They're All Somebody's Little Girl
**This story takes place immediately after "Rustler's Blues"**
CJ Parsons-Houston watched as her husband of six months leaned on the wall of the patio watching the traffic below. Something was bothering Matt, but hard as she had tried, he wouldn't talk to her about it. He and Uncle Roy had been spending a lot of time in Matt's office. His office had always been a joke among the employees of Houston Investigations. It was the least used room in the suite of offices that sat high atop the Houston Industries building which Matt had built when he came to Los Angeles several years ago. Back in those days he was in the oil business, as well as a host of others - including soybeans and blue jeans. But almost four years back he had given up all of his businesses – with the exception of the detective agency. All of them had been put into a trust for charities and were being run by Murray Chase, Matt's former accountant and vice president. Murray was now CEO of Houston Industries and enjoying the challenge. Matt no longer had any ties to the corporation other than the fact that it bore his name – and he liked it that way.
Just as she was about to go out on the patio and try to talk to Matt once again about what was eating at him, the phone rang. Chris came to the door and told her that Lt. Hoyt was on line two for Matt. CJ stepped to the door and called his name, with no response. She walked up to him and put her hand on his shoulder and he jumped like he had been shot. "Sorry Matt, I didn't mean to scare you. Hoyt's on line two for you." He gave her a smile and went on in to answer the call. Something just wasn't right and she was determined to find out what it was.
"Hey Hoyt, what's going on?" Matt sat down on the couch as he answered the phone. The smile immediately disappeared from his face. "Another one? When did that happen?" He listened to the reply from the fifteen year veteran of the LAPD. "Where?" Hoyt replied again. "Okay, I'll head that way." He hung up the phone and hesitated for a split second before he got up off of the couch.
"Got a new case?" CJ walked over to him as he stood up.
"Yeah and no. More like another victim by the same killer." He put his arms around his wife and hugged her close. "Matt, what's bothering you? I know something is going on, please let me help you." She looked up into those big brown eyes of his. "Everything is fine, darlin', don't worry." He started to head toward the door, but she held onto his arm. "No it isn't. Tell me what's going on." Matt stroked her cheek with his thumb. "CJ, I…" He looked into her eyes. "Tell you what, let's talk tonight over supper, okay? I love you, be back as soon as I can. Hoyt needs some help." He kissed her and then he was gone.
As Matt drove to the scene of the latest murder, he thought back over the case so far. Lt. Michael Hoyt hadn't called him in on this one at first, but after the fifth victim he called the one man that he knew he could trust – Matt Houston. Matt had wondered why he hadn't called sooner and had finally asked him just that morning when the call for help came in. Hoyt had been feeling pressure from the higher ups; they felt that he was depending too much on outside help – a term that Matt had simplified. "So in other words, they think you shouldn't call me, is that it?" Hoyt was in a bad spot. "Look Houston, you know how it is when we get a new chief. You've been through this before. Every one of 'em has said the same thing, and then when something like this maniac and his killing spree happens, they change their tune to "we need to use all available resources." That's their favorite line after a while." He didn't blame Houston for feeling mad or hurt – the man had done more to help the people of Los Angeles than most of them would ever know. "Look man, just ignore it for the tripe that it is, okay?" Matt had agreed, but Hoyt could tell that he was hurt. But there was something else going on with Houston and the police lieutenant just couldn't put a finger on what it was. He was supposed to be on the way up to meet Matt at the office when he got the call for the new body.
Houston pulled up to the crime scene. He was greeted at the edge of the police line by veteran cop Larry Carlisle. "Aha, so they finally got smart and called in the cowboy. It's about time!" Larry shook his hand as he held up the tape for Houston to pass. "The lieutenant is just inside there." Matt nodded and walked on into the cramped apartment. There on the bed was the latest victim. "What have you got so far, Hoyt?" Matt slipped on a pair of leather gloves and crouched next to the body to get a look at the wounds.
"Pretty much the same as the others. She appears to have been stabbed repeatedly. We've got an ID on her. Emily Renee Withers, age 24, lives here. Another hooker." He pointed to the small bathroom and Matt followed him to it. "Same meds here on the counter as the other four. She was HIV positive."
