Author's Note: Eep, sorry this is so late! I promise I'll try to get the next chapter out faster. But you want quality over speediness, right? ::grin:: I actually had this ready yesterday, but fanfiction.net wouldn't let me post it. If you want updates as soon as they're ready, please go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pennipotens_updates/ and join my mailing list. I promise you'll just get new chapters and nothing else. Thanks again for the reviews, keep 'em coming!

Chapter 5

Warning – this chapter contains strong violence.

*~*~*

So lock the kids up safe tonight

Put the eyes in the cupboard

I've got the smell of a local man

Who's got the loneliest feeling

*~*~*

He came for her in her nightmares, blades out and dripping with blood. Unconsciousness provided no escape and left her only more tired and afraid. Reality swam between the murkiness of her dreamscape; when Kim opened her eyes she wasn't sure if she was truly awake. She blinked to bring the room into focus, the sight of the stark light bulb spattered with blood coming to her at the same time the smell of her own sweat and urine registered in her brain. She looked down at her body and fought nausea at the sight of the matted blood covering it.

Kim was exhausted, more deeply tired than she could ever recall being in her life. It dulled everything else, the pain and fear a quiet roar somewhere in the back of her head. She let her head hang limply, almost thankful for the heavy blanket of lethargy that kept her thoughts and feelings blurry and distant. She knew that if she didn't get out of here, if someone didn't find her in time, the man was going to kill her. But the dizzy nothingness kept her from panicking.

She didn't hear the trapdoor open or the man dropping down into the room over the sound of her blood rushing in her ears. He appeared out of nowhere before her and for a moment Kim thought she was still asleep, still dreaming, but when he lifted his arm it held only a glass of water. He stroked her cheek tenderly and then cupped her chin with his hand, lifting her head.

"Drink," he ordered, and she dutifully opened her mouth. He poured the water down her raw and aching throat; the excess dripped down her body as she choked on it. He wiped her mouth like she was a small child. The water revived her a bit, lifting some of the fog from around her thoughts as it soothed her throat. He was wearing a new mask, she noticed, another Halloween costume. This one gave him scaly flesh and bulbous deformations.

"Why do you always hide your face from me?" she asked, the question out of her mouth before she had a chance to stop herself.

He slapped her, the sting by now a familiar sensation. "Speak when spoken to, girl," he said gruffly. Her eyelids were heavy, begging to be closed, her body fighting to fall back asleep. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her, making the dizziness increase. "Pay attention!" His breath was hot on her face.

"I'm trying! But I'm tired. Please, I'm tired..." Kim wasn't even sure what she was asking for. "Please, I don't know what you want from me."

He cocked his head sideways as if she confused him. "I told you before, I want to help you. Make you better." He pulled back a bit and she gulped heavily of air that didn't taste of him. "You think that you can get away with it, that it doesn't matter. But you can't. No one can. It's not allowed, and you can't break the rules." He sounded like a nursery school teacher lecturing toddlers about hair pulling.

"I don't understand, what rule? What did I do wrong?" Kim knew this was important, worth the risk of asking. He laughed so loudly it startled her, her body jumping involuntarily as far as the chains would allow.

"So stupid," he said, his tone dripping with condescension. "How have they raised you, that you don't even know? You are impure in thought and deed and you don't even recognize your own defilement. You have had..." – he seemed repulsed by the very words – "carnal knowledge of a man. You have let men take your body like a common whore."

The nature of the man's psychosis started to become clear to Kim. He had been taught that sex was wrong, she figured, and he couldn't resolve his own desires with that belief. And so he was punishing girls who did follow their desires. She considered how to respond, knowing that it was useless to try and reason with him. "You're right, I, I sinned. I see now that it was wrong. But I only did it once, and I've changed my ways, I haven't done it again."

