"That was a clever hoax you tried to perpetuate. Aged the remains . . . stored her in a hundred-year old steamer trunk . . . deep-froze her in a snow bank . . ." Detective Morrison of the Chicago Police Department confronts Thad Majeski.

          At his wit's end because a phantom has just abducted his current girlfriend back in time to 1893 Chicago, Thad is now accused of the murder of his ex-girlfriend. He must somehow transport himself to a bygone era, rescue Ottilia and dispatch the ghost of the serial killer who has bedeviled him for several months. This is no ordinary haunting, for the chilling purpose

  of the ghostly visitations is to spirit women away in the present and murder them in past time. The charming psychopath is the shade of Chicago's first documented serial killer, Dr. Herman Mudgett, alias H.H. Holmes.



               "Hi ya, champ. Ya survived the old lady's guff. What'll it be?" Carl greeted Detective Morrison as he slid into his usual place at the bar.
                "Make it a dark draft, burger and chips."
                Carl shouted the order to his cook standing at an open window in the back of the tavern. He studied Morrison a moment before he said, "You look down in the mouth."
                 "Harold, what would you say if a 105-year old skeleton with 1993 dental work turned up in a steamer trunk over a hundred years old?"
                "I'd say an antique dealer had a sideline in grave robbery."
                "What about the dental work?"
                "He was from the Frankenstein School of Grave Robbery. Spare parts from his junk yard of bones."
                "Why would he hang expensive jewelry on the skeleton?"
                "Aw, that's easy. He had this thing about prettying up his work-kind of like putting mud flaps, whitewall tires and a front hood decoration on a reconditioned car."                 "What kinda of guy would do this, supposing it was a man, which usually it is, a white male, that is, in his twenties or thirties?"
                "A classy guy, I think. A guy who likes his things nice, real nice, high-toned."                 "Okay, Carl. That's good. Murderers are twisted kooks who are out to look like nice guys."
                "Yeah, I bet they convince themselves every morning when they look in the mirror, 'I'm a nice guy; the world just misunderstands me.' They shit, shower and shave like the rest of us and then go out the door to work, like us normal guys, only their job is to kill some poor innocent girl on her way to her grandmother's house."
                "You got it, Carl."
               Carl tried to suppress a self-satisfied smile. Morrison's order was up, so Carl went to retrieve it from where it waited under a heated lamp on the back counter.
                "If I were you, Mike," he said, as he placed the food before him, "I'd start checking out antique dealers.
                Morrison leisurely chewed the wad of food in his mouth. The rhythm of the chump of his teeth grinding the meat engaged his thought process like gears. He refrained from comment on Carl's suggestion. An obvious possibility, requiring an extensive and expensive search. The dealer, as well as anyone who had purchased a steamer trunk of that description, would be suspect. It was a place to start until something more promising turned up from the complete forensics report.
               "A refill, Carl," Morrison shoved his beer mug toward the bartender. Carl refilled the mug, then placed the frothy brew before Morrison. Holding the cold glass ear of the mug in his hand, the satisfaction he always felt after having churned his thoughts in the mill of Carl's Dugout Bar on Wabash washed over him again. Carl's common sense was neat and clean like a batter whacking a fast ball into the stands. Morrison savored pitching one to Carl, seeing him swing and go for the hit, sometimes a strike, sometimes a ball, but this time Carl had a home run. Morrison felt Carl's speculations were right on.
                "Gotta run now, pal," Morrison eased himself up and left, leaving Carl to serve other mid-day regulars at the bar.
                He pulled the flaps of his coat over his ears as he headed into the windy street. A taxi horn honked and a city bus rumbled as it pulled away from the curb into the traffic. Sporty cars darted in and out among the limousines and bigger luxury cars all jockeying for position at the intersection. Morrison jumped the curb just as the pedestrian light read "walk," heading back at a brisk clip to his office, weaving in and out of other Chicagoans huddled in winter jackets. In no other city was the pace of pedestrians quicker than in Chicago. It was a walk-run. He loved it.
                The patches of cloud between the buildings presaged more snow. Maybe he could have one more shot at persuading Maggie to go to Florida without him. Why should she stay here in this mess, shoveling out, when she could be sunning herself on the beach? Knowing Maggie, that would be a task for a wizard, which he was not. His skills at wizardry were already stretched to the max with nabbing deviants and sociopaths. To tell the truth, sometimes he found deviants and sociopaths were less inscrutable than his dearly beloved wife. Women! Species inscrutabilis, as far as he was concerned.
                No sooner had he arrived in his office than the telephone rang. "We've a match for you on the Jackson Park victim."
                Morrison's ears perked up. "That soon? Super!"
                "Subject matches dental records of a Carol Trilling, disappeared August 31, 1993, on route to Seattle, Washington, from her home in Silver Spring, Maryland. Age 42. Married. Government Administrator, Treasury Department, D.C."
                "Impossible! She was alive four months ago!"
                "Go figure. We ran the match and that's what we got."
                "Big help. You ain't making my job easier," Morrison said with a testy edge in his voice and hung up.
                Finally, a breakthrough on the Trilling missing person case, but not one that made sense. What good was identification of the missing woman when it confounded the bizarre nature of the case further? Morrison wrestled with the incongruous circumstances of the murder. The killer devised a method to convincingly age the skeleton. What other possible explanation was there?
                He reached for the phone and dialed Harold Gruber in pathology.
                "You know anything yet about probable cause of death?"
                "No skull or bone fractures to indicate a violent death. No trace particles of poison, contaminants etc. on the remains. No conclusion can be drawn."
                "A clean kill," Morrison summarized. "Got a read on the time of death?"
                "Dead a long time. 1890's."
                "Good god, Gruber, the victim's been identified as 42-year old Carol Triling, last seen alive on August 31st! How do you explain 1993 dental work on a jawbone that old?"
                "Got me. That's your job. I just run the tests."
                "Thanks, Harold." Morrison hung up.
                Morrison walked around his desk, scratching his head, and settled in his chair. He untied his shoes and put his stocking feet on top of his desk. Fragile flakes of snow were beginning to pattern the sky outside the window, leaving no build-up on the ledge outside. He watched their delicate drift as he sifted the information he had just dropped into the hopper of his mind.
                What was this new Piltdown scammer's game? Did the fraud super-glue modern dental work on a hundred year old jawbone? Trilling's old lover and his tenant on Hermitage Avenue knew more about her body dumped in a steamer trunk than they were saying. It was time for round three with Thad Majeski and fancy-pants Brooks in the downstairs apartment. Suddenly, he dialed up the Public Information Officer. "Keep the reporters out of here for four hours. Put a lid on the Steamer Trunk Story. I need four hours."
                "You know how journalists are," the officer stated. "I'll do my damnedest, but the sharks will be circling before you can leave the building. Per procedure, all I can say is we'll release the identity as soon as the family is informed."
                "Just four hours. Stall them if you have to." Morrison hung up, grabbed his coat and headed for the elevator. In five minutes, he steered his unmarked car out the underground parking garage and was on his way to Hermitage Avenue.