Book one—A Beast of Vengeance
“Want a date?” Daniel Donovan, known only as Danny on the streets, laid his hand on the big man’s arm and got the strangest feeling. A kind of a tingle ran up his fingers, into his hand and arm.
“Get your hand off me and don’t ever touch me again.”
Daniel snatched his hand back, rubbing his fingers together to work off the unsettling sensation. What he’d wanted to do—what was in his head—until the man spoke, was run his hand down the leather clad arm to the man’s hand and bare flesh. Confused by a desire he’d never had before, he half-shook his head to get back in his character. “No offense.” He clenched his hand and backed off a step. “I just read the signals wrong. You aren’t going to bash me or anything are you?”
Had he ever read the man wrong! He’d thought he’d seen interest in the gaze of ice blue eyes sweeping over him. The reception he got instead told him he better be damned careful, and he flinched when the big man leaned toward him and sniffed. Sniffed? What the hell was that? What the hell was he smiling about?
“If you want a bust, try the guy on the end. He’s a pimp. He’ll either chase you out of his territory, beat the hell out of you for invading, or…” His eyes traveled over Daniel’s face, down and back up from his chest behind a too tight T-shirt to his crotch and the cutoff jeans he wore so short his balls peeked out if he wasn’t careful in how he moved or sat. “…cold cock you and force you into his stable. You better have good backup.”
“I ain’t no cop.”
The man turned back to face his drink. “So you say, kid.”
“I’m not—” He bit the words back, nearly forgetting his cover in an instant reaction to how young he looked. As far as his appearance went, he’d been stuck in puberty since he was sixteen years old. A sore spot for Daniel and the bastard taunting him smiled at that too. “Who the hell are you?”
“No one who is any of your business.”
“I doubt that.” Predator popped into Daniel’s mind. The man was a predator.
* * * *
Brand slid off the barstool and walked off. A cop in the place was not a good sign. Where there was one, there were more. If his prey didn’t pick up on the roundup of johns and prostitutes, he’d end up spending the night in jail where Brand couldn’t get to him.
He had to smile a bit as he walked down the street. The kid, the man pretending to be an under-aged hooker, was pretty good. If Brand hadn’t smelled the wire on him and looked into his face to see the age his young looking features and slim body hid, he would have taken him for just what he pretended to be—a sixteen or seventeen-year-old prostitute.
On impulse and out of curiosity, Brand turned at the corner instead of crossing the street, walked to the alley and doubled back. He didn’t know a lot about Massy, the pimp he’d turned the cop onto, but he knew he specialized in under-aged boys. Word was he ran through them pretty fast. For his kind of operator, if Massy was out, it probably meant he was trolling for fresh meat. What looked to be a sixteen-year-old kid, working solo, would be easy pickings. The way his kind usually worked, he’d agree to either a blowjob or a quick fuck in the alley and waylay the kid as soon as he got him alone. The next thing the kid would know, he’d be beaten to a pulp, brutalized, and repeatedly raped to break him in to Massy’s style of submission, drugged to the gills, and used as Massy’s little boy to be sold by the hour—if the kid made it through the first steps.
Once Massy got the cop’s pants off and discovered he was shaved, not thin haired with early puberty, he’d kill him. Maybe not. Maybe he’d just keep him shaved. Either way, if the kid didn’t have good backup, he was in for a world of misery.
As he anticipated, Massy led the kid out the back door to the alley. In a heartbeat, Massy, a body builder, spun the slighter build man around, slammed him into a corner made by a dumpster and wall, and jerked his pants down. Cops came from everywhere. The kid—and did it ever piss him off being called a kid—came out of the corner, pulling his pants up. Score one for the kid, even if all he’d get Massy on was solicitation when the man was a murderer.
His curiosity settled, Brand meandered out of the alley, crossed the street to the van he’d rented for the week, and headed for one of the bars his prey might be lurking in. He wanted what he was after tonight. He hated the damned city, but the prey he wanted, needed, didn’t live in the country where the air was fresh and garbage didn’t litter every step taken.
He had better luck at the next bar. His prey was there, plying his trade, his pimp sitting nearby to keep an eye on him. Brand bellied up to the bar, ordered a beer, and waited. In no more than five minutes, a kid, a real kid, sidled up beside him. He held on to the bar’s edge, pulling himself in, pushing back, smiling sweetly. Dressed like the cop pretending to be a kid, he wore cutoff jeans, shorter in the back to expose his smooth, hairless ass cheeks.
“Would you like some company?”
Brand twisted, leaning his hand on his chin and smiled. “Sure would. Here on business and it gets lonely at night.”
“I can keep you company.”
“Want a drink?”
Part of the game. The bartender would serve the kid apple juice with just enough whiskey to make it smell. He’d pocket the money saved when Brand paid for a full drink and get a kickback on whatever the pimp made off the trick.
“There’s a room in the back where we can party,” the kid said.
Twelve, Brand figured, maybe thirteen, barely. His arms and legs had the early puberty soft smoothness to them. His voice hadn’t even changed yet. “Rather go to my hotel room. Less chance of being disturbed there.”
“Ah, I don’t know. I-ah-I…” He quit swinging and one hand dropped as he looked over his shoulder. His fingers moved. His pimp shook his head. “I don’t like to get too far from home. My daddy don’t like it if I go too far.”
“I’ll bet.” Brand twisted, faced the pimp, and held up five fingers.
The pimp ambled over to negotiate. “Not enough for a full night,” he said without preamble. “Kid’s good for five or six tricks a night. Ain’t going to make it for me, closed in with you.”
“Here. Room in the back.”
“Seven and he goes with me to my hotel.”
“Six, but he stays here. The room in the back is clean and got some toys you might want to use. Not the kind of thing you carry around with you, if you know what I mean.”
