Gemma sighs as she continues walking around the suite with her cellphone held out in front of her. The live video of a blonde-haired man pauses for a second, forcing her to wait until she can hear him talking again. A creak of his old chair and thud of his feet landing on a desk tells her to continue the tour. From the canopied balcony to the small kitchen, the man voices his opinion as if Gemma is trying to sell him an apartment. The only time she shares his surprise is when the refrigerator is opened and they find it is fully stocked. Agreeing that the food should not be touched, they move through the bedroom that has mirrors on the ceiling and a cylindrical fish tank in the corner. Her partner finally whistles for the tour to stop when they enter the bathroom and find a large bathtub with built-in waterjets. Gemma can hear him fake a sniffle and can easily imagine him wiping a nonexistent tear from his cheek.
“My bad back would be so happy if I had one of those tubs,” Max declares while he pushes his glasses back to the bridge of his nose. Launching a rubber band at the picture of whichever politician he is angry at this week, the tired cop can only sigh at his partner’s luck. “I always thought administrative leave was a punishment. They take your gun and your badge then tell you to stay home until things cool down or you’re kicked to the curb. Way to raise the bar on lucky breaks around here, Cook.”
“Considering who my benefactor is, I’d gladly trade positions with you,” Gemma replies as she goes back to the bedroom. Opening the large closet, she finds her bags have already been unpacked and there is a robe with her name stitched on the breast pocket. “This place is creepy and the sun is still up. Almost like Ms. Addison had my forced vacation planned for a lot longer than anyone realizes. The food in the fridge is all of my favorites. Pretty sure they’re poisoned or at least laced with something to make me vulnerable.”
Not wanting too many people to hear the conversation, Max plugs headphones into his computer. “Paranoia has always been your strong suit. Then again, you tend to be right most of the time. I hope you realize that we shouldn’t really be talking. While the chief is acting strange in regards to you, I don’t want to get in trouble. The best I can do is listen to what you have to say about the case and keep my findings to myself. If you happen to guess stuff then I’ll feel obligated to agree, but I’d like to be careful. After all, Marcy is still in college and Brett is only a year away from that. Money is going to be tight.”
“I’ll play a few lottery tickets on your behalf since I’m so lucky.”
“You’re a regular rabbit’s foot, but that never bodes well for the bunny.”
“Would you rather do this by phone instead of video?”
“That is easier to hide, so I’ll hang up and head for the roof.”
“Grab the fake smokes from my desk to give you cover.”
“Nah, I have my pipe and nobody ever seems to notice that I keep it empty. Give me five minutes.”
The screen goes blank and Gemma puts the phone on her charger to take advantage of the break. Going back into the closet, she moves all of her belongings to new locations while checking each one for signs of tampering. The thought of a stranger folding her underwear makes the detective gather all of them and head for the bathroom. Dropping the clothing into the sink, Gemma takes a minute to figure out the stopper and choose a bottle of unscented soap to dump on her underthings. Spotting her toiletries on a nearby shelf, she empties the bag into the garbage can and empties the worst smelling shampoo she can find in the extensive collection supplied to her. The tense woman is filling the basin when her phone goes off, so she races across the suite to grab it and return to the bathroom. The sound of a siren hits her ears when she answers, the voice of her partner inaudible until the deafening noise has ended.
“Before you ask, it was an ambulance,” Max says while he pretends to puff on his mahogany pipe. The sound of crunching gravel can be heard as he paces from one side of the roof to the other. “I went to the morgue and talked to Sammy. The severed fingers we found in the filter threw her off because they were removed cleanly. We couldn’t find any blood in the room either, so nobody can figure out what happened there. If his hand hit the pavement like his head did then it would look differently and not be in the filter. Sorry I don’t have better news for you.”
“Don’t worry because Ms. Addison doesn’t seem the type to make this easy,” Gemma replies while she wrings out her clothes. She hears her partner stop moving, the only sound an urgent lip-smacking on his pipe. “Not sure how to explain this since I barely understand it myself. My host told me that she is going to kill again. I think she’s bored and had me sent here as some kind of rival. Probably watches too many movies and TV shows.”
Max coughs and spits, a sign that he is waiting for someone to finish a quick smoke break and leave the roof. “I don’t know what to say. Makes sense that you can’t wrap your head around that because it’s insane. Seeing the outfit she wore to the interrogation made me think she was eccentric, but we’re talking full on loopy. Also means we might be seeing a lot more corpses coming into the morgue. My younger self always dreamed of cracking a serial killer case. The old me wishes he was somewhere else. I don’t like it when things get messy. How do you want to play this, Cook?”
“You do your job while I play the game,” the young woman replies, putting her partner on speakerphone. She hangs her underwear on a laundry line that she finds behind a removable tile, the cord running over the bathtub. “If this is going to be fair then she can’t strike again without giving me a clue. Once I have that, I’ll watch her targets and bring Ms. Addison in before she strikes. Unless she uses poison, but I’m putting all emergency numbers on speed dial. Not going to let this maniac win.”
“Don’t treat this like a game because people are in danger.”
“I’m taking this very seriously.”
“Hard to tell with how you’re talking.”
“Go back to your desk and I’ll give you another call.”
“Kind of pushy for a vacationer.”
“Please go back to your desk, Boros?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
Setting a five minute timer on her phone, Gemma heads for the kitchen and searches for the garbage can. She is happy to find it along with latex gloves that she puts on even though they are a size too small for her hands. Dragging the can to the refrigerator, she goes about emptying all of the food that smells good enough for her to sniff at a few of them. Discovering smiling unicorn stickers on the underside of a tinfoil covered dish, she quickens her pace until the bag is full. With thirty seconds to spare, Gemma brings the entire can out to the hallway and hits a button that she assumes will contact room service. Taking off her gloves, she jumps when her phone unexpectedly rings with a tone that she does not recognize. Seeing that it is only Max, the tense detective answers and takes a seat on a soft lounge chair.
“I know you said to wait, but I need to get home. Did a late shift to clear my schedule for your mess,” her partner says with a yawn. He tries talking before he is done, but none of his words are understandable. “To be honest, I’m not much help until something happens on your end. Is there anything you could use in the meantime? Preferably something that would require I visit your suite and test that bathtub.”
“That’s actually why I called you,” Gemma admits while making herself comfortable. She touches a button on the arm and watches the wall open to reveal a huge television. “I need to know what I’m up against. As much as I was going after Dawn Addison, I never looked further into her than when she first arrived in the city. Maybe there are clues in her past that will help me out here.”
“That sounds like a reason to visit.”
“I can’t have any paperwork on her in my room, Boros.”
“What about a thumb drive?”
“Nothing that she can find.”
Silence fills the other side of the phone, ending with a sigh of resignation. “I’ll see what I can find, but know that you owe me a spa appointment. Give me a day or two since I’m sure a lawyer will get involved. Maybe I’m the one being punishment here and you’re getting rewarded for being a pain in the chief’s ass.”
“Get some sleep, old man.”
“Have some fun, slightly younger woman.”
Placing her phone on the table, Gemma tries to forget that she is contending with a potential murderer. Unable to push the thoughts from her mind, she paces around the apartment until a rapid knocking startles her. Taking a wine bottle out of a cabinet, the detective tiptoes toward the door and looks through the hole to see an empty hallway. Putting her expensive weapon on the floor, Gemma takes a peek outside to find a purple and yellow straightjacket with her name bedazzled on the back. Rolling her eyes, she leaves the gaudy clothing alone and decides to take a restless nap. As an afterthought, she moves a chair to the door and wedges it beneath the handle to prevent anyone from getting inside.