into the booking area.
“Smith,” Jarvis said to the man behind the desk. “Did you get everything on that John Doe we brought in last night?”
“Just came back, Loot,” the cop said, producing an envelope.
Jarvis ripped the envelope open, frantically examining the documents.
The fingerprint cards were a mistake, Steele thought.
Someone was tired, not paying attention. Each of the inked impressions was perfectly, flawlessly smooth. As if someone had dipped a cotton swab in black ink and painstakingly painted them in place.
The booking photographs were no better. Excellent shots of the wall, the markings in tape indicating height.
Beautiful full color shots of the area.
But no sign of the man who had been photographed.
Steele and Jarvis looked at one another, and raced back to the interview room where all they found was one puzzled technician.
“You said there was a note, Loot?” he asked as the two men burst through the door. He shrugged. “Nothing here.”
Jarvis swallowed. “Prints?”
The technician shook his head. “None. Almost as if he was wearing gloves.”
“What did it say?” Jarvis asked, turning to Steele.
Remington Steele paused, breathing deeply. How could he explain this? No proof, nothing to back him up, nothing on film or on tape. Just the rantings of a madman.
Steele stood, thinking. Immortality and all that, my bleedin’ arse, he thought, reverting to his boyhood slums for an instant. He reached down deep, and pulled the few shreds of urbanity he had left. “I’m not sure, Lieutenant. I didn’t really get a good look at it.”
Jarvis’ hands were trembling. “Now what?”
An officer rushed up to them, so excited he was almost panting. “Loot, a call just came in. He’s done it again!”
“The Slasher. He just got number seventeen. One block away from Sunset.”
“Dear God,” Steele breathed. “You won’t catch him.”
Jarvis turned and looked at him. “Excuse me?”
“Nothing, Lieutenant. Nothing at all.”
Jarvis and the other officers left Steele standing there as they flew down the hallway, mobilizing the machinery, trying to get it all coordinated before they went out.
“They’ll never catch him,” Steele whispered to himself.
He walked slowly though the building, hands jammed into pants pockets, staring at the floor brooding, finally finding his way outside.
The sun was burning brightly in the sky.
Steele hailed a passing cab, and directed the driver to the hospital where Laura was waiting for him.
Hang the hour. He needed to see her.
He needed to see her badly.