Doctor Watanabe showed Arteminski the note he said he'd found in his home. It was out of a computer printer, probably Dr. Watanabe's printer. Dr. Watanabe agreed with him. The last thing he said before he left was, "Remember it."
The Detective Sergeant was unlikely to forget that or any other fact. Semyon Arteminski has something approaching a photographic memory, which is why he had noticed the effects the Kino girls had on him from the first, although he wasn't sure they were the cause until he had seen the girl destroy his cellphone. When he visited her again and was finally allowed to talk to the girl who had been missing, Sue Kino said she would pay for his phone, but it would take a long time. He told her to forget about it, because, of course, it hadn't happened.
The Johanson girl remembered nothing of the attack; in fact, nothing from the time she left her foster home until she woke up in the Leary-Ferrara home. Unsurprising; she might never remember. In fact, she might not have been attacked—the scene where the Goodman woman was taken into custody was completely compromised. The fresh blood samples all matched the Goodman woman, although some dried blood might match the girl—but that meant nothing, because the girl was not wounded, beyond a few scratches. Kimberly Johanson appeared by every standard of investigation to be a false lead.
Except if she knew nothing, why had the Kino girls been prepared to fight him to keep him from talking to her? Willing to reveal that they weren't really human, exposing themselves to what dangers? Willing to kill?
He was surprised once again when he was about to leave the Leary-Ferrara home, and not by the Kino girls. The Goodman woman had come by. "Sergeant. We meet again. Informally, of course; I doubt if your department will ask for my services again."
"Officially, we never did," replied the Sergeant. "Are you on a pass?"
"I am released with an official apology. Have you met my sister?"
Arteminski noticed that the short, older-looking woman next to Dr. Goodman did have a certain resemblence. "Leah Goodman-Wang, at your service, Sergeant." She handed him a business card. She was a lawyer—and a successful one, judging from the Gucci ensemble she was wearing. The address on the card was a town in Maryland.
"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Goodman-Wang. May I ask why you and your sister are here?"
"Ms. Leary and Mr. Ferrara were kind enough to look after my daughter while I was confined," answered Dr. Goodman. She reached down with the sure touch of a mother to caress the head of a baby in a carrier on the couch beside her, without looking.
He glanced back, and saw that the Kino girls were watching him from the top of the stairs—and saw them exchange knowing glances with Dr. Goodman. <There's a connection I didn't expect . . . but what is it?>
Dr. Goodman drew closer, and held out a card of her own. He took it, saying, "I don't think my department will every consult you again, Ma'am."
"But you might want to. I still want to help."
"By what I've heard, you weren't very helpful with the Johanson girl."
"You might be surprised, Sergeant."
He pocketed the card, and made his farewells. But outside the door, the Kino girls followed him out to his car. The older one said, "If you want our help, we will give it to you. Anything to stop this man."
"If you believe that, why did you stop me from talking to that girl when it could have done some good?"
"You could have killed her again," said the smaller one.
He looked at the other one, and then past her, at the Goodman women standing in the doorway, and he thought of Baba Yaga, of Lilith, and of all the other legends he had learned as a child, and wondered if they were all just legends . . . But he drove a way without saying anything else.
Every police department in the Southbay cooperated in setting up a 24-hour surveillance of Dr. Watanabe. It was something Sergeant Arteminski had wanted since the disappearance of the of third girl. But he was not satisfied. Weeks passed, expenses mounted, and the Ghost Killer faded from the public eye.
Arteminski had other cases. He wasn't the leader of the task force—he wasn't even on it, though he was consulted fairly often. He was, after all, only a Sergeant.
He kept returning to the old evidence in his spare moments, looking for some pattern he hadn't seen before. The killer definitely had a style of murder, but was it a fetish, or a statement? The victims were still too few to confirm a pattern, but there would be others—or had there been others? A killer who had moved here? Or returned here . . . he began to look through old cases.
He found one that resembled the Ghost Killer. The style of the murders was not exactly the same, but it could be a the killer's early experiments—he liked this guy. But there was a problem. The guy was dead. He'd died eight years before, a year before Arteminski's divorce and his move to this place and this job.
His name had been Roberto Iturbe. Dr. Watanabe had testified against his insanity plea.
There were any number of other possibilities, and Semyon Arteminski plodded through them all, but no one looked as good for the killer as Iturbe. Even Dr. Watanabe. Except that Iturbe was dead.
He thought about contacting the Kino girls again, even the Goodman woman, but thought better of it. After a few weeks, his memory of the true nature of the girls was replaced by a conviction that it was all a dream made vivid by his overwork.
And yet . . .
