Flit on over to the Raven's Nest and perch long enough to catch up on the other stories.
The ten word challenge: parasite, meals on wheels, crows, it's my fault, everything but the kitchen sink, on sale, patriotism, the love of my life, library card, common sense
The mini: blackmail, California, stethoscope, postage, crank
This Week's Episode: Questions?
In Laughlin the team was putting the incoming evidence together. The various identities of Constance/Connie/Cathy had been investigated. Agents in California had made the connection with Hollingsworth and were looking in to his recent untimely death in a house fire at his estate.
Operation Marigold had gotten a break when the FBI's mortgage fraud department had finally woken up and seen the name Connie Liplin in connection with Hollingsworth's company, massive fraud and the recent deaths of both parties. Common sense had somehow prevailed and the two different groups inside the FBI had communicated enough for the information to find open minds and ears.
Sgt Johnson had been surprised at the size and scope of the fraud his Agency comrades had disclosed to him, but comforted in knowing he'd also found the motive for several of the recent killings. With this information fed back through the Laughlin team they had gained a picture of what Liplin and Hollingsworth had been up to.
Dan and McCool had made the connection between the Casino Manager and Liplin. The accident at the Diner was under review, but the truck driver was now nowhere to be found. This only added to their suspicion about the murders and deaths in Laughlin.
Putting the events together in a time line indicated to both men that Connie had been cleaning up behind herself and eliminating all connections. They went so far as to hypothesize that perhaps the death of Charles Hollingsworth was less than accidental as well. Neither man could find any links to the victims and blackmail attempts. Banking records showed no checks from any of Liplin's accounts to any of the deceased.
They did find that large sums of money had been wire transferred to banks in the Caymans and then on to Swiss numbered accounts. The trail went dead there however, as the trusty Swiss refused to disclose any further information. The group threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Swiss, but to no avail. In the end, they left it up to the FBI's fraud unit to go after the info with international warrants.
They focused on what became of Cathy McCarty, the last know identity of Connie Liplin aka Constance Lawler. They referred to these as identities and not aliases because it became apparent early on in the investigation that they were dealing with a Chameleon of sorts. This criminal was very detail oriented. She had separate records for everything, right down to even having a library card in each identity's name. The woman had been able to live as more than one person for extended periods of time. It took a special talent to be able to do that, not to mention an excellent memory and a good deal of intellectual prowess.
The people involved in the investigation began to both respect and abhor this woman who continued to elude them. Sgt Johnson used his excellent profiling skills to make the connection between the internal mutilation of the female victims and the gang rape of Constance Lawler in high school. He was reasonably assured of the cause of the particular MO. What hadn't been established was how the killer incapacitated the victims; so Dan, McCool and even Jean had been tasked with reviewing all credit card purchases of Liplin and McCarty for the past several years. So far nothing had shown up.
"You know you're the love of my life, don't you?" McCool asked Jean. "I thought I was the bane of your existence" she smirked back. "Never, my love, but would you be so kind as to please uncover some receipt or other that will lead us to what our killer's doing to subdue her victims?" "I'd love to darling, but so far we got nothing" she answered. "The only thing I have that's even close to out of the ordinary is this one with postage due from Sedona" she added.
The three of them looked the receipt over carefully and found a number for the shop, but the name was smudged and unreadable. Dan made the call. "Archangel Apothecary" the person on the other end answered. Griggs spent a few minutes on the phone and then hung up. "I think we've got a winner" he smiled at Thomas and Jean. "Who feels like a run up the hill to Sedona?" he finished.
Jean decided to go with the two in case there was anything on sale at some of Sedona's great clothing stores. In these difficult economic times she looked on it as an act of patriotism to distribute a little discretionary income. The three picked up Carla just getting off her shift at the Pioneer and headed up I-40. The little Honda was full, but made it up the hill out of town with ease.
Charlotte was over her disappointment of losing the man at Hollingsworth's house. She'd raced after the Buick but somehow he'd eluded her. She was not a person to leave loose ends, but it seemed like an impossibility that the man would be able to correctly identify her from the short time of the incident, much less connect her to the fire. The damn fool had run over her foot and she was lucky it was only bruised on top of her instep and not broken. The comparatively light weight of the rear end of the front wheel drive car and her quick removal of her foot had saved her. It had also thrown her off her feet and made the man's escape possible. Perhaps he'd even been some crank hanging around Charles' house in an attempt to seek revenge for losing his home. There was no telling at this point.
She had made it back to the airport and was in the air before Hollingsworth's place was fully engulfed in flames. No one would be able to make the connection. The flight plan showed the flight as freight only. The plane had delivered $250,000 worth of Truffles which had been taken to several high end restaurants in the area. So she was in the clear there and knew it. Still, it always bothered her when her plans were redirected.
Inspector Georges De Solemaone was met at the door of the fine old French Chateau of Count Edmund Vignoire by a steely eyed house keeper. She took the inspector's coat and hat like it was a snake that would bite her. The inspector's impression of the cold and distant woman made him think it would take more than a stethoscope to prove this creature had a heart.
He was lead into a large sitting room with windows overlooking a field. Georges noticed the line of crows sitting on the adjacent fence and thought about the movie "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock. "Oh, I see you've noticed our flock of crows" the elderly gentleman seated in the large armchair said as a matter of introduction. "It's my fault I suppose" he continued, "I've gotten too old to chase them off and even grown used to their morbid company."
"Thank you for seeing me today Count" the inspector replied. "What else would I be doing, if not speaking with you young man?" "It's a great pleasure to have visitors" the Count finished. The two men sat and talked for over an hour. It came up that the Count didn't see his daughter very much and that all he knew for sure about her was that she'd done very well in the international real estate market prior to the collapse and was working with some Mid-East investors to do something in the states. The inspector couldn't put his finger on it, but he felt there was something wrong between the father and daughter.
The Count never could explain to the Inspector's satisfaction why his daughter would choose to live in French Guiana, half a world away. In point of fact, when he learned the old man was dying of a tropical parasite, presumed untreatable even with all the money necessary and modern medical facilities available worldwide, the Inspector became even more suspicious. Why wouldn't the daughter be at her father's side? Clearly he would need to look deeper into the family's history for answers. Inspector De Solemaone thanked the kindly old man and said his goodbyes.
As he exited the home after retrieving his hat and coat from the still unfriendly housekeeper, he noticed a van pulling up to the rear entrance of the Chateau. Deciding to start his investigations immediately, he walked to the van and engaged the driver in conversation.
It turned out that the company was a sort of fancy meals on wheels for wealthy French aristocrats and being paid for by the Count's daughter. The Inspector decided he would look into this aspect as well. The French loved their food, so why wouldn't the wealthy old Count have his meals prepared at his home? "Something more to investigate" the Inspector thought to himself as he drove out of the winding drive of the Chateau and merged onto the main road.
The drive back to Paris would give Georges time to mull what he'd learned today. Did it mean anything and could it possibly be connected to the international case of the serial killer. “Most likely not” he thought, “but there was definitely something not right at the Vignoire Chateau.” The Inspector would continue to investigate until he found out what that was.