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Rough Winds Do Shake
"It was a dark and stormy night."
If she hadn't been immersed in such a deadly serious case, Tracey would have been tempted to laugh at the old joke she had just scribbled across the top of a fresh yellow legal pad. Although she hadn't done it in quite a while, it used to be the way she had broken them in when working on opening or closing statements. She couldn't remember the last time she had been so mentally jammed up that she had just stared at a blank page for interminable moments. Well it wasn't blank now. She smirked briefly before slipping into a deep slouch. It was not yet dark and not yet night, but it was plenty stormy. Surrounded by notes and statements and files and evidence, she might as well have been behind a barricade. Whether or not she was keeping something out or keeping something in was still debatable. Releasing a heavy sigh, she carefully wrote three names, one after the other, spacing them evenly. They were the reason she was here. They were her reminders, her motivation.
Three young women. College students, each with unfathomable potential and immeasurable impact, and each of them now gone. Victims of the man she would put away for the rest of his life. And work to see to it that everything was done to hasten that end. Tracey practically meditated over each letter, the combinations calling forth all of the photographs she'd encountered since she'd become part of their stories. Smiling, shy portraits and beaming childhood snapshots. Self-conscious teen awkwardness and precious baby pictures. Hideous post-mortem documentation, made harsher still by the stark lighting and grim perspective. She'd never forget even one. Nor would she ever be totally free of the grief exuded by each family member.
She reached for one of the notebooks piled to her right. Scuffed and well-read, the cover marked with words and drawings, it was one more glimpse into the world that had belonged to Courtney Fletcher. The spiral wire caught on Tracey's sleeve, just as it had probably done countless times on Courtney's backpack. Disengaging it neatly, Tracey opened to the first page.
"English Literature 284"
Printed so precisely, then outlined over and over and over again, probably in boredom. Underneath it, just as detailed, "Professor Timkin." The bastard had been their teacher.
Tracey's stomach clenched as she read through the notes and entries, the schoolgirl script not quite mature, the flourishes a touch too flowery. All three of them had been drawn in by this man ... monster. Good students, maybe not as social as their peers. As grown up and adult as they may have felt, she knew they had still been idealistic, somewhat innocent. Tracey stared down at the page in front of her. She had to agree with Wordsworth. The world is too much with us.
Leaning back in her chair, continuing her perusal, she was flooded with memories from a similar time in her own life. The curriculum changed little over the years it would seem. Did the coeds? Somewhat sheepishly she recalled her first major college crush. Fittingly, English Lit. Yvonne. She had made them all call her by her first name rather than Doctor or Professor Denardo. Tracey hadn't thought of her in years. She had been young ... although it may have only been in contrast to the ancients that surrounded her on the faculty. Vibrant and dramatic and earthy and even exotic. And Tracey was a moth to her flame, though she hid it well.
Yvonne flirted shamelessly with everyone. The whole class, collectively and individually. Tracey had been privately wounded and jealous when Iris Jimenez had gossiped that half the students in Yvonne's class wanted to be the first to bang her erasers. She had forced a chuckle at the expression, but clung to the hope that it was wishful thinking on everyone else's part. That was the real talent Yvonne had possessed. Making each of them feel so special, so singled out.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning. That page caused Tracey to sit up, still lost in her memories ... some of them way too close. She had been so affected by studying "Aurora Leigh" ... certain lines were virtually woven into her consciousness.
"I ... was born
To make my father sadder ..."
"His large man's hands afraid to touch my curls ..."
"I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features, paler, near as grave;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself ... "
Tracey was amazed that she still could recall them exactly ... but then she had always had a gift for memorization. It served her well as a prosecutor, but could be just as much of a burden when she retained those things best forgotten. Yvonne had noticed something in her demeanor, or her writing, during that time, something she couldn't quite conceal, brought on by Browning's excavation. Her concern was genuine, if more than likely perfunctory for her position, but to Tracey it meant something ... and her adoration was complete.
Had Courtney and Monica and Vivian been as vulnerable to that kind of attention as she had been? She knew that to those around her she never appeared susceptible to such things. She had cultivated the toughness that had gotten her through those years. Had these three been the same? Or was she projecting too much?
Besides, Yvonne had not set out to lead her on, or harm her. She had not written Tracey love notes or manipulated her, or maneuvered to get her alone after class. The worst Tracey had endured was learning the true meaning of the word "crush" ... the night she had gone to look for Yvonne at Herb Spetzer's party ... only to discover the object of her undying affection giving Scott Garrity way more than extra credit.
Tracey had recovered eventually, albeit a bit more cynical ... if that were possible. She reached for one of the evidence bags. In Timkin's apartment they had uncovered pictures of the girls ... locks of their hair ... and letters each had written to him. These pained Tracey the most. So open and real and sad and personal. Damn him. Now on display for strangers. He had kept them in a folder, inscribed on the front with the words of Robert Herrick. It sickened her every time she read them now.
"To Virgins, to Make Much of Time
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying ..."
This predator ... this waste of skin ... had twisted words and sentiments to his own perverted end. And it was too late to do anything to save the trusting young women he had chosen. But she could make sure he paid, dearly. That it never happened again. Grimly she tossed the bag containing the folder back onto the desk. She couldn't wait to get out of this guy's head. It was taking such a toll. He had fancied himself something of a literary god, but there was little proof that he had ever created anything on his own. Even his love poems to his targets were cribbed from Byron. How cheesy and obvious ... although if your name was Arlo Timkin, Lord Byron had to sound appealing ...
Turning toward the door as it flew open, Tracey took in the spectacle that was her rain-soaked partner. Forgotten umbrella again. Kelly's hair was dripping wet, but her coat had spared the rest of her, for the most part. She had gone out for coffee and ... dare she dream? .... it looked like cupcakes. Watching as Kelly removed her outerwear, shaking it and muttering to herself, running her fingers through her plastered blonde tresses, Tracey couldn't get over how gorgeous she managed to look. Her mind recited some of the lines she had so recently and critically dismissed ...
"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes ..."
Damn. These things were classics for a reason.
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