She let out a cry of surprise when he lunged at her, one hand pinning her head back against the wall as the other gripped her right breast fiercely, his nails digging painfully into her flesh. He growled into her ear, his voice low and menacing. "Don't lie to me, girl. It's still all over you. You haven't changed. I know what you want, what you crave. It's on your skin."

"Please," she whimpered as his grip on her tightened. "Stop, you're hurting me." The scar covering the cut on her chest broke open from the movement; fresh blood crawled down her. She cried in both disgust and pain when she felt his tongue against her skin, rough like sandpaper as he slowly licked the oozing wound. He brought his face back up even with hers again; she could see her own blood on his lips and staining the edges of his mask.

"I know what you want," he said again as she shook her head in protest. Kim knew things were spiraling in the wrong direction, her worst fears confirmed when he reached down and ripped her underwear off violently. "You'd like that, wouldn't you, to infect me with your sickness?" Hold on, she thought to herself desperately, just hold on. "But I'm too smart for that, whore. I *will* cleanse you. I will drain every drop of your poisoned blood."

His eyes were wild behind the mask, lit with an insane fire. He produced a blade from a dark corner of the room, and her fevered nightmares came to life as he once again advanced on her with it. "I will bleed the heart of the devil himself that lives inside you." Kim closed her eyes and prayed.

*****

Lisa, Tim, and two of Kim's other friends sat in the Brock's kitchen with Jill, Zack and Matt. It was a school day but they had all stayed home, hoping for some news and needing the support of each other. Jill had tried to distract the kids by getting them to play Monopoly and putting out a plate of freshly baked cookies, but they had given up on the game after a few minutes of half-hearted play. It sat abandoned on the table alongside the untouched plate of cookies.

"Come on, Zach," Jill said, pushing the plate towards him. "You've hardly eaten anything all day. They're your favorite, double chocolate chip."

Zach slumped down onto the table, resting his head on his arms. "Kim doesn't have cookies. She doesn't have any food at all. It's not fair for me to have them."

Jill swallowed back the sobs in her throat; they had never really gone away since the ordeal began three days ago. "Do you think that's what Kim would want, for you not to eat? She wouldn't want you to be unhappy, honey." Jill realized she was talking in the past tense. "If she was here."

"But she's not here," Zach said plaintively. "Why can't dad find her? He should have found her by now."

The teenagers squirmed uncomfortably, keeping their eyes downcast. Jill forced herself to sound upbeat. "Come on now, no one's giving up. Your dad and the rest of the police, the whole town, everyone is doing everything they can. Kim is going to come home; they're going to find her. And when she does she's going to be very upset if you let a whole plate of cookies go to waste."



Zack looked like he was about to cry. "I can't mom, I can't. My heart hurts too much." He broke down, the tears pouring down his small face as he sobbed hysterically. Jill couldn't hang on any longer and cried with him, her tears mingling with his as she hugged him tightly.

"Come on boys," she choked out, pulling Matt into her embrace. Let's go sit outside for a minute."

Lisa wiped away her own tears as the grieving family left the room. "Do you think she really believes that?" she asked, her voice unsteady. The others were silent, no one wanting to admit to their fears and doubts. "I can't stop thinking about what she might be going through, what he might be doing to her." Lisa's voice broke as her emotions overwhelmed her. "And I keep thinking how grateful I am that it's her and not me. I'm a terrible person, I'm a terrible friend."

Tim put his arm around her comfortingly. "No, you're not. It's normal to feel that way. I bet every teenage girl in this whole town is feeling that way, and their parents too."

"But she's my best friend," Lisa sobbed. "She's a good person, she never hurt anybody. This isn't supposed to be happening; she never did anything to deserve this."

They all jumped when the phone rang, too startled to answer it. Tim finally jumped up and grabbed it. "Brock residence," he said breathlessly, holding his breath as he wished for good news. His face fell as he listened, the momentary optimism gone. "No, nothing new today Mrs. Coleman. Yes, I'll tell her. Thanks." He slumped back into his seat. "She wants to give her condolences to Mrs. Brock." He picked up a Monopoly plastic house and angrily pushed it across the table. "Everyone's acting like she's already dead."

