Answers – and questions
From the car Bailey immediately called the headquarters. The lawsuit against the last murder victim could be a coincidence, but the agents didn't believe in such coincidences. "George, it's Bailey." With few words the Special Agent explained to his colleague what they had found. "Integrate the action into your search", he ordered and told the IT expert the case number of the plaint. "Maybe that's the connection we've been searchin' for. We're gonna meet half an hour from now in the office." Due to this found he wanted to decline the visits to the apartments of the other victims now.
There was quite a simple explanation why the dismissed action made the agents become that nervous: It prepared a new motive. If it turned out that all victims had been sued and all actions had been dismissed there was the possibility that the doer killed the victims for revenge. Probably he saw himself as a sort of Robin Hood, who wanted to fix an unfairness. This would also be an explanation for the efforts he had put into these murders. Unfortunately the letter had not answered the question who had sued Carina Marquéz.. Anyway the lawsuit could help the agents answering a lot of questions if it turned out to be the connection between all victims.
Twenty minutes later Bailey parked his black Jeep in the underground parking lot of the VCTF headquarters, and the four agents headed for the elevator.
In the office an unusual strained Grace Alvarez came to meet them. "Bailey, there's somethin' I must show you!" she called just from far away.
Malone nodded and gestured toward the conference room. "So do we. Just keep your news for another minute, Grace."
One after the other the five entered the conference room.
George Fraley looked up as they came in and nodded just when he caught Bailey's look. "You were right, the action was the key", he said.
The agents sat down and looked expecting at the screen on the back wall. Fraley also turned there, let some pictures appear next to each other on the screen by hitting some buttons then drew a deep breath. "Well, as I said, the action's been the key", he repeated the sentence said. "'cause it's been dismissed it doesn't appear anywhere in the official case files, only as a memorandum in the unofficial court files. I had to search for a while – and to take a not really...", he cast Bailey a glance hard to interpret, "...straight way – to find the names of the other victims...but I found 'em!" Another keystroke, and the corresponding pages of the court files appeared on the screen. With a few simple touches he marked the notes important to them, cut them out and put them next to each other so that they could be compared directly.
Kim skimmed through the notes and shook her head. "But with this we still don't know why and by who they've been sued."
George cast her a glance and grinned. "What do you think why I walked along an in-official way, Kim?" He bent over the table and gave a sheet of paper to every one of them. "All suits have been filed 'in the name of the people', and the reasons were trivialities each time."
Kim read the list and shook her head frowning. "That's why suits were filed? That's ridiculous, ain't it?"
George nodded smiling. "I don't get it either."
"It's not even the facts constitutin' an offense that are ridiculous", Bailey interfered, "but the reasons given. Look at this: The banker's been sued for fraud 'cause three of his clients have lost $40,000 in total with the last collapse in rates!"
"I've checked 'em. They were multimillionaires", Fraley added.
That made the action become even more ridiculous.
Bailey continued: "The charge against Daniel Caine, the brothel owner, is procuring for he would exploit the prostitutes."
"What's not true at all", Kim interrupted. "As we know, Caine ran a noble brothel, and the women workin' for him were not dependent on him. All of 'em had their own apartments, and some even had a regular job durin' the day."
With this this lawsuit was also invalid.
"The charge against the model is defamation because it was said that she'd called a colleague ugly", Kim went on.
"I know the interview you talk about. She's just said she'd doubt some of her colleagues to have chosen the right job by becomin' a model for they wouldn't fit into the stereotyped thinking of the beauty industry", Grace this time ruined the reason. "She never called anybody ugly."
"And Carina Marquéz?" Sam asked just to answer her own question right afterward, "She's been sued for abuse of authority. She was said to have cheated her fellows with the award of residence permits."
"But that's exactly been her job, hasn't it?" John shook his head.
"Exactly", Sam nodded. "That's why the action has been dismissed."
Bailey leaned back and clasped his hands behind his head. "So now at last we've got a connection between the victims, a thread within this case. It's taken really enough time!" He leaned forward again: "George, who have the victims sued by?"
"'In the name of the people'", Fraley replied.
"So it was done by the prosecuting attorney's office", Malone stated the answer more precisely. And paused: "Stop – only by the prosecuting attorney's office? There were no joint plaintiffs?"
George shook his head. "No, no one. All actions came from the attorney's office."
Bailey, Sam and Kim exchanged a glance, and the younger profiler reacted. "George, can you find out how long district attorney Jefferson's runnin' the district of Atlanta now?"
Fraley nodded and started to work.
"If the suits have all been filed since Jefferson's here, he's got to do somethin' with 'em", Kim said turned to her colleagues. "Surely not with the murders themselves, but probably he can give us a hint on the doer."
"Jefferson's runnin' the prosecuting attorney's office of Atlanta for almost exactly five months now", George reported. "All suits were filed later on, so they came from him – or at least he's known about all of 'em."
"So we gotta talk to Jefferson", Bailey said. "Maybe he's got a hint for us. But before, Grace, you'd tell us what you've found."
The pathologist nodded. "You asked yourself what the murderer did with the corpse of Carina Marquéz after he'd killed her. Well, I can't tell you exactly, but maybe this could be a help." She gave some photographs to George, who scanned them and put them next to each other on the screen. "That are photos of the particles I found under the finger nails of Carina Marquéz. The lab classified 'em as splinters of bricks, from an old cellar or somethin' like that."
"That's not really a help", Sam said. "There are hundreds of old cellars in Atlanta."
"I know", Grace responded. "I just thought it to be interesting 'cause I've found 'em mixed up with the color instead of beneath it."
With a mixture of shock and confusion Sam, Kim, Bailey and John looked at each other.
"This would mean she was still alive as the murder colored her", Sam uttered. "But if so it's impossible that he's colored her right on the crime scene for there we've found no corresponding traces."
"And on the crime scene there were also no bricks but only cobblestones and concrete", John said.
"So first he's drugged Carina Marquéz, then taken her away somewhere, colored her there and finally brought to the place where she was found for strangling here there", Kim summarized. "Why such an effort?"
"Folks, we must have been blind!" Bailey snorted. "Tell me, why didn't we ask ourselves earlier where he's colored the victims? In no crime scene there were traces of spray color found around the corpse! He must have taken every victim away before coloring it!"
"And that's as well an explanation for why there were absolutely no finger prints though he strangled all victims with bare hands", Grace added. "I didn't make it out earlier for its not surprising that the color destroys eventual prints. But I should have begun to wonder anyway."
Once again Sam gripped the crime scene photos of Carina Marquéz. "The victims mean something to him", she murmured. "That's why he's going through such a lot of trouble with them. We have to find out what they mean to him."