Torn In Two

I should’ve been relaxing in front of a roaring fire. Instead I was standing in a cold house staring at the corpse of a nude woman whose nipples had been sliced off. Just above where her left nipple should’ve been, the murderer had left his signature — a tattoo of a heart torn into two jagged pieces.

Lenny Szerbiak, the lead detective on the case, continued to stare at the body as he spoke. “It’s a copycat, Counselor. It’s gotta’ be.”

“Yeah, well if it’s a copycat, why’d the hell you call me?” I couldn’t take my eyes off the body either. She was like all the others, blue-eyed and blonde, young and pretty.

“Look, Miss Bartkowski, just because we’re on different sides of the aisle doesn’t mean I don’t respect your work.”

“Yeah, right.” I keep my bullshit detector on high when it comes to cops.

“I’m just sayin’ it’s got to be a copycat, but I ain’t sure it’s a copycat.”

“Whaddaya’ mean?”

Lenny motioned for me to follow him. As we stepped into the parking lot, a team of forensics experts pushed past.

“I mean, I know a little about ink. A tattoo artist’s work is like a fingerprint. Ain’t no two the same.”


“So, the ink says the guy who killed this broad, is the same guy who killed Shana Hellwig.”

“Except last I heard, Armand Heimlich’s in prison.” But Lenny knew that — he’d been the lead detective on the string of murders that led to Armand’s conviction. I knew it because Armand was my client.

“Yeah, well.” Lenny fished a crumpled pack of cigarettes from his parka pocket. He offered me one and I took it, even though I quit three months ago, right after Armand’s trial. But I’ve quit and started a hundred times before. Law school exams, divorces, and murder trials are good for tobacco sales.

“Why don’t you admit you fucked up, Detective. Armand never committed those other murders. The real Nipplelicious Murderer is still out there. This is proof.”

Lenny blew smoke out his nostrils. “This ain’t proof of shit, Counselor. You know as well as I do the DNA don’t lie. That was Armand’s DNA under Shana Hellwig’s fingernails.”

Shana Hellwig was the last of seven women Armand Heimlich was charged with killing. The modus operandi was the same in every instance. Nipples missing, tattoo applied, cause of death asphyxiation. There was no sign of a forced entry, no trace of the killer’s bodily fluids, no indication of a struggle. Except in Shana’s case. She’d fought for her life.

“So, where does this leave us?”

Lenny tossed his cigarette into a bank of ugly, gray snow. “Beats the fuck outta’ me.”

He was a good looking man. I guessed late forties, with gray-flecked hair, a square jaw, and thick sensual lips. He was a big guy, tall and muscular. A man’s man. My kinda’ man. “Yeah, Lenny, I know what you mean.”

“Anyways,” he said, “I’ll keep you in the loop.”

I took a last drag on my cigarette. Maybe Lenny’s good looks shorted out my bullshit detector. “Whaddya’ doing for Christmas dinner?” I asked.

“Not much. Watchin’ the football game and hangin’ with the guys.”

I’d read it right. He was divorced, like me. Alone and able to handle it if he had to, like me.

“Why don’t you come over to my place? I’ve got plenty for two.”

He jammed his hands into his jeans pockets. “You cook, Counselor?”

He didn’t know the half of it.

“Come on,” I said. “I’ve got a place in Shorewood.”

* * *

The snow started with big fluffy flakes, then turned to wind-driven pellets. I didn’t need a weatherman to tell me we were in for it.

I opened a bottle of Zinfandel. “How about a glass of wine?”

“I’m usually a beer guy, but I can make an exception.”

I swirled the dark red liquid, inhaled the scent of black cherry, pepper, and currant. “Sorry, I don’t keep beer in the house.”

Lenny gave the wine a try. “This’ll work.”

I made a mirepoix of onions, carrots, and bell pepper. My chef’s knife flashed under the fluorescent light.

“I think you’ve done this before,” he said.

“I went to law school in New Orleans, before coming back to Milwaukee. I worked the restaurants there to make a few extra bucks.”