Lisa glared at him. "You make it sound like it's only a matter of time until she *is* dead. That's not any better."

"I..." Tim didn't know what to say.

The teenagers lapsed into silence until Lisa picked up the dice and started the game again. "Marvin Gardens, I'll buy it."

*****

Max held up a file triumphantly. "I knew it! Jason Porter failed the police academy twice, once in '89 and again in '92. Worked as a security guard for Wisconsin Savings and Loan until he was fired six months ago for use of 'unnecessary excessive force.'"

Kenny looked at her skeptically. "So he fits your profile, but how does that connect him to Kim or Sarah? No judge is going to give you a warrant with that."

"I know that," Max said, her face set with determination. "But I don't need to get one, there's an outstanding warrant out for him on a 336."

Kenny moved in closer, leaning over her shoulder to look at the file. "336 – what's that, overdue parking tickets? This warrant is from three months ago, no one's been able to locate him or his checkbook in that long. How are you planning on finding him?"

Max slammed the file shut in annoyance. "Would you stop second guessing me? I made a mistake, I'm not pathologically stupid."

"Hey, I didn't mean it like that. You're anything but stupid, Max. You did a great job picking this guy out."

She relented and smiled a little to let him know she wasn't really mad. "Thanks. But you're right...I have no idea how to find him." She sighed in frustration.

Kenny put a hand on her shoulder, wanting to hug her but knowing that she was sensitive about showing affection with him at work. "Well, I doubt anybody's been looking very hard. His house probably hasn't been checked since the warrant was first issued, it could be that easy."

Max nodded and sprang out of her chair. "Worth checking, anyway." She paused. "Should we tell Jimmy?"

Kenny thought it over, remembering Jimmy's behavior at the Hutchins' arrest and his defeated expression at this morning's staff meeting. "Let's not get his hopes up again. We'll keep it quiet, just you and me can go over there and look for him." Max nodded, grabbing a copy of the warrant and her trooper's hat as they ducked out of the office.

Porter's house wasn't a rundown shack like Hutchins', but a well maintained family-sized home that blended seamlessly into Rome's suburban landscape. Max felt a chill run down her spin as she thought of what might be hiding behind the façade.

Kenny rapped loudly on the door. It swung open as a male voice called "Who is it?" Could it possibly be this easy, Max wondered? The man's eyes widened as he took in their uniforms.

"Jason Porter?" Max asked. He nodded slowly, eyes wary. "Mr. Porter, we have a warrant for your arrest due to your refusal to remit payment for $5500 in parking tickets and related fines."

Porter reddened. "Oh god, I didn't think it would ever come to anything like this." He laughed nervously. "They're just parking tickets. I was going to pay, really, but I lost my job and cash has been tight, this house is a real money pit. You don't really have to arrest me, do you? Here, I'll pay right now, let me go get my checkbook."

He stepped back into the house, giving Max and Kenny a clear view through the wide open doorway. They both immediately saw, lying on the floor, what looked like a dead ringer for a Rome County Sheriff's Officer badge. "Probable cause," Kenny murmured.

Max wasn't taking any chances. "Mr. Porter, do you mind if we take a look around?"

She heard him tearing out a check. "Sure, sure!" he said, clearly nervous. They watched as he came back to the door with the check, trying to surreptitiously kick the badge under the sofa as he walked past it. A bead of sweat trickled down his pale, thin face.

Max entered the house with her handcuffs out and ready. Kenny retrieved the badge while she moved to arrest Porter. He dropped the check, the sound of it falling to the floor loud in the eerie silence. "You're under arrest for the suspected murder of Sara Cayton, the suspected kidnapping of Kimberly Brock, and for impersonating a police officer. You have the right to remain silent." Porter stood still while she handcuffed him and read him his rights. Kenny began searching the rest of the house, pulling open drawers and picking through closets. He returned with a police officer's uniform on a hanger, neatly pressed.

