Another introduction: Claudia Bauer

Claudia covered her mouth with her free hand. The woman just stared back at her, and the silence was almost too much … too private. She moved her eyes from the woman’s own grey ones and that’s when she noticed the bruises on the neck. Just like the woman they’d found the day before in that dumpster. Strangled. Although it was hard to tell what in all this gore had killed her.

Claudia felt tears welling up in her eyes. God, of all the stupid things she’d done in her past, this could have been her on so many occasions. So many times she was not in control of her facilities, surrounded by strangers that could have easily done worse to her. But no, she was alive and this tall, possibly distinguished woman who lived in this amazing mansion … was not. She was hurt and tortured in her own beautiful home.

Claudia was making a lot of assumptions with that whole theory, but it was that same dependable instinct telling her these details, too. This woman lived here alone, someone had known that, and someone had gotten in here, laid in wait, and brutally, sadistically attacked her, then left her to be found in this horrific and disgusting manner. At least try to hide what you’ve done. At least show that after the rage you realized how wrong it was. But no … left like trash.

She heard footsteps pounding up the steps and coming into the foyer behind her, felt hands take her by the shoulders and lead her out the front doors. She must have been pale, because someone was telling her to just breathe deep, but it sounded like a voice coming from underwater. Claudia did as told, the night air feeling very cold. It eased her stomach without her even knowing she’d been nauseous.

She heard her fellow officers calling for an ambulance. She knew that they would start taking pictures soon, cataloguing evidence.

Claudia shook her shoulders, trying to clear out her head. She’d seen this shit before … why was she spending so much worry on this one?

Even more worrisome, why did she feel linked to this woman somehow?

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