“I’m impressed.”

“You do what you have to do.”

I stirred the mirepoix in a heavy pot. When the vegetables caramelized, I removed them to a bowl and went to work on the roux. I let the roux cook until it turned mahogany in color, then returned the vegetables to the pot. I seasoned the mixture with my secret combination of Cajun seasonings.

“I hope you don’t mind spicy.”

“The spicier the better.”

I filled the pot with chicken stock and andoullie sausage. I’d wait to add the shrimp until the last three minutes.

“We’ll let that simmer for a while.” I handed him the bottle of Zin. We needed a refill. “Here, make yourself useful.”

“To the chef,” he said, raising his glass.

Shrimp etoufee. That’s my kind of Christmas dinner.

* * *

“So,” Lenny said, “after the divorce, she moved to Kenosha with the kids to be closer to her family.”

I watched him load up another forkful of the etoufee and shovel it in. “But you stayed to save the world from crime?”

He reached for the wine bottle and split the remainder between us. Sure enough, we’d killed that first bottle.

“The thing is, I’m pushing fifty and there’s only a couple of things in life I’ve ever been good at. One of them is police work. The other, well.Anyway, I’m still here.”

He looked younger, softer, warmer in the candle light. I hoped I did too. “Well, I’m glad you are,” I said.

He looked up. “So am I.”

* * *

It was cold, but the snow had let up. I wore a cashmere cardigan and an old parka. We walked through Lake Park. Snow clung to the trees, giving them an unworldly appearance. A half moon peeked through the clouds and illuminated the lake.

“So, if most of your clients are guilty, why do you do it?” he asked.

“I started doing it to make a living. Anymore I do it for the same reason you do police work I can’t see myself doing anything else and I’m good at it.”

“You’re damn good, that’s for sure.”

A sudden and unexpectedly strong gust of wind buffeted us. “I’m freezing,” I said.

“C’mon, we better get back.” He slid an arm around my waist. I didn’t resist the urge to lean against him, my hip pressed to his.

We walked that way to my place without speaking. At the door, we stood in the yellow porch light. I looked up at him.

“I feel like a high school kid,” he said.

“We’re not kids, Lenny.”

“No, I guess we’re not.”

“I really enjoyed this evening,” I told him. Maybe it was the wine talking, maybe the loneliness.

He jammed his hands in his pockets and stared at his boots. “Yeah, Cindy, me too.”

“So are you going to kiss me goodnight or not?”

He took my face in his hands and brought his mouth to mine. “Yeah,” he said. “I’d like that.”

* * *

We barely made into the foyer before I backed him against a wall. Our tongues swirled and darted. His hands slid down my back and over the curve of my hips. I fumbled with the buttons of his shirt.

His lips were hot and damp on my ears and neck.

“Lenny,” I whispered into the mat of hair on his chest.

He emitted a scent of male musk that I hadn’t encountered for a while. My sweater and blouse fell to the floor. He unhooked my bra and pushed it off my shoulders. We both watched as my white breasts spilled into his waiting hands.

Then, that quick, he spun me around. My face pressed against the wall and his pelvis was hard on my ass. He unbuttoned my jeans and tugged them off my hips. I stepped clear of the denim, then in one swift motion he pulled my undies to the ground.

“Fuck yeah.” I didn’t mean to say it, but I meant what I said.

I searched behind and loosened his belt buckle. I needed his cock in my hand, needed to feel its throb and ache.

He groaned when I stroked the length and thickness of it. I used my thumb to spread the dew that gathered at the tip. I reached lower and cupped his soft, furry balls in my palm.

He stepped away and I turned to face him again. He shucked his jeans and boxers and for the first time I saw him naked. I took it all in, the wide shoulders and bulging arms, the broad chest, the swaying hard-on, the muscular buttocks and legs. I steered him into my bedroom, pushed him onto the bed. I rolled and threw a leg over him, straddling his belly.

He looked up, face red, breath short. “I’ve wanted you since the first time I saw you in that courtroom.”

