Detective Molly Burns sat at her desk rubbing her eyes. Everyone else had gone home, but she couldn’t get this case off her mind. It was her first murder case. As a newly promoted detective, and a woman, Molly was determined to solve it. There was a pattern. There was always a pattern to serial killings. She just had to find it.
She stared at the bulletin board with the photos of the four victims. Push pins marked the places where their bodies were found. They were all local. They went to school together. They probably knew each other. But, why were they killed? And, more importantly, how many more would be murdered?
Those women weren’t random victims. Something tied them together. Molly felt it in her bones. She was also sure they knew their killer. All she had to do was figure out the tie and she’d find the killer. Molly was pretty sure the killer was a woman; another feeling in her bones. Molly trusted her bones. She hoped the blood the officers found on the sidewalk a few yards away from the most recent victim belonged to the killer. She hoped they would find a DNA match with someone in their database, but she knew it was a long shot.
Mrs. Jensen offered Molly an armful of ripe tomatoes. Their spicy, warm scent made Molly’s mouth water. “You’ll be doing me a favor, my dear,” Mrs. Jensen said, “by taking these tomatoes. I have too many to use.” Mrs. Jensen had retired from teaching at Valley Vista School after 30 years. Now she spent her time babying her plants.
Molly was interviewing everyone she could find who worked at the school when the murdered women were there. Mrs. Jensen remembered them. “They were nice girls, always kind to others, and always laughing. There was a fifth friend. Her name was Maggie. Those girls were never out of each other’s sight. They were such good friends.”
Molly heart beat faster as she jotted down Maggie’s name in her notebook. “Another potential victim,” she thought.
Later that afternoon, Molly tracked Maggie down and made an appointment to talk with her in person. “I can come to Petaluma,” Maggie told the detective. “I want to visit my best friends’ families. I’ll stop by the police station afterwards.”
Satisfied with her phone call; Molly reviewed the officers’ notes from each killing. “There’s always blood, but the killer is meticulous,” she said to herself. “She doesn’t leave clues. No fingerprints. The only shoe prints are from hospital style booties. What is she doing with the blood? Is it some sort of ritual?” Then she re-read the notes from the most recent killing. A neighbor insisted that she saw two great horned owls and a peregrine falcon attack a woman getting into her car. It sounded crazy, but something made Molly look at the description the neighbor gave of the woman being attacked. Could she be the killer? Molly pushed a new pin into the bulletin board where the bird attack took place and added the description the neighbor had given. Maybe it was a clue.