Porter was sweating profusely now. "That's a Halloween costume! I know I screwed up, and I'm not supposed to have that badge, but I swear it was just for fun! I always wanted to be a cop, and I have this friend who works in the supply room. That's all I did!"

"Funny, but for some reason I don't believe you," Kenny said as he grabbed the man's arm and lead him out to the car. Max followed, amazed at how quickly the situation had turned around once again. An hour ago they had nothing, and now they had a suspect in custody. Now, she thought, let's just hope I got it right this time.

*****

Jimmy had been mad at Max and Kenny for going behind his back, but his gratitude at having a suspect again quickly took priority. Porter's initial fearful reaction had worried him – Max had filled him in on it, clearly nervous about bringing in another wrong lead. Sadistic, methodical serial killers rarely reacted to an arrest with outright terror. But Porter's demeanor had changed; Jimmy assessed him through the glass wall of the interrogation room. Porter appeared cool and collected. Dangerous. Jimmy's muscles were taught, his guts coiled with pent up rage and a wild, desperate hopefulness. He didn't know if he could handle another dead end.

Jimmy entered the room, slamming the door behind him. Porter didn't flinch. "Where'd you get the uniform, Jason?"

The handcuffed man glared at him. "Same place you got yours. Uniform supply store, $29.95 plus shipping."

"And the badge?"

Porter's gaze didn't waver. "Like I said before, from a friend in the supply room. And don't waste your breath asking, I'm not going to rat him out. He was doing me a favor."

It took all of Jimmy's reserve not to lean over the table and choke the sneer off of Porter's face. The battle of wills continued for nearly an hour, with Porter's icy veneer never cracking. Jimmy couldn't trap him in a lie or get him to admit to anything besides neglecting to pay the parking tickets and illegally obtaining the badge.

"So you were home alone all day when Sara Cayton disappeared, and again on the day when my daughter was taken – bit of a loner, huh?"

Porter shrugged, unmoved. "I like my privacy. There a law against that?"

"You've been through the police academy, you tell me." Jimmy thought this might bait him, but Porter's expression didn't change. "How many times have you left your house at all in the past ten weeks, Jason?" He didn't answer, continuing to stare straight at Jimmy. "Besides this helpful friend you have in our department, do you ever talk to anyone at all? Ever see your family?"

"My family isn't the issue, Sheriff," Porter said, his cold tone now slightly mocking. "Yours is. Now, you could choose to hold me for the badge and the parking tickets, even though I've already tried to pay for them. But if you really believe that I have your daughter that would be pretty foolish of you."

Jimmy's heartbeat quickened. "And why is that?"

The edges of Porter's mouth turned up in a cruel smile. "She needs water to survive, she won't last more than a few days without it. Whoever has her needs to be able to get that water to her."

*****

It hurt to breathe, each lungful of air drawn raggedly over her dry throat. Kim had no sense of time anymore but it seemed like days since he had given her that glass of water. A lifetime that she'd been buried alive in this chamber with only her own thoughts for company.

She knew she was still bleeding, could hear the drops falling like water from a leaking faucet. Looking down, she wasn't sure if the blood pooled beneath her was actually reddish-black or only appeared that way through her dazed vision. If it really was that dark she knew it meant that he'd cut into one of her organs. Gutted her like a lab specimen. He'd thrust the blade up inside of her, ripped and torn the most sensitive parts of her body, ruthlessly spreading a fiery trail of pain.

It hurt so much that her brain had shut down around her pain and she couldn't truly feel it anymore. Her entire lower body felt tingly and numb. Kim wondered if she was going into shock, if he had cut into her womb. If she'd ever to be able to have children, should she even survive. The blood dripped steadily out of her, drop by drop.

End Chapter 5