I leaned forward to plant a kiss on his lips. “Yeah, you wanted me that long?” I brushed my nipples against his, teasing him.

“Yeah, that long.”

He reached for me, but I pinned his arms to the bed and lowered my breasts to his face, purring and rubbing like a cat.

Then I took his hand and guided it between my legs. He looked up, his eyes bright with desire. “You wanted this that first day in court?”

“Yeah, I wanted your pussy.”

His fingers opened me, dipped into my slit, drew moisture. His eyes never left mine as he explored the folds and valleys until I cried out.

“Oh, baby,” I murmured.

I rose into a squat, grasped him, and sank down. I groaned and heard him do the same.

“Oh, yeah,” he managed as I began to rock. He lifted his face, nuzzling, licking, sucking. He ran his hands over my torso and hips. When he caressed the globes of my ass and the dark furrow between, I rocked faster.

My first orgasm hit before his, a screaming shudder that gripped my thighs and scorched my tits.

He held me for a moment, bathing my face with soft kisses. Then as I lay pressed against him, he began to pump in and out, the muscles in his hips and abdomen bouncing us both on the bed. When I reached behind and squeezed his sack, his balls r0se, his warmth gushed inside my warmth.

That’s when my second orgasm washed over me, a hot wave starting deep in my core and emanating outward. I collapsed onto the bed, spent and sticky, unwilling and unable to move.

“Holy shit,” he whispered.

“You can say that again.”

“Holy shit.”

* * *

Afterwards, we sat in front of the fire, sipping Bailey’s and filling gaps. I counted it in his favor when I asked him to stay over and he said he’d like that. I went to sleep in his arms, his lips whispering good night, his cock pressed into the crack of my ass. I figured a girl could do a lot worse.

It was when I woke from a dead sleep that things got funky.

I lay on my back, spread-eagled. My hands were cuffed to the bed post. My feet were secured to the foot of the bed with pantyhose. Lenny sat next to me in the near dark, his left hand playing from one of breast to the other.

“Lenny, what the fuck?”

He pinched my left nipple and my hips cleared the bed. “C’mon, you like it, right?”

My mouth was dry, my head a little achy. “Yeah, I like it all right.”

He pinched my right nipple and I squirmed. He reached out and in the moonlight stretched a gossamer string of pre-cum from his pee-hole to my tongue. I licked and sucked like a child with an ice cream cone.

“Yeah, you like it.”

He repositioned and sat over me, his cock fat and slippery between my breasts. He tugged at each nipple, gently at first, then harder.

I made a sound like a construction worker swinging a sledge hammer.

He smiled and thrust between my tits. I felt the drag of his balls across my belly, felt the tip of his cock bump my chin. My ass clinched and my hips cleared the bed again.

He twisted my nipples. I closed my eyes and went with it. I’d be sore tomorrow, but there was no stopping tonight. He reached between my thighs. Two fingers entered and probed. He brought his fingers to my face. They smelled of sex. I licked again.

“Yeah,” he said, “you really like it. See how wet you are?”

“Fuck me, Lenny. C’mon, fuck me.”

“I’m gonna’ fuck you my way,” he told me.

He leaned across the bed and fumbled through clothes he’d left draped over a chair. From his jacket he produced a chain. I heard its clink, then felt the cold metallic bite of nipple clamps.

“What the.”

He draped the chain around his neck and sat upright. I yelped and arched my back, struggling against the cuffs and ties. My nipples screamed with pleasure and pain. My pussy was on fire.

He lowered his face to my ear. “Too much?”

“No,” I managed.

“You’re a real slut, aren’t you Counselor?”

He’d seen through the veneer of respectability, right into the heart of the easiest girl at Tulane Law. “Yeah, baby, I’m your slut.”

He sat up again, sending a lightening bolt of pleasure and pain through my nipples. He began to move in earnest. With each thrust forward, I extended my tongue trying for his cock head. With each retreat, my nipples reached a new level of sweet agony.

