A former soldier who becomes a San Francisco police homicide investigator after the war, Vince Torelli is dedicated, intelligent and highly principled–all skills that serve him well given the difficult, almost impossible murder investigations he’s assigned that force him to the razor edge with equally resolute, extremely ruthless masterminds.
A recently mutilated, naked corpse is found in an early 19th-century tunnel under San Francisco. With no forensic evidence, solving the crime seems impossible.
After San Francisco Homicide Inspector Vince Torelli begins investigating, notes from the killer, addressed to him, start showing up. Vince realizes this murder may be the first of several, leading Vince on a deadly multi-state investigation.
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He liked it down there. Yes, it was damp and cold, but without the constant wind off the ocean, it was tolerable, even comfortable. He liked the quiet best of all. No horns beeping, sirens, engine noises, or human babbling. He could think clearly. All that noise distracted him, and set off his panic attacks. It was peaceful. There was no one to make fun of him, bully him, hurt him. He would live here if he could.
He walked through the tunnel, guided by the beam from the headlamp he wore, struggling to drag the man’s naked corpse behind him. He wore a cheap set of coveralls over a sweatshirt–the hood pulled up and tied snugly under his chin–rubber gloves, and plastic bags over his shoes. He duct taped the sleeves around his wrists and the legs around his ankles. A headlamp provided the only light.
His favorite TV show, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Las Vegas, had taught him how to best prevent leaving trace evidence behind. Though canceled a few years ago, he religiously watched all the re-runs. He was confident the police would find no evidence of value on or around the corpse.
Reaching his destination, he placed the man in a sitting position against the wall across from a small access panel. Taking a jar of honey from his pocket, he poured it over the body, replacing the empty jar in his coveralls to dispose of far from the scene. He smiled, thinking–the rats will eat well tonight.
He opened the access panel to the Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel enough to reach through to tape an envelope on the outside, addressed to Homicide Inspector Vince Torelli, SFPD, 850 Bryant St. He would monitor the panel each night and if not gone in three days, would make an anonymous call from a pay phone to the BART Police Department advising them of the envelope’s location.
Looking at his watch’s luminous dial, he saw it was after ten p.m. He knew no one would be on the other side of the panel, having spent several days watching it from the BART tube five hundred feet past the Embarcadero Station. All the time he watched from a niche just large enough to conceal him, he never saw anyone that far in, and only occasionally saw the small electric inspection cart drive by.
He found the panel by accident, as he usually kept his wanderings to the tunnels that branched off through Chinatown. He would come up into the neighborhood and break into the shops, stealing only food or small amounts of money. Having explored those as much as he could, he took to wandering through the BART tunnels in the early morning hours. When he found the access panel, he was curious about its purpose. He managed to get it open and discovered this other tunnel, constructed decades earlier for an unknown purpose. He quickly realized it was exactly what he needed to carry out his plans. The body in the tunnel, Alex Chesterson, was the first of several victims in those plans.
His task completed, he strolled to the exit and changed into the clean garments he’d stashed in a black plastic garbage bag–levis, socks, underwear, t-shirt and a zippered sweatshirt–placing the other clothes, gloves, and shoe coverings into the bag, he exited onto Judah Street near 19th Avenue, through a small basement door of the Calvary United Methodist Church. Few people were walking the streets at that time of the night, and none paid any attention to an ordinary looking man strolling along carrying a garbage bag. It was not unusual to see such a sight on the streets of San Francisco.
At some point, the church had used the tunnel as a storage area. The boxes and old furniture were moldy and crumbling from the damp air. It was apparent no one had been inside the tunnel for years. Rats had chewed holes in the cardboard boxes and made nests inside.
He walked the few blocks to Elk Glen Lake in Golden Gate Park, put several large rocks in the bag and sealed the top with several wraps of duct tape. Using his small pocket knife, he cut a few small slashes in the bag and threw it as far as he could into the lake, and watched as the bag sank beneath the dark water.