Angel of the Dark by Sidney Sheldon

“Okay, guys,” Danny began. “Right now we have nothing tangible out of Hong Kong. What we do have is a huge paper file on the Jakes case, which I believe you’ve both seen, and you’ve been inputting into the I-24/7. Richard, is that right?”

The German statistician nodded nervously. He seemed to do everything nervously and wore the permanent expression of a man who was about to be hauled before the Gestapo and summarily shot.

“In terms of maximizing the use of our time, I suggest we focus on the Henley and Anjou cases, see if we can dig up anything that the local investigators missed.”

“Are the local police being cooperative?” asked Claude Demartin, downing the last of his coffee.

“In a word, no. We’ve all got to tread carefully and try not to upset too many applecarts. There’s a lot of professional pride on the line. Up to now this guy has gotten away with murder three times, and it looks as if he’s going to make it a fourth in Hong Kong. Frémeaux’s already looking for an excuse to shut us down, and if we piss off Scotland Yard or the LAPD or any of the other local forces, he’ll have one. You understand what I’m saying?”

Two nods.

“Good. So what do we have so far? Our killer is male. He targets wealthy, older men with young wives. His motivation is at least partially sexual. And he is unusually savage in his murders. Anything you would like to add to this?”

Claude Demartin looked like he was going to say something, then thought better of it and clammed up.

“What?” Danny urged.

“I’m a forensics guy. I’m not an expert in any of this other stuff.”

“I’m not looking for experts. I’m looking for ideas, theories. Just go with your instincts.”

Richard Sturi visibly winced.

“Okay,” Demartin began. “Well, then I’d say he’s a sophisticated man.”


“He’s well traveled. Probably he speaks several languages. The crimes took place all over the globe.”

Danny nodded encouragingly. “Good.”

Demartin warmed to his theme. “Also he plans pretty meticulously. And he seems to have a knack for handling complicated security systems. Makes me suspect he’s an electrical engineer or a computer whiz of some sort.”

The security angle had always bothered Danny. Thinking of the Jakes case, he remembered that the alarm system at 420 Loma Vista had been highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art in its day. The Henleys had a straightforward but reliable Banham system in London, and Didier Anjou’s Saint-Tropez home was surrounded by CCTV cameras, all of them suspiciously blank the night of his murder. According to Inspector Liu of the Hong Kong police, Miles Baring had installed a security system to rival the one at Fort Knox. And yet in all four cases, a single man had slipped in and out of the victims’ homes entirely unnoticed.

A killer with unusual expertise in matters of technology was one possibility. But there was another, simpler one, one that had haunted Danny since his days on the Jakes case.

“Maybe someone in the household knew the killer,” he said out loud. “Someone let them in. A servant or something.”

“Or the wives.” Claude Demartin baldly stated what Danny couldn’t bring himself to utter. “Here’s a theory. This killer, this sophisticated, intelligent guy, targets the bored young wives of his victims. He grooms them, winning their trust, maybe seducing them sexually. Then, once he has them under his spell, he cons them, persuading them to give all their husband’s money away to charity.”

“Then what?” Danny asked skeptically. “He breaks into their homes?”

“Why not? By then he already has inside knowledge of the property, security codes, camera positions, et cetera. He conceals his identity with a mask…does something with his voice presumably so the women don’t recognize him. Murders the husbands. Rapes the wives. Then he returns later as the shoulder to cry on for the widows. Once the money’s safely in the accounts of the charities, he persuades the widows to disappear with him. Safely removed from the crime scene, he kills them too, disposes of the bodies and moves on to the next hit.”

All three men were silent. Demartin’s theory was a serious stretch on many levels. Assuming that the killer attempted to disguise himself at the time of the break-in, was it actually possible that a woman would fail to recognize her own lover? It seemed pretty far-fetched. And wouldn’t the cops have come across the killer in his shoulder-to-cry-on guise? Surely if some slick, presumably handsome, intelligent young man was hanging around the victims…

Danny froze.