Lenny’s breathing grew more rapid. My hips and legs thrashed against the sheets. He slowed and took his cock in his hand. I opened my mouth in anticipation, watching him stroke, waiting for my reward. Finally, he bucked, spraying my lips, cheeks, chin, and breasts. I lapped at him like a woman dying of thirst. When his ejaculations ceased, I sucked him until he went flaccid in my mouth.

Finally, he withdrew and loosened the clamps. He rolled and unclasped the cuffs. “Finish yourself,” he said.

I was overcome with lust, swollen and drippy. I watched him dry his cock with Kleenex and reached for my cunt. He pulled on his jeans and shirt, while I circled and dipped. He tied his shoes, while I fingered deep and hard, and ground the palm of my hand against my clit.

“Oh.” my free hand reached out for him.

I came like thunder on the fucking prairie.

As he walked through the door, I came again.

* * *

Over the course of the next week two more women were murdered. True to his word, Lenny invited me to the crime scenes. We stood next to each other and examined the corpses of blue-eyed, blonde-haired women, women I’d looked like when I was twenty. Women with firm tits, tight asses, and abs like washboards. Except these were women with their nipples removed, women inked with that damn tattoo.

Lenny invited me to the crime scenes, all right, but the sonofabitch never said a word about the night we’d spent together. He never sent flowers. He never sent a card. He didn’t even call drunk looking for a repeat. The motherfucker acted like nothing had happened.

The third time he summoned me, I was ready for him.

The woman was in her home in Wauwatosa, a cozy suburb on the near west side. Whitney Beranek’s eyes were still open. The skin on her breasts, near where her nipples should have been, were an ugly yellow and purple.

“Same old shit,” Lenny said. “The profiler figures our killer for a middle-aged white male. That’s about half of everyone left in Milwaukee.”

“We need to talk, Szerbiak.”

Outside, snow three feet deep lay piled at the curb. The bitter January cold pinched my nostrils and made it difficult to breath. “Why are you doing this, Lenny?”

“Doing what?”

“I think you know.”

“I told you, I’d keep you in the loop.”

“That was before you fucked me. Why have our only dates since then been in the company of mutilated corpses?”

Lenny dug out his cigarettes, offered me one. This time I declined. “I didn’t think we hit off all that well,” he said.

“Really? You seemed to like it well enough when you were grinding away on top of me.”

He shrugged. “Yeah, well.”

“I don’t go to bed with just anyone.” Well, at least not everyone.

“Whatever you say, Counselor.”

I was so pissed I could’ve kicked him with my sharp-toed heels. “You know what, Szerbiak?”

“What’s that , Counselor?”

“Fuck you.”

* * *

I was more convinced than ever that Armand Heimlich was an innocent man. Whoever was on this current killing spree was the same man who had killed the women Armand had been convicted of killing. The DNA didn’t lie, but neither did the ink. And neither did my gut. But it would take more than ink and my gut to get Armand out of jail.

I drove to Waupun Prison to see him. Waupun sat on the edge of Horicon Marsh. In the spring and fall it was a stop-over for Canadian Geese on their semi-annual migration. In the deep winter of late January in Wisconsin, there was something pre-historic about it. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see wooly mammoths wandering across the landscape.

If the marsh was bleak, the prison was utterly depressing. A castle of stone and barbed wire fence, set upon the frozen prairie. On average it took three convictions to earn your way into Waupun. Once there, the average stay was ten years. The recidivism rate was seventy percent. So much for prison as a vehicle for rehabilitation.

I knew the routine. I showed my ID at the gate and parked in the visitor’s lot. Once inside, I slipped off my shoes and gave up my belt to pass through security. I endured the pat down from a bulky female guard who looked like she was packing a strap-on in her pants.

I tried not to give it much thought.

I met Armand in the Lawyer’s Room, a six by nine cell with a metal table and two uncomfortable chairs. Armand was cuffed to the table and two armed guards waited outside the door. There was a panic button underneath on my side the table.

“Hey, Armand,” I said.

“Hey, Miss Bartkowski.”

Armand wasn’t a bad guy compared to some of my clients. White and middle-aged, with flaxen hair and pale blue eyes, he fit Szerbiak’s profile like a glove. Still unmarried at age forty-five, he’d lived with his mother, working days at a brewery and nights at a tattoo parlor, before being fingered for the Nipplelicious murders.

At trial, he’d offered an alibi witness and his pastor had described for the jury Armand’s good works in the community. His record was clean as a whistle. Except for the DNA he’d apparently left behind under Shana Hellwig’s fingernails, the jury would never have convicted him. Lenny Szerbiak had originally focused on Armand because he lived in Shana’s neighborhood and worked as an ink artist. Lenny and his partner got Armand to agree to a polygraph and a blood test, “to clear his name.” He passed the polygraph, but his DNA matched what they’d found at the crime scene.

Bingo! Lenny had his man.

“Armand, I just needed to ask you a couple of questions.”

“Is this about my appeal?”

“Not really.” Cons are always thinking about their appeals. I didn’t tell him that although I’d filed, our chances of winning were about as good as a fart in a snow storm.

“Okay. Ask away.”

“Armand, had you ever met or seen Detective Szerbiak before he arrested you?”

There was a dullness to Armand’s responses that made him seem like he could have been a serial killer. I was never quite sure what was going on behind the flat expression.

“I seen him in the neighborhood bars. He’d come to the Friday Night fish fries at the church.”

“The church?” I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was a Milwaukee tradition.

“Yeah, all you could eat on Friday Nights. I volunteered on the serving line and I remembered seeing him. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

“But you remembered him from the fish fry after he arrested you? You remembered him from the serving line?”

“Well, yeah, but I’d seen him at conferences and such, before that. I knew he was a cop, before he ever arrested me.”


“Yeah, tattoo conventions and conferences, you know. He used to be in the business. I thought it was kinda’ funny for a cop, but what the hey?”

“Szerbiak was into tattoos?”

“Yeah, they said he moonlighted at a shop in Kenosha.”

“No shit.”

“That’s what they said.”

I’m pushing fifty and there’s only a couple of things in life I’ve ever been good at. One of them is police work. The other, well.

The remembered words settled on me like an icy wet blanket.

“Why didn’t you ever say anything about this, Armand?”

“You never asked.”

It’s always the most obvious questions that don’t get asked. “I think that’s all I really needed, Armand.”

“You drove all the way up here, just to ask me that?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I guess I did.”

I had to hold onto the chair when I stood, my legs were so weak.

* * *

It took three weeks to lure Lenny Szerbiak back to my place. I called to apologize for telling him to fuck off. He said he understood. I told him I thought we deserved another chance. He said he wasn’t sure. I whispered through the cell phone that I couldn’t think of anything but his slick dick between my breasts. He agreed to meet for coffee. I wore a low cut v-neck sweater and a push-up bra and squeezed him under the table. From there, we progressed to online chatting and a round of phone sex. I knew I had him when I e-mailed a pic of my nipples pinched by clothespins and he followed up with a shot of a woman’s wrist cuffed to a bedpost.

While we did our little dance, three more women died. Since our tiff, Lenny no longer invited me to the crime scenes, so I read about it in the paper. Carol Slovinsky they found in an apartment in Brown Deer, Debbie Nieman in a townhouse in Glenview, and Sheila Muesenhoffer tied to a Lazy Boy in her suite at the Pfister Hotel. The pressure was growing on Lenny and his dedicated team to nail the killer — dubbed, logically enough, the Nipplelicious Copycat by the local media. The mayor held a press conference and said there would be no vacations until the “heartless fiend was brought to justice.”

In most places the end of February signaled the end of winter. But in Milwaukee, the end of February was only the beginning of the last three months of winter. The Friday night Lenny appeared at my door with a bouquet of roses and a haircut, snow was falling wet and heavy.

“I can’t stay,” he said. “I’ve only got a few hours off with this killer on the loose.”

“I’m just glad you’re here.” I poured us Cabernet and asked him to take a seat at the bar while I finished prepping dinner. My knife chopped and diced. I wore a tight-fitting black wool sweater, a gray mini-skirt, and five-inch hooker heels. Underneath, I’d skipped the bra and panties, opting instead for fishnet thigh highs.

“So, how’s that investigation going?”

“Same old, same old.”

“You still convinced it’s a copycat?”

“Not a doubt in my mind, Counselor.”

I seasoned a couple of juicy t-bones and assembled a potato gratin dish my grandma taught me how to make. “It’s a funny thing, though,” I said without looking up.

“What’s that?”

“I’ve got family in Chicago. My brother’s an ex-cop. He does PI work these days.”


“He told me that while Armand’s trial was going on and the murders stopped here, they had a couple of murders down there. Same titty play, same tattoo. Then once Armand’s locked up, the murders stop there, but start again here.”

“We’re aware of the murders in Shytown.”

I re-filled his wine glass. “I figured you were.”

My brother told me a few other things. His investigation into Lenny Szerbiak revealed a man with a troubled youth and a marginal adulthood. He grew up in the rough, working-class south side of Milwaukee. Lenny’s teachers remembered a pudgy boy who the children teased for having breasts like a girl. One the one hand, a teen-age Lenny sang in the church choir. On the other, he spent time in reform school for vandalism and fighting. After high school, he joined the Marines, appeared to clean up his act, and made the police force. But there were rumors of heavy drinking. There was more than the one divorce he told me about. And there were troubling complaints from female officers about a detective who could be overly-friendly in tight places.

Lenny sipped his wine. I could feel his eyes all over me, hear the whistle of his breath through his nostrils. He leaned across the bar and kissed me. When he pulled away his face was flushed. “I gotta’ have some of you, Cindy. You got so me worked up I can hardly stand it.”

I gave him a wicked smile and came around to the other side of the bar. I raised myself up and sat in front of him. My nipples were at eye level. I spread my knees and my skirt slid higher than my thigh-highs. I leaned in and nipped his ear, pushing my nipples into his face. He lifted the sweater so he could feel skin on skin. I yelped and pulled away when he bit me. I whisked off the sweater and sat topless before him.

“You’re a titty man, aren’t you Lenny?”

His breathing was quick and shallow, eye’s wide. He swallowed hard. “Always have been.”

“Yeah, I thought so.”

He lunged and buried his face into my bosom. He slurped and sucked. “Ooooh, baby,” I cooed.

I leaned over and reached into his lap. It felt like he had a tire iron in his pants. I came down off the bar and knelt on the floor. I unzipped him and drizzled saliva the length of his shaft. I pressed him into the valley between my breasts. I squeezed while he pumped. “Goddamn,” he moaned.

“Fuck my titties, Lenny. That’s it give it to me.”

It only took a few strokes to bring him off. It was like a river of goo.

“Shit,” he said. “You’re something, girl.”

Those were his last words before the Rohypnol kicked in. Lenny’s eyes rolled back in his head and he toppled off the bar stool.

I took my time. I used a syringe to collect his semen and squirted it into a plastic vial. I ran hot water over a dishtowel and cleaned myself. I used Lenny’s own cuffs to secure him to my sofa and removed his .38 revolver from his shoulder holster.

Then I broiled my steak, poured a glass of wine from an untainted bottle, and enjoyed my dinner while Lenny slept it off.

* * *

It took him two hours to come around. By the time he did, I’d cleaned up from dinner and changed into jeans and a U of W sweatshirt.

“What the fuck?” he said.

“Over here, Szerbiak.”

It took a few moments for his eyes to focus. I sat across from him in my favorite chair.

He broke into a silly grin. “You play rough.”

I crawled over to him on my hands and knees. I laid the blade of my chef’s knife against his cheek. “Feel cold steel, asshole.”

“Jesus Christ, Cindy.”

I retreated to my chair. “We can make this easy or hard, Lenny.”

“What’re you talking about?”

“I know you’re the Nipplelicious Murderer.”


“You killed the women Armand was convicted of killing. You’re a tattoo artist and you left your mark. You thought you might get caught after Shana Hellwig fought you and you were forced to flee the crime scene before you had a chance to clean up. And you were right. It was your skin under her fingernails. But you framed Armand by switching out your DNA for his. It wouldn’t have been that hard for the lead detective on the case to gain access to the evidence. Maybe you intended to stop after Armand was arrested, maybe not. But you couldn’t. You couldn’t even stop while he was on trial. That’s why you went down to Chicago. Except you made a mistake down there.”

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“You left a trace of DNA behind. It must’ve leaked from your condom, Lenny.” I held up my vial. “I’m betting the DNA from Marla Winkelhammer’s murder matches this.”

The blood drained from his face. An expression of relief settled over him, but he looked ten years older. “Okay, Counselor. What do you want from me?”

“First, I want to know why you didn’t kill me.”

“Kill you? I never wanted to kill you. I just wanted to tease you.”

It made sense. For a serial killer on a power trip, the ultimate trip was teasing the lawyer who’d defended the guy he’d framed for his murders. “That’s why you invited me to the crime scenes?”

“It wasn’t for your company.”

“You really are an asshole, Lenny.”

He smiled. “Admit it, Counselor, I may be an asshole, but I gave you what you wanted.”

For a long moment I considered shoving my blade into his left eye. Instead, I flipped the switch on the voice recorder I usually used for dictating memos and motions. “Tell me about all those other women, Lenny. The ones that didn’t survive.”

“You really want to hear.”

“Tell it, Lenny. Come to momma.”

* * *

That long, cold winter eventually melted into a cool, wet spring. It took that long for the wheels of justice to turn in Lenny’s case.

After his confession, I gave the tape and the vial to the DA. A genuine prick if there ever was one, Marty Weimereiner at first refused to stipulate to Armand’s innocence. It was only when they found the Mason jars on a shelf in a walled-off section of Lenny’s basement that Marty came around. Each jar of formaldehyde held a pair of matching nipples. Each jar was labeled with the victim’s name.

Lenny hired a friend of mine, Suze Manski, to defend him. He claimed the confession was forced, argued that my method of collecting his DNA violated his civil rights. The judge denied bail and scheduled the trial for late summer.

In the meantime, the killings stopped. That was proof enough of Lenny’s guilt for most folks in Milwaukee. That and the Mason jars.

It was late April when I returned to Waupun to meet Armand at the gate, a free man at last. Shoots of green showed through the ice on the Marsh. Geese on their way North passed overhead, festooned against the sky in the shape of a boomerang, wings flapping furiously, pot bellies sagging, necks extended in a loud, chaotic honk. Just like in the movies, the sun broke through the clouds and set the puddles of melting snow aglitter, as Armand strode to my car.

He waited until he’d settled in the bucket seat opposite me to speak. “Miss Bartkowski, I ain’t got the words.”

I patted his hand. “Don’t worry, Armand. I got a favor you can do for me.”

* * *

My therapist told me I played the slut for lack of self-esteem. I thought I played the slut because it made me feel dirty and the sex is hotter when it’s dirty. I still like to play the slut, but I’m more particular about who I play with these days. It takes more than a big man with hair on his chest and beer on his breath to bring me to my knees.

Most men don’t ask, but the occasional lover wants to know. Why do I have a tattoo on my left breast, just above the nipple, of a heart that’s been torn in two? If they ask, I tell them it’s to remind me that in this business things are never what they seem. In this business, it’s wheels within wheels, mysteries without a clue.

Sometimes, on cold winter nights I awaken alone to the sound of the bitter north wind. I sit up and take out my breast. By the light of a pale moon reflected off the lake, I study the ink on flesh. I remember what it was like to hold a killer in my arms.

© 2007 Alicia Night Orchid. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Treasure Chest Categories

Treasure Chest Authors

Treasure Chest Archives

Pin It on Pinterest