Arteminski followed the case. There were still girls vanishing, about one every week, on the average. But only two bodies turned up, and they didn't fit the signature. Either the killer had changed his style, or there was another one. But, more than half of the missing ones were Dr. Watanabe's old patients. Arteminski found he couldn't get straight answers about the surveillance, and was not surprised to discover an internal investigation—which meant that the surveillance was far from perfect. The FBI was trying to take over, but the local jurisdictions were not willing give up all their own power to the Feds, whatever they said in public about co-operation.
A few days before Christmas, Arteminski found a message on his voicemail. It was from a Stanford student he'd never heard of. The student would be leaving the next day and wouldn't be returning. Could the detective see her tonight?
The student was named Rebecca Biter (Pronounced "bitter" but with one "t", not two) and she was, well, bitter She had been in a post-graduate program in genetic research, but now she'd been burned by the faculty. "And it all started because I did a fucking favor for Dr. Pei."
"He came to me at the end of September, and said that he wanted to get a DNA match done on the cheap for a friend. So he asked me to figure a way to work it into my program—I—I was—in charge of a bunch of fourth-year undergrads. So I do it for him. And I find something really weird. And now, I'm out. And it's all because of Dr. Pei and his buddy!"
"Who was his buddy?"
"Dr. Watanabe wanted a DNA match done? On whom?"
"On a couple of girls in foster care. Dr. Pei said I was supposed to find out if they could be sisters."
"Who were they?"
"Oh, Keane, Kine—Kino. Like the game, but with an 'i.'"
"Yeah, that's it . . . you've heard of them, too, haven't you?"
"I've met them, several times, if we are talking about the same people. Let's make sure we are talking about the same people. What were their full names, and where did you find them?"
Ms. Biter gave out the particulars, and then went on to outline how she had done the work—she made allowances for his lack of specialized scientific knowledge, and did amazingly well, considering she was both angry and more than a little drunk. Arteminski was soon sure that she was right about one thing: She was being railroaded out. She was a fine teacher.
She began to wander off the subject he was really interested in, though. "At first I thought Pei was doing the old-boy thing. I mean, do you think I'm the first graduate assistant who stumbled onto something her professor could take credit for? First female assistant? You want to know the truth, there are damn few Nobels that don't go to fucking thieves!"
"You think there would be a Nobel Prize in this?"
"Well, I'll never know now, will I? Unless Pei sits on it until the Watanabe thing blows over . . . Maybe you can corroborate my testimony if he does."
"What did you find?"
"Well, at first, I thought I'd blown the sampling somehow, but the results came out the same no matter who did the tests or how many times we ran them. Some divergence, but nothing beyond statistical error."
"Well? Are the girls sisters?"
"Well, probably not. Half-sisters, maybe, or the little one might be the big one's daughter. Actually, if the big one is older than she's supposed to be, that's statistically the most likely relationship."
"No, that's not. The problem is, when you do these matches, you always match against a control. And that's where the interesting part comes in."
"And that is?"
"The Kino girls don't match more than 80% against anyone else."
"I mean, their whole genome. Mr. Arteminski, a chimpanzee would match between 97% and 98% of any human's genes. At least according to the current theory."
"So you think theyre not human?"
"Yeah, I think they're aliens living among us and sucking our brains! Geez, listen/ What this means is that current genetic theory is wrong."
"And you have another theory?"
"No. But give me awhile . . . but of course Dr. Pei will also be thinking about it."
"Well, if he comes up with a theory that works, isn't that what counts?"
"Look, I'm not saying because I discovered this, I should get credit for the whole theory. But I should get some of the credit for overturning the old one. And now I won't."
"Well, if it hadn't been for Dr. Pei, you wouldn't have stumbled onto this."
"You think that gives him a right to just push me out so I won't steal the least bit of his glory?"
"No," Arteminski replied. "Have you been expelled, or are you dropping out?"
"I'm dropping out of this program, yes. I'm cutting my losses. I haven't got a chance to fight this, and Dr. Pei and his other buddies in the program have made it clear that they support him. If I go on, they'll approve my formal dismissal from the program for poor—quote—performance and disruptive behavior—unquote That would finish me at any university that matters. So, I've made up a cover story to minimize the damage. I'm trying to reconcile with my estranged husband, and I want to spend more time with my kid."
"Courtesy of a broken condom and too many romance novels. My parents and his father's parents take care of him."
"Are you actually going to do that?"
"Well, my kid, of course. I've got this huge guilt thing over that. But Vernon? We've been friends most of our lives, but we were a disaster as a couple. Man . . . you want to know something funny?"