"And still hooking, huh?" Matt shook his head. "But then most of the folks who make their living that way aren't doing it because it's what they really want to do – it's more of a have-to-do-it-to-get-by type deal." The police lieutenant nodded his head. "A lot of them have habits – bad habits - to support." Matt looked around the bathroom and headed for the shower. "What about the drains in the shower and the sink? I don't guess CSI has made it in here to that yet, have they?" He turned and looked at his friend who shook his head no. "Not yet, but they are on the way. Cheryl Crawford to be exact." Matt nodded. He knew and respected the crime scene tech and knew that she would do a good job.
Hoyt watched his friend. "What exactly is it that you're hoping to find out from the drains, Houston?"
Matt slowly turned and Hoyt could see the gears clicking in his head. "Well, you haven't found any sign of blood outside the crime scenes. You know he's leaving either through a door or window since you keep finding windows unlocked. As much blood as there is…" he walked back out to the bedroom, "he's gotta be cleaning up or he's wearing something in here and then putting it in a bag or something to carry it out." That thought hadn't even occurred to the lieutenant. "Well, that makes sense, but I'm sad to say that it hadn't occurred to me." Matt walked back into the bathroom and opened the cabinet under the sink, poking through a couple of bottles of cleaner, neither of which, from the condition and smell of the bathroom, had been used in quite some time. He stood back up and walked over to the shower. "Hoyt, have you got a glove?" Michael handed him a latex glove which he used to turn the bottle of shower gel around. There on the back was a bloody fingerprint. "Gotcha." He pointed it out to Hoyt. "Son of a …" The police detective walked closer. "That would be the first print we've found at any of our crime scenes." Matt nodded. "They always slip up somewhere down the line, maybe this will be our break." He gave Hoyt a grim smile then walked outside of the apartment where he started examining the front window. Hoyt followed and they both stepped out of the way for Cheryl Crawford. "Hey Houston, how's it going?" She smiled at the tall private investigator. "Maybe better than it has been." He told her what he had found in the shower and explained his theory about the drains. "After the bloody finger print on the shower gel, I'd say you might very well be right. Good catch, bud." She gave him a high five and continued on into the apartment.
"Where are you going now?" Hoyt watched as Matt headed down the stairs. "To go look out back and see if anything catches my eye." The police detective nodded his head and took off down the stairs. As the two of them made their way around to the end of the building, Hoyt decided to try his luck.
"So, how are things going with you and CJ?" He looked at Matt who smiled. "Good." So evidently the reason for his quiet behavior the last couple of weeks wasn't CJ. Hoyt couldn't imagine what else it could be. "Everything else going okay?" Matt gave him a sideways glance and then kept on walking. "Yep." Damn those one word answers! he thought to himself. Running out of patience he grabbed Matt by the shoulder. "So what in the hell have you been so quiet about lately?" There, he had finally said it. Matt dropped his head and sighed, then looked over at his friend. "Everything is fine, okay?"
"Well, then act like everything is fine!" His exasperation was at the boiling point. Matt stopped and turned to face him. "What in the hell are you talking about?" Michael looked at the man, turned his back to him and then spun back around. "You know, you're almost believable, but not quite. Need to work on it a little more, PI." Matt sighed and walked on around behind the building leaving Michael Hoyt to seethe by himself for a moment.
Once around the back of the building, the private investigator looked up at the second floor. The victim's window was the third from the left. He didn't see any signs of traffic through the window. Matt walked closer to the building and checked out the ground right underneath it, but didn't spot anything. Turning around and facing away from the building he looked at the trees while thinking about what he had seen inside. As he turned back toward the building, something on the roof caught his eye. He started back around to the front just as Hoyt made it to the back. "Find anything?" "Maybe." Matt headed on around the building and Hoyt sighed and followed him back around to the front.
The apartment building was two stories high, putting the victim's apartment on the top floor. Matt walked all the way to the far end of the second story and leaned out over the railing looking up. Michael caught up with him just as he climbed up the wrought iron railing. "Houston! What are you doing?!" Matt shimmied right up the railing as if he were climbing a ladder. Hoyt looked around and after a few choice words, followed the PI up the railing. There he was walking around on the roof. Hoyt saw him as he went over the ridge cap. Then he saw him stop and turn back around.
"Hey, you need to get Cheryl up here after she finishes the apartment. I think I just found something." Matt turned and walked on down the other side closely followed by Michael. When the police detective got up even with him, he saw something, too: there was a big eye bolt screwed into the roof. Houston turned toward Hoyt. "Somehow I don't think the roofer put that there, do you?"