He knew what he meant. The kid did as well. He stared down at the floor, his hands clenched while Brand took his wallet from his inside coat pocket and counted out the hundred dollar bills. The prey shivered when Brand gripped him by the neck, pointing him toward the back, but he didn’t resist, not for one second, in leading the way. He did when Brand tossed him over his shoulder, turned right instead of left, and bolted out the backdoor. His scream rent the air barely heard over the slam of the van’s backdoor.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?” the pimp shouted, running at him.
Brand made sure it was the last thing the man ever said.
* * * *
“Fuck, detective, even though this ass is uniquely marked, I don’t know every ass in town.” Daniel tipped his head to look at what was left of the face. “I don’t think anyone could recognize that.”
He looked again at the ass. The pants had been pulled down to his knees, an X cut across the cheeks and the knife used stuck out his asshole. “I’d say whoever killed him is leaving a message.”
Detective Shaw snorted. “Yeah, we did figure that out ourselves. You work that route. Any idea what our perp is trying to say?”
“Don’t fuck with him,” Daniel answered with a grimace.
“Very funny.” He signaled the coroner crew, talking as the carcass was shifted to a body bag, zipped up, and lifted to a gurney. “He goes by Shine. Specializes in kids, really young boys. Perp came in, picked out a kid, made the deal with Shine, and headed for the backroom. Next thing anyone knows, the perp is out the backdoor with the kid over his shoulder, and Shine went after him. They waited until the screaming stopped, a good while, before anyone peeked out. Perp’s gone, kid’s gone, and Shine is no longer of this world. Out of seven who saw him, not a one can—or will—tell us anything more than he was a big guy.”
“How old is the kid?”
Shaw snorted. “Inside they say eighteen. My snitch says if he’s seen his thirteenth birthday he’d be surprised.”
“Shine was an independent, more or less. He seldom had more than one. If the kid is thirteen he may have another one in training though. Have you got a location on where he hung out?”
“Got an address. Sent a car over there right after we got an ID on him. The place had been tossed. Signs of at least one kid, but none there. If there was one, he may have taken off.” He shrugged slightly. “The kid’s small for his age from what I can get. Probably had a couple more years in him for pedophiles.”
“Not once he starts growing hair.” Daniel groaned. “God, it makes me sick. Any chance this kid just ran?”
“Not likely. They heard a vehicle door slam and the kid screaming to let him out.” He shrugged slightly. “It looks like the perp wanted a kid already trained, broke-in so to speak. Shine tried to stop him from stealing him and ended up dead. We’ll probably never find his body, and if we did, there’s no way to prove he was this kid. I just hope the bastard makes it quick for the kid’s sake.”
“What was he wearing?”
“Cutoff jeans and a tight T-shirt. The same garb they deck you out in when you do a sweep. Tell me, do your balls get a little chilly?”
“Very funny. No, the perp. What was he wearing?”
“I told you, I got zero on description other than big guy. I got seven witnesses and didn’t even get the usual seven different descriptions. They all said the same thing. All they can remember is he was a big guy.”
“That doesn’t sound right.”
“Tell me about it. Either the guy hypnotized the whole damn room or they’re scared to death of him. Myself, after seeing what he did to Shine, I’d go with scared.”
“Big guy,” Daniel murmured.
“A guy last night made me as a cop and turned me onto a pimp. He was a big guy, but I’m damned if I can remember what he looked like. I was as close to him as I am you, looked him right in the face, and I can’t remember what he looked like.”
Staring at the blood soaked ground, he thought again, predator. Whoever did this was a predator.
Freaking tired, Daniel cut out with a cute farewell and had every intention of crashing when he got back to his apartment. The combination of the guy last night, his crazy reaction to him, and the murder this morning wouldn’t leave him alone. He called Shaw.
“Have you run a nationwide on similar MOs to this morning’s murder?”
“Not your case, Donovan.”
“I know. I’m curious.”
“Yeah, okay, but don’t go trying to mix homicide with vice. We’re running a search through all the databases. We’ve had a couple of pops already. Not quite the same, but the-ah-message has shown up a couple of times. San Francisco, New Orleans, New York…”
“A couple of pops?”
“Whoever he is, he travels all over the country. Little boys go missing and their pimps turn up dead, their places get tossed. We’ve got…” He swallowed in the phone before he finished. “…nine so far.”
Daniel fell back in his chair and stared at the wall. “Nine and you aren’t finished?”
“We called the feds on this one. We’re turning it over to them. They, of course, aren’t doing much sharing.”
“Jesus, nine! Why! Do they have any idea why?”
“I told you, they aren’t sharing, but I talked with our psych. She said with no more info than she’s got, she’d guess he was a victim as a child of the same kind of situation. Now he’s symbolically killing his pimp over and over and has some screwed idea he’s either saving the kid or even crazier, he’s doing the same thing to him. If he runs true to form from what we’ve seen, he’ll hit at least once more and disappear for months before he surfaces again with fresh kills somewhere miles away.”
“And nine pimps.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not going to shed any tears over the pimps. I’ve seen what they do to those kids.”
Shaw’s voice dropped. “That’s pretty much the feeling around here as far as the pimps go, but like you said, nine kids. About that guy you saw last night, did you get a name?”
“No, didn’t give one either. He gave me the weirds. Why?”
“Because he gave you the weirds, because you made a connection to him and the murder, and because like the witnesses, you can’t remember what he looks like. Where did you see him?”
“A couple of blocks over.”
“Was he drinking?”
“Did you actually see him drink any of it?”
“Our perp ordered a beer, and they hadn’t cleaned the bar yet when we got there. As far as they can tell in the lab, he either didn’t have any fingerprints or he never touched the glass. If you see the guy again, give me a call.”