Jan Rusiewicz (rue-SEV-ich) is a Violent Crimes detective for the Chicago PD. Works for Nick Forte’s best friend, Sonny Ng. Jan and Nick were romantically involved for a while until one of them broke it off. Neither was exactly sure whose idea it was to split. Things were touchy for a while, but the original friendship survived the demise of the more elevated relationship and moved into a place where it would be hard to say which actually had been the more elevated relationship.
Jan is working on a task force led by Sonny to catch the Thursday Night Slasher, who has been terrorizing women in Chicago for six months. It’s starting to wear on her.
Jan stood no more than a foot away from me. Impeccably dressed, as always. Nothing expensive. Money never sat idle in Jan Rusiewicz’s bank account. She got more mileage out of Filene’s Basement, consignment shops, and one special thrift store on Fullerton than a hybrid car going downhill with the wind at its back.
Getting called out of bed was nothing new to her, even before she got involved with the Slasher task force. She always had tomorrow’s clothes laid out the night before. Cleaned up and stepped right into them to hit the ground running. Said it gave her an advantage with a suspect, always looking ready to go even if she’d only had time to shower and change clothes in the Area Four station.
Today she showed wear. Blouse not tucked in evenly. A button missed. The suit wasn’t so rumpled anyone but I, and maybe Sonny Ng, could see it, but it didn’t meet Jan’s standards.
I touched her elbow. “Are you all right with this Slasher business?”
“No.” The finality of her answer combined with its tone to set my alarms off. “Do you know I’ve worked over a hundred homicides? I’ve seen shootings and stabbings, family crimes, gang executions, drive-bys, and a baby with its head forced between radiator grates. I worked midnights in a squad, and sat in alleys full of rats to decoy some asshole into robbing me. I’ve been shot at, almost stabbed, and called names I had to ask what they meant. I put up with it because it’s all part of the job.
“Not this guy. See, I’ve been thinking about it, and all my homicides fall into two groups. Either the killer needed to make someone dead, or things got out of hand. This one lives to make these women suffer. I wish something would happen and he’d leave a survivor. I wouldn’t even mind if she couldn’t identify him. I just want to know what he says, how he acts. Does he tell them anything. I really don’t think he does this to kill them. He just wants to see how much they can endure. And that makes it even worse.”
“Are you sleeping?”
“If you can call it that. I stay up reading and looking at photos until my eyes close in the middle of a sentence. Then I lay in bed and pretend to sleep. I dozed off at the kitchen table a couple of nights ago and thought if I just stayed like that, holding my head up with my hand, I might sleep. It wasn’t bad for about ten minutes. Then my arm got stiff and I got up to go to bed and a picture caught my attention like maybe I saw something I missed before and I was there for another hour.” She rubbed her hands together as she spoke. “I promise myself five more minutes, I’ll quit at midnight, then I look up and it’s twelve-twenty-five and I think twelve-thirty, then it’s one-fifteen and I say the hell with it and stay till three. Then I pass out more than sleep and still see the sun come up.”
“Do you want off the case?”
“Goddamn right I want off the case! This is ruining my life. My periods are even fucked up.”
“Then talk to Sonny. He’ll understand.”
“I almost did a couple of times. Then I look at a crime scene shot. I can’t imagine how horrible it must’ve been for them, and I’m feeling sorry for myself because I can’t sleep?” She chewed on her lower lip and I noticed how frayed it was. “This bastard owes me. I want the satisfaction of bringing him in. It doesn’t have to be me personally, but I want to be able to say I had a hand in it.”
“You do already. You know that.”
“And you know it’s not the same.”
Sure, I knew. A little piece of Jan died this morning when she saw what happened to Carol Blessing. A little piece of any cop dies when he sees something horrible, and every cop deals with it in his own way. Some act hard. Some drink hard. The pieces of Jan that died with each of the Slasher’s victims were getting bigger. She usually maintained her balance by talking with her father the retired cop. Mike Rusiewicz had never seen anything like this.
A Dangerous Lesson is available in both paperback and e-book at all finer Amazons.