There had been such a man. With Angela Jakes. Hanging around her like a bad smell.

Lyle Renalto.

Demartin was talking again, enjoying his newfound role as Sherlock Holmes. Stuck in a forensics lab at Interpol, he rarely got a chance to let his imagination run wild.

“Or we could consider some alternatives. How about this? The killer does not conceal his identity. The wives know full well who he is and they let him into their homes deliberately. The wives aren’t his victims. They’re his accomplices.”

Danny McGuire thought back to Angela Jakes’s terrible injuries after her rape. She was so badly beaten that when he first saw her, tied to her husband’s corpse, he’d thought she was dead. He shook his head. “No. No way. There was nothing faked about those rapes. Not the one I saw, anyway. Not in a million years was that sex consensual.”

Claude Demartin raised an eyebrow. Americans could be dreadful prudes when it came to sex. “Are you sure? Some women like it rough.”

“Not that rough,” said Danny. Not that woman. She was so sweet and gentle. An angel.

Demartin shrugged. “Don’t forget there were hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in each of these killings. People will tolerate extreme suffering to obtain enormous amounts of money.”

“But none of the widows kept the money. They gave it away.”

“Except Lisa Baring.”

“Except Lisa Baring. So far.”

Silence fell again. Demartin’s theory was plausible. One killer. Possibly Lyle Renalto? Grooming wives. Gaining access. Killing husbands. Diverting funds. Of course it still begged a number of questions. Not the least of which was “why?”

Danny said, “Motive’s still a problem.”

Richard Sturi laughed loudly. It was the first sound he’d made in a good fifteen minutes and both Danny and Claude Demartin turned to stare at him in surprise.

“Motive’s a problem? Everything’s a problem! You haven’t a shred of hard factual evidence to support any of what you’ve just said.”

The German’s tone was contemptuous. His French colleague instantly bridled. “All right, then, Albert Einstein. Let’s hear what you’ve got to say about the crimes.”

Wordlessly, Richard Sturi removed his sleek Sony laptop from its case and placed it on the table. As he lovingly stroked its cover, Danny had a sudden image of Blofeld, from the Austin Powers movies, with his cat.

“This is just some initial analysis. Very basic.”

Danny McGuire and Claude Demartin both gazed at the screen in awe. The graphs lit up the screen one by one in an array of eye-popping colors. Red for the Jakes murder, blue for the Henley case, green for Anjou, and livid purple for the Barings. There were time lines, showing the length of time between the date of each marriage and the respective husband’s murder, and from each murder to the wife’s disappearance. Bar graphs, analyzing everything from the age gap between each couple to the geographical distance between the crimes. Richard Sturi had done his homework and then some. On the last screen, in yellow, was another, as-yet-untitled set of graphs.

Danny pointed at them. “What are those?”

“Projections. Not conjecture, you understand.” Sturi looked at Demartin with an expression hovering between pity and contempt. “Mathematical probabilities, drawn from the limited known facts. I’ve been building up a profile of the killer based on past data. The yellow lines predict his statistically probable next move.”

Danny swallowed hard. “You mean his next kill?”

“Precisely. It occurs to me that the most effective way for us to assist a member country in actually apprehending this individual would be to anticipate his next move and prepare for it. Of course, we can’t say who specifically his next victim will be. But we can predict that individual’s age, net worth, geographical location, most likely wedding date. There is a plethora of factors that can be statistically determined, telling us how the killer will behave in the future based on how he has behaved in the past.”

Danny stared at the jagged yellow lines and for some reason thought of the Wizard of Oz. Is that how we’re going to find him? By following Sturi’s yellow brick road? Perhaps we’ve had the answers all along, like Dorothy and her friends. We just didn’t know where to look.

Beneath the graphs were numbers, pages and pages of them. Statistical analysis of everything from the DNA evidence, to the dates of the bank transfers, to comparative data about each of the children’s charities, to the four victims’ dates of birth. A sea of numbers that all but made Danny’s eyes cross.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon