Charles Wolfe, homicide detective, sat uncomfortably at his desk. In front of him were spread photographs of a corpse defiled in ways and to an extent that tried the imagination. The office was dim and silent. Wolfe was the only one yet to give up on the case. He could not have described the emotions the images stirred in him.
The case encompassed eight murders, mixed male and female victims, of mixed race but predominantly white, all aged nineteen to twenty-five. Connecting them was the manner and exceptional brutality with which the victims were killed: Each was tortured for several days before dying, and most died of thirst. The press displayed a remarkable lack of creativity when it nicknamed the murderer The Mad Tormenter.
A shadow fell across the wall in front of him, and he turned to see the woman casting it.
Wolfe demanded, "How'd you get in here?"
The woman looked over Wolfe's shoulder at the photographs. Wolfe saw her nose was hooked and crooked. Her cheeks were textured like concrete disturbed by footprints. The hollows in which her eyes rested were more prominent than the pupils within. She identified the killed man in the photographs on Wolfe's desk, "Pete Bacarella." She went on to name eight more men and women, all of them victims of The Mad Tormenter. She mentioned of the last name, "But I don't think you found her yet."
Wolfe stood suddenly, astonished, his chair toppled. "You're..."
The woman seized his breath in a quick, violent movement placing her lips on his. He froze, and in the space of a moment he had surrendered to her completely. He inhaled her like a starved man inhales bread. With his trembling hands he sought her arms, the small of her back, the curve of her hips, the skin under her shorts. She pulled him closer and her tongue warmed his neck. Wolfe maneuvered her to his desk, heaved her up, and set her down upon it. She wore a lazy grin like another woman might wear a snarl. Wolfe smacked her across the cheek once, and again, and her mouth gaped in delight. He filled it with his fingers while she tore off his slacks.
In 1990, Charles Wolfe was promoted from a Vermont State Trooper to a Sergeant and awarded a position with the Crime Investigation Deparment. He and his colleagues celebrated the promotion with an evening of beers and billiards, and the Captain who promoted him gave him a hearty pat on the back and said he knew Wolfe would go far.
In 1993, Charles Wolfe and his team of investigators arrested Roy Whigham, drawling country boy and murderer of three. Each victim had been a young woman who rejected Whigham's sexual advances and mocked his persistence. Wolfe himself was photographed shoving eighteen-year-old Whigham into the back of a police cruiser while the boy swore and attempted to bite anyone who came within range of his gnarled teeth. The photograph was printed in newspapers all across the state, and in several papers outside it.
In 1998, Charles Wolfe connected a recent, apparently random homicide with a series of murders stretching back several years by comparing the DNA in blood and tissue found under the nails of each victim. His superiors praised his diligence. He was eventually photographed shoving thirty-nine year old Fraser Griffith into the back of a police cruiser while the man scowled at the throng of police and reporters trampling his well-kept lawn and ogling his confused wife. The man was convicted of ten murders, almost entirely of brown-haired prostitutes, and news of Wolfe's accomplishment spread across a dozen states.
In 1999, Charles Wolfe turned down a promotion to Lieutenant, arguing that he could do more good as a detective. He didn't give a damn about the money, he said, what he cared about was the work. Had anyone asked him why the job mattered so much to him, he might have had the hubris to tell them the honest truth.
Between the years of 1996 and 1999, Charles Wolfe murdered four women. He dismembered their bodies and spread the remains over several jurisdictions. When his department discovered a charred hand, it would fail to inquire after the arm. In 1999, the four women Wolfe murdered were all still considered missing. For all their families knew, the women might only have absconded with a lover. That is, at least, the sort of thing those parents, siblings, and spouses told themselves at night so they could sleep.
In 2001, three unexplained murders occurred. Motive could not be discerned, and connections could not be made between the victims - one male, two female - except for a common modus operandi. Each victim had been burned, maimed, and molested for days in remote locations before their lives were ended. It was believed, at first, that the perpetrator must have a personal connection to each victim, so contrived had been their torture. The vacuum of incriminating evidence infuriated Wolfe. Not a misplaced hair, not a suspicious fingerprint was located at any crime scene, and no likely suspect could be found without an alibi.
In 2002, four more similarly brutal and lengthy murders occurred. The killer earned the nickname of The Mad Tormenter. Wolfe clung to the crime lab like mold occupies a basement. His subordinates tired of him, and of the killer who left less of an imprint on crime scenes than would a shadow. Wolfe murdered three more women during 2002, the rate of his murders accelerated by rage and stress. He was dangerously careless, but used his position within the CID to erase evidence of his mistakes.
In August of 2003, Charles Wolfe met Haley Adams, The Mad Tormenter, who had observed two of his murders and had been watching him for months.
A wedge of moonlight cut the room into thirds, and Adams and Wolfe laid on their backs, within the moonlit third, on the carpet at the foot of Wolfe's bed. Occassional wind and domestic noises kept the white curtains in constant, cyclic motion.
Wolfe said, "Why them?"
"The ones you chose. That's what got to me most. I never could figure it. Why them?"
"Why'd I kill the people I do?"
Adams shrugged. "They were convenient. Easy to grab."
"That's it." She said, "How'd you choose yours?"
"I guess they make me angry. Make me want to use them, to help get rid of it."
"They treat you wrong?"
"What'd you mean?"
"They treat you wrong and make you angry?"
Wolfe said, "No, they just make me angry. Them being who they are."
"Women make you angry?"
"You never killed any men, not that I know about."
"What would I kill men for?"
Adams said, "So you hate women."
"No I don't."
"Why'd you kill them, then?"
"Well," said Wolfe, "I hate some of them."
"But not men."
"Not enough to kill them, I guess."
"Do you fuck them?"
Adams said, "Did you fuck the women you killed?"
"Of course I fucked them."
"Before or after?"
"What?" He lied, "Before."
"They make you angry or did they make you horny?" She insisted, "Well?"
"Maybe both. I guess."
"How's someone make you both?"
Wolfe said, "You get angry you can't have them, maybe."
"This a theoretical?"
"That's how it is for you? Or just a maybe?"
"I don't know." Wolfe said, "I can't say I ever thought about it that hard."
"You killed a bunch of women and you can't even say what for?"
"Can you say why you kill anyone?"
"That's not enough?"
"Didn't they make you angry?"
"I don't get it."
"I don't get you, either."
Wolfe turned onto his stomach and rested his chin on his arms. He said, "Why else would you kill them? If they didn't make you angry or horny?"
"What am I, gonna kill someone just because they upset me? Or I want them and can't have them?"
"You saying that's what I do?"
"Yeah, it is. That's what you kill people for. Shit that doesn't even matter."
"You're not getting me." Wolfe said, "They made me angry."
"You get angry at every woman who won't put out for you?"
"It's not like that."
Adams said, "Yeah? What's it like, then?"
"I guess it started when I was a kid." Wolfe said, "Momma got tired of Dad and dumped him for someone richer. Dad found another woman, younger, almost as young as I was. She gave me that look all the time. You know. Sly, and not letting anyone else notice. But I noticed. But any time we was alone and I touched her she'd act like she didn't know what it was all about. You know what that hurts like? A woman teasing you like that but not letting you have any? Maybe you don't, maybe that's a man's thing to suffer. Well, she made a damn fool of me, 'cause when I'd had enough of it and I didn't give her any choice she wailed so loud the neighbors came over. And that was the end of that, let me tell you. Dad made us go to a different church, even made us stop going to the market she worked at. Never saw her after that, not for years, except maybe the back of her head from far away a few times. But I know where she lives now, I know the husband she's married to now, and every morning I think I ought to go over and kill them both. Sometimes I drive by just to imagine it. But I know I can't, I know no matter how many pieces I cut her into they'll know she got killed and they'll know it was me."
Wolfe took a deep breath. He continued, "And some women, they make me so angry. They remind me of her too much. They look like her, or they act like her, or they talk like her, and all of a sudden I want nothing like I want to make them pay for what they've done. What she's done."
He sensed contempt in the way Adams stared at him.
Wolfe noticed that contempt seemed to be a permanent fixture of Adams' expression and demeanor from then on.
When they fucked in Wolfe's bed, she looked bored. When they fucked on his desk, she sounded impatient. When they fucked in his police cruiser, she felt cold.
Adams invited him to her apartment. Wolfe, thinking that a new place to fuck was just what Adams needed to recover her bygone passion, followed a map to her address and observed curiously the dilapidated building it led to. There were holes in the brickwork, missing columns, and fractured windows. What was once a flower garden lining the base of the building had become hard, untenable soil. It was, he guessed, the best Adams could do on account of her not having the looks to get a job that paid better than cooking slop.
He looked around to make sure nobody noticed him before exiting the cruiser and slamming the door to announce his arrival. He entered a lobby with more litter than floor space and took a stairwell two floors up to Adams' apartment. On his way to the door numbered 218 he passed a pile of discarded syringes and two doorways open to diminutive, vacant rooms. At the end of the hallway was a window with a view of another decrepit building beyond.
He knocked at apartment 218, and then he heard the door behind him open. The stinking rag was over his mouth and nostrils before he could turn to see. He kicked and elbowed backwards but found no purchase. Then he collapsed, felt the grime of the carpeted floor seep into his cheek, and consciousness fled from him.
In October of 2003, The Mad Tormenter took her highest-profile victim yet, a Sergeant of the Vermont State Police. He was found in a condemned apartment building that even the destitute had found inadequate for habitation. A feminine first name had been written with lacerations across his abdomen. His genetalia had been severed and material suspected to belong to it was found digested in his stomach. His fingertips had been seared and his tongue had been removed. The cause of death was dehydration.
News of Charles Wolfe's death was published in a local paper. A handful of his colleagues attended his funeral. A married woman wondered why she didn't see police patroling her neighborhood as often anymore.