Detective Ben Waterhouse sat on the lumpy futon in the living room reviewing his notes while the coroner finished photographing the man’s body. There wasn’t much to go on. The name on the mailbox in the lobby said the occupant of apartment seven was George Wheeler, but there was no record of a George Wheeler in any database.
The super said the man kept to himself. Twenty-two of his neighbors interviewed so far claimed they didn’t know him or his name. Most of the interviewees volunteered the man in apartment seven was ugly and that he had burn scars on the right side of his face.
The coroner left and the detective studied the body on the bed. His left hand looked like it was reaching for the cell phone. Waterhouse picked up the phone and pressed the home button. There was no passcode. He checked the man’s phone contacts. None. He checked his text messages. None. He studied the apps on the phone. The Weather Channel, Google, and a flashlight. No email. No Facebook. No Instagram. The detective tapped the photo app and let out a low whistle. Nine thousand photos. He started swiping the photos with his index finger. Hundreds of photos of women; all appeared to be strangers. He’d photographed them in the subway, in café’s, at bus stops, in museums; all public places and the majority of women were not looking at his camera. Next he tapped “Memories” and started swiping the photos again. He didn’t whistle this time.
The first woman was drinking a cup of coffee at an outdoor café. The awning said, “Get Wired.” The detective knew the place; it was on 57th Street. He swiped the next picture. It was of the same woman except she was dead. There were ‘before and after’ photos of twenty-five women. First photo alive. Second photo dead. All twenty-five had severe burns on the right side of their faces.
Photograph number twenty-six showed a young girl, he estimated she was between eighteen and twenty. Upturned nose, blue eyes, shoulder-length red hair. Pretty smile. There was no after photograph.
Back at the station house, the detective went to his superior’s office and updated him.
“There is no after picture of the last girl,” Waterhouse said. “I don’t know if he died before he could kill her, or before he could photograph her, or if she is still alive somewhere. And I don’t know where he killed the others. No record of him at DMV, no property records, no voting record. Don’t see how he could have killed them in the apartment and gotten them out without anyone seeing him.”
“Let me see,” Commander Hanson said.
He stared at the photograph and looked up ashen-faced.
“That’s my daughter,” he said.