The next morning I was up early for the meeting at eight with the Agency’s Psych Team representative. After a light breakfast, I made it to the briefing room and was chatting with the others by half past seven. I did not intend to miss this meeting. We all hoped that it would give us a valuable insight into our killer and for me personally, the more I understood him, the better I might anticipate his next move. Our conversation as we waited for the psych guy was our knowledge and experience of fetishes. We all agreed on one thing, that it is always connected with sexual gratification, but we all thought it was harmless. If a man needs to wear women’s clothes to get his sexual satisfaction and his girlfriend is happy with it, where is the harm? Some people enjoy being tied up and spanked; others enjoy doing the tying up and spanking. Again, where is the harm when both parties agree? The harm is when someone dies of course. We were able to work that much out for ourselves, but what we did not know was how it starts and why. I wanted to know how to incorporate this information into my mental imagery of the man, so I could predict his behaviour.
Eight o clock on the dot, the door opened and Tinnias walked in with a thin wiry man I had not met before. He indicated for him to sit down and nodded to us all. “Morning, guys, hope you all slept well. This is Doctor Halmen Tabluh, head of the Agency’s Psych Team and he’s agreed to come and talk to us about fetishes. He has the case file, so he will hopefully be able to educate us about our killer. Doctor?”
The thin man nodded around the table. “Morning. First, please call me Hal. Now, what is a fetish? Well, a fetish is, in simple terms, the sexual arousal and gratification a person receives from an inanimate object or situation. It can also be a particular body part, a type of person or idea. For example, a person may only be able to reach sexual satisfaction by engaging in relations with people under four feet tall, blonde haired people, amputees, people of a certain age group or ethnicity etcetera. Alternatively, they might need direct engagement with someone’s feet, mouth, armpits perhaps. It can be objects like women’s shoes, underwear, trees, cars or any object you can think of. Your trigger could also be an idea rather than a physical thing. For instance, you may only be able to reach sexual satisfaction by imagining yourself as the other gender, as a child, or a different race. You might need it to be dark, icy cold, or out in the open. The more creative fetishes can require you to imagine you’re engaging with giants, monsters, and all manner of tentacled creatures. On the more physical side, there is the need to be in some physical pain in order to gain satisfaction. This is probably the kind of fetish you’ve all heard of; being tied up, beaten or whipped, or indeed doing the tying up and beating. In short, anything and everything you can imagine, be it an inanimate object, type of person, body part, external environmental or imaginary situation, someone will need it to get their sexual gratification. There is nothing in creation that someone somewhere doesn’t need in order to get himself off.”
“So killing someone can be a fetish?” I knew this was true but it would not hurt to get official validation on this point.
“Well, not exactly no. Imagining killing someone is a fetish, yes. Having a consenting partner play the role of victim or aggressor, yes indeed, but with a fetish, the killing never takes place.”
I was taken aback and my surprise showed. “Oh. But I always thought umm.”
“When fetish becomes dangerous or threatening, it becomes paraphilia.”
Dorny frowned and leaned forward. “So there’s levels of fetish?”
Hal nodded. “Yes, you could put it like that. The difference between the two is simple really. It’s the level of threat that makes the difference. A fetish, when indulged in by consenting adults, is harmless and may enhance one’s sexual experience. When that fetish becomes a threat to the life and safety of someone else, it becomes a paraphilia.”
“I didn’t know that,” I said and everyone nodded. Neither did they.
“Most average folks don’t. More importantly, your killer doesn’t appear to either, if indeed the link to fetish was a deliberate thing and not just a creepy coincidence.”
We wound around to the rear of the huge mansion and saw the long wing stretching out from the main block at the front. A similar wing stuck out from the other end. It was an imposing structure and I wondered what it would be like to live in such a place. A huge sign by the car park announced this as being for the sole use of the Women’s Empowerment Group. Tinnias parked up and we got out, the evening light failing quickly. I knew we did not have long; it would be too dark to see anything within an hour, so I walked the length of the building. Together with the main frontage, the two wings sticking out at the rear meant that the building covered three sides of a square. The space between the two wings contained tables and chairs, benches, and lounging seats. Turning my back on the building, the view was spectacular but devoid of cover. There were no trees, not even a bush within which to hide a body.
Tinnias appeared by my side. “Nowhere to hide a body here, Sam.”
I shook my head. “It doesn’t look like it does it?”
“Let’s try around the other side of this wing, there are trees there.” I nodded and followed him around the end of the wing. We walked up the long side of the building, the front drive just visible through the trees. The main drive went around one side of the building, ensuring everyone accessed the rear car park from the same direction. This particular side of the mansion was just trees and bushes and we scouted around for almost an hour before realising that it was getting too dark to see well. As we headed back towards the building, I noticed a railing and steps leading down into the ground.
“Hey, look at that.”
Tinnias peered in the direction of my finger. “What?”
“There’s steps leading down into the ground, it must be a basement or something.”
“It’ll be locked up surely.”
“Probably,” I nodded and fished for the flashlight I had grabbed from the car. Switching on the dull yellow glow, I descended the stairs slowly. It was damp underfoot and I almost slipped twice. “Careful, it’s slippery down here.” Tinnias pointed his own flashlight down at his feet to guide his steps as we continued down towards a weathered wooden door. Using the butt end of the flashlight to avoid fingerprints, I pushed on the door. For a moment, it held and I was just about to assume it was locked when it opened an inch with a loud creak. I pushed it open and we entered the darkness.
Tinnias leapt up the stairs and I heard him vomiting into the grass. I closed my eyes and concentrated hard to control my own stomach. Within half a minute, I realised I was losing the battle and raced up the stairs to the nearest tree. By the time I had control of my insides, Tinnias was already on the Unicom.
“Commander Vaylo here. Get the forensic Team out to Karanga Mansion right away, Sam and I have found Shorna Leel.”
We were just thinking of reconvening the interview when Tinnias’ secretary Maddy knocked and entered.
“Hi, Maddy, what’s up?”
“Mr Manand would like a word before the interview begins.”
Tinnias raised his eyebrows. “Okay, show him in.”
She nodded and left the room, emerging again followed by Manand.
Tinnias indicated a spare seat next to mine. “How can we help you, Mr Manand?”
“May we talk in private, Commander Vaylo?”
“We are private. No one but you, me and Sam will here this conversation.”
“I meant just you and I. I would prefer it if Detective Sinclair leaves the room.”
“Tough, he’s Lead Investigator on this case so he’s staying. Now, how can we help you?”
I sat up and leaned forward. “Look, let’s cut the crap shall we? Listen, Manand, you know the drill as well as we do. You try to get him off; we try to get his ass sent down. The way the evidence is going here, it looks like we’re winning this one and you should thank us for it because he is one crazy asshole you really do not want walking the streets. He’s butchered nine people and those are just the ones we know about.”
“That is exactly why I am here,” Manand replied. “You’re right, the evidence is almost overwhelming, but there’s something that might just make things difficult.”
“Why am I not surprised?” I said and sat back, rolling my eyes to the ceiling.
“And just what might that be?” Tinnias asked.
“Norlbane claims he doesn’t actually own the basement of his home.”
“What the fuck?” I exclaimed. “But he has a building purchase permit for the property. It’s illegal to then sell part of it when it hasn’t been properly and legally partitioned into apartments. If it’s one complete dwelling, selling or renting part of it is against the law. He’s nuts to try pulling that one?”
“I agree,” Manand nodded, “but I have a duty to report it to you.”
“Shit,” I said.
“Okay tell us everything,” Tinnias said.