"I felt so torn up about my marriage going so bad so fast and not being able to handle my kid alone, I went into therapy. And guess who Dr. Pei got for me?"
"Right. Actually I stopped seeing him in therapy before this all started. I didn't know the DNA tests were for him until last night.
"Last night? How?"
"I had sex with Dr. Pei. And I got him so drunk he passed out after. It was in his office, so I got into his records. The bastard doesn't know I went through his stuff, but when he woke up, he said 'Thank you' and said I was still out of the program."
"A bastard that one is." Arteminski shook his head. "One more question. How did you come to call me?"
"Oh, I found your name in Pei's journal. The idiot used his birthday as a password. Watanabe made a lot of calls to him telling he was worried about you. Pei stopped accepting his calls about a month before the story came out, by the way."
"Did he? I haven't seen anything about him reporting any of this to any police department."
"Duh! Geez, you think it could have anything to do with wanting to keep my little discovery out of the news?"
"Why don't you leak it?"
"No, thanks. I let it out, the Inquirer prints 'space aliens among us' stories, and I lose all credibility."
"Don't you want to help catch the killer?"
"Sure. But what does this have to do with it? It's just a coincidence."
"Why did Watanabe have the tests done?"
"The girls asked him. They didn't tell me about asking him, but they told me they don't want to be separated. They thought if I could prove they were sisters, they might not be broken apart."
"They told you?"
"Who do you think took the tissue samples?
Arteminski took Ms. Biter's home address and phone. When he called a few days later, more to check up on someone who'd touched his heart than in any hope of getting more useful information, he was told she hadn't arrived. She'd gone to the San Jose International Airport, checked her baggage, but she wasn't seen on the plane.
Christmas afternoon, a father and son flew a gas-powered model airplane in an empty parking lot near the airport for two hours. They were about to leave when the father went to a dumpster to throw out the empty can of model airplane fuel. He found a woman's body in the dumpster. An autopsy found she had been suffocated. There was evidence of sexual assault, but no semen and no other possible DNA evidence. Because she had not been fingerprinted, it would have probably taken many days or even weeks to identify her—except that a Detective Sergeant Arteminski, from another department, told San Jose Police that the woman might be Rebecca Biter, a New Jersey native who had been a graduate student at Stanford University.
The San Jose Police were very curious about why Arteminski had seen Ms. Biter so soon before her murder. He told them that the young woman had been in a dispute with Dr. Pei, and had tried to use his connection with Dr. Watanabe to get Dr. Pei in trouble. Ateminski said he sympathized with the girl, but that the evidence she had obtained was trivial and inadmissable, and that he did not think Dr. Pei knew anything useful about Dr. Watanabe that he had not already revealed to investigators. But Dr. Pei had some difficult weeks following the discovery of Ms. Biter's body.
The San Jose Police made an arrest in the third week of January, a Nicaraguan illegal immigrant, who was identified by a pawnshop owner as the man who sold her a watch belonging to Ms. Biter. A confession was announced 48 hours later. But the next day, his public defender revealed that the suspect had, in fact, been in jail under another name for sixty days, and had been released the day after the body was found.
Neither Dr. Pei nor Detective Arteminski mentioned anything about Dr. Watanabe's connection with the Kino sisters during this well-covered wild goose chase.
In the meantime, five more young girls between the ages of ten an fifteen vanished. No bodies turned up. Three of them went missing on the night of the new moon, one of them from her own home. Two of the missing girls were Dr. Watanabe's patients. But the three who disappeared on the new moon were not.
Arteminski went over second-hand reports. None of the missing girls from Christmas to the end of January were from his jurisdiction. But the girl who had vanished from her home had only been one block outside his jurisdiction. Her family could only place the time of the disappearance within five hours. They were, of course, mercilessly questioned because they were the first suspects. Arteminski was asked for his unofficial opinion by the department handling the case after a few days of fruitless questioning and fierce publicity. He looked over the scene, had some quiet words with the family, and gave his opinion. "I think the child was taken."
But a few days later, the father was arrested. The bloody pajamas of the girl had been found in the trunk of his car, under the spare tire.
<Well and good,> thought Arteminski, <except I looked there and found nothing.>
But what to do? Arteminski knew about planted evidence. He'd never done it, but on occasions, he'd seen it done and said nothing. On others, he had reported the infraction immediately. It was a judgement call. They really thought the father was guilty. He didn't. He thought of that Boulder murder case which never went away. And maybe the father had been foolish enough to keep the pajamas, and then put them in his car, for some reason—it didn't have to be a good reason, for this.
What was really in a man's heart?
Detective Arteminski thought of at least one person who might know.