The Mad Hypnotist had struck again, this time absconding with the delectable Veronica Day. The little blonde had been taken from a dressing room at the Ritz Modeling Agency an hour earlier and I had no doubt that the police were already baffled. Still, I wanted to find out what they knew.
A press card and a bit of persuasion got me past the police guard at the door. The reception area oozed taste. It was done in a cool off-white, with oh-so-sophisticated portraits of agency’s models displayed along the walls. A number of cops, in uniform and out, darted about, argued or simply stood and scowled. They really didn’t go with the room.
One of the scowlers was thrilled to see me. “Just what I need,” he groaned. “Lacey Lee: girl reporter.”
“Tom Mahony, Boy Detective,” I gave him my prettiest smile. “And you’ve got just what I need – facts. Is it the same guy?” I waved my hand to indicate the offices.
“Yeah. Same M.O. – victim gone, gloating message, nobody saw anything, except maybe the receptionist, and we haven’t been able to get her to talk yet.”
“No,” he drawled. “She won’t talk until ... well, all she’ll say is that she’s been bad.”
“That can’t be a confession, or you wouldn’t have turned so red. Spill!”
He leaned forward, like they always do when it’s good. “I didn’t tell you this, but when we got here, she was writing, ‘I have been naughty and must be spanked,’ I don’t know how many times. It was eight sheets of paper, front and back, in a fine hand. She won’t make a statement until an officer, ah – Headquarters is trying to figure out what to do.”
“She isn’t holding out for a judge to do the honors? Standards must be slipping. What else?”
“We’re dusting for prints, but I’ll lay odds there won’t be anything to find. Our boy probably put the receptionist under, then had her escort him to Day. Her writing exercise is just his idea of a joke.”
“Well, what do you expect from someone who has his victims write ‘I am a pretty plaything for the Mad Hypnotist. PS: You’ll never catch him, muh-ha-ha-ha!’ I mean, really!”
“He’s one twisted individual, all right. Twelve women vanish without clue – one a policewoman! They reappear days or weeks later, with no memory of where they were or what happened.”
“I’ve got a clue about what happened.”
“You also have a dirty mind.”
I stuck my tongue out at him. “You have no idea.”
There was little else Tom could tell me, though he hinted that I ought to be careful, what with a hypnotic sex fiend on the loose and all. It was rather sweet of him, but honestly, I can take care of myself.
Back at the newsroom, I typed up what I had for the morning edition. One of the columnists was handling the shock angle (with just the right hint of prurience – Walt always gets the good stuff), so I left out the bit about the receptionist, but told Walt in case he could use it. After that it was “goodnight” from the editor and off for home.
Home is two-story house up Pinecrest Road. It’s an Aladdin kit house my folks left me – a Hudson, if you’re familiar with the style. All the trees hide it from the road and on windy, moonlight nights it’s almost magical. You can believe that almost anything is about to happen. As a matter of fact, tonight was a night just like that. I could feel it, like electricity flowing through my veins.
I unlocked the door, stepped in and paused. Someone waited in the living room. I knew it without looking, knew that the old wing chair was occupied. A shiver of anticipation ran through my body and I walked slowly into the room, though I wanted to dash.
A petite blonde rested before me, wispy underwear doing nothing to hide her charms. She slumped with her head against the side of the chair, like a doll waiting for someone to play with her.
Well, that someone had just walked in the door. I leaned forward. “Wake up, Veronica,” I whispered and her eyes opened. “It’s time for our bubble bath.”
PS: You’ll never catch me, muh-ha-ha-ha!