I came across some old drafts of Dark Ties this morning and decided to take a trip down memory lane and read through a couple of chapters of one of them. In the early versions of the story, Ken meets Allen in Sioux Falls while on a book signing tour instead of Allen coming to visit him in West Virginia. I always liked this version, but the story started too slow, so I changed it. Still, I thought fans of the book might like to see this version of when Ken and Sara first meet Allen.
You’ll notice I reused most of the discussion between Ken and Allen in the final draft, only in West Virginia instead of South Dakota. And I really liked the bit where Ken recalls his first book signing, but there was no place for it in the book, so I created a blog post with it instead. Well, now you can read it in its original context.
One other note on this chapter. In the first draft, this was Chapter Eight. In that version of the story, the first seven chapters happened before Ken wrote Terror in Suburbia. It was a long slog through his PTSD-induced depression, then the scene at the fair that he recounted to Allen in the final version. This version of the book signing in Sioux Falls and the subsequent conversation with Allen became Chapter One in the second draft after I cut out the first twenty-five percent of the book.
Keep in mind, this is an early draft, before it went through comprehensive editing. I didn’t fix any of the typos or grammar mistakes, just copied it from the manuscript as is.
Anyway, here it is. Enjoy.
Even after twenty years as a bestselling writer, Ken Simmons was still amazed that so many people were interested in meeting a guy who told lies for a living. In this case it was for Terror In Suburbia, a novel about a serial killer and the detective searching for him. His publisher was predicting that it was going to be the biggest K. Elliot Simmons novel yet, surpassing even his debut blockbuster Roadside Stalker, another book about a serial killer. And the crowds at the publicity events seemed to prove it. Even at a relatively small event, like the one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, fans would line up for hours to meet him.
Ken was sitting at a large table strategically placed in the rear of the store so everyone waiting to meet him had to weave through the bookshelves, maybe buying more than just his book. The table was flanked by large cardboard posters of the cover of Terror In Suburbia showing an artist’s rendition of Alan St. James, the detective in the story. Sara, his wife and business manager, was sitting next to him opening the books to the title page for his signature, trying to keep things running smoothly.
After three hours Ken was looking forward to dinner and a long hot shower before bed. He was trying not to think about the morning, which would consist of a plane flight to Dallas/Fort Worth and another bookstore and more hours sitting at a table scrawling his name until his hand felt like it would fall off.
Not that Ken minded the publicity tours. He had come to see the events as big parties to celebrate the publication of his latest work. And while he didn’t personally know the thousands of people he met on the tours, he often felt like he was meeting long lost friends. The current tour was different, though. For one thing, it was his first tour since being shot two years before by a deranged fan, so he had been on edge for the entire trip. But more than that, he was having doubts about his new book. The story was told from the perspective of the killer, but he had done that before, in Roadside Stalker, so that wasn’t what was bothering him. What did was Cory Rivers, the antagonist. The reader could at least empathize a little bit with the killer in his first book. The same couldn’t be said for Cory Rivers. Ken wasn’t sure if it was because he had only written the murder scenes from Cory’s point of view, or if it was because those scenes were so brutal and grisly.
Whatever doubts Ken had, the fans loved the book.
It was shortly after nine o’clock when the last man in line stepped up and handed Sara a well-worn copy of Terror In Suburbia. That struck Ken as odd since the book had only been out for little over a month. The man’s copy had sticky notes sticking out from various places in the book. The dust jacket was missing. The cover was scratched and dirty. Ken looked up at him.
“You must really enjoy the book. Who should I make it out to?”
“To Allen, thank you for your support,” he said, signing. Handing it back to the man he asked, “Did you mark favorite passages?”
“Something like that. Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” Ken sat back and stretched.
“Where did you get the idea for the book?”
“I get ideas from all kinds of places. Usually I don’t get a single idea for a whole book at once. It’s a combination of ideas I get over time. I just let them bounce around in my head until something coherent comes out. Then I start writing.”
“Have you ever been to South Dakota before?”
“I’ve been here once or twice for book signings. Other than that, I’m afraid I don’t get to this area of the country much. I’d like to get over to see Mt. Rushmore if I had an extra day, but these book tours don’t usually give us much time for site seeing. Thanks for coming out!” Ken stood and started packing up.
“Ever hear of Ashford, South Dakota?”
“Afraid not. It’s been nice talking to you.” Ken smiled and turned to Sara to ask what she wanted to do for dinner.
“How about Debbie Bishop?”
“Listen, Allen, I would love to stay and chat, but I’ve been sitting here for hours and I really need to use the restroom.” That usually worked, although it backfired on occasion when a particularly enthusiastic fan would want to go with him.
“I tell you what. How’s about I take you and your wife out for dinner. I’d really like to talk to you about your book. You folks like steak?”
Ken smiled, trying to stay friendly. “I appreciate the offer, really, but we’re pretty tired. I think we’re just going to go back to the hotel and order room service.”
Allen sighed. He pulled something out of his pocket and put it on the table. It was a six-pointed gold star inside a circle with the word “Sheriff” engraved in the middle and “Woodford County” engraved around the outside.
“My name is Sheriff Allen James and I’d really like to talk to you about your book.”
The sheriff took them to a small local steak house on the other side of the mall from the bookstore, which Ken supposed was better than a trip to a Sheriff’s station. Besides, he had learned a long time ago that the locals know which restaurants are the hidden gems and which you should avoid. At any rate, a good steakhouse beats room service any day of the week. Sara, always the more cautious of the two, didn’t seem so sure. On the way she had given Ken an “are you sure about this?” look, which Ken brushed off with a shrug of his shoulders.
Ken had worked with enough law enforcement officers over the years that he was willing to give Allen the benefit of the doubt. Still, he felt it wouldn’t hurt to dig a little. After all, he supposed this guy could have been just about anybody. He could have made up the name “Allen James” to match the name of the detective in Terror In Suburbia. And Ken had never heard of Woodford County, not that he knew a lot about South Dakota. He was pretty sure Sioux Falls wasn’t in Woodford County. He had seen a county sign on the way from the airport, but couldn’t remember it exactly.
“Woodford County. Sioux Falls is in Minnola County, isn’t it?”
“Minnehaha,” Allen said.
“Minnehaha? No kidding? There’s a town named Minnehaha Springs not far from where we live in West Virginia.”
“That so?” Allen didn’t seem interested in coincidental geography.
“So where’s Woodford County?”
“It’s about an hour north of here. Mostly just farmland and small towns. Half the population in the county lives in Ashford, and that’s only about six thousand people.”
“And you’re the sheriff?”
“Yeah.” With his accent it sounded more like “yah,” reminding Ken of a movie he saw once.
The waitress came to take their drink orders. When she left, Ken continued with his queries.
“And your name’s really Allen James?” It wasn’t an exact match to Alan St. James, and probably a lot more common, but Ken was still amused by the similarity.
“It is.” Allen was still watching him closely. Ken did his best to maintain a neutral face.
“So what is it about my book that you wanted to discuss? Besides you and the main character having similar names and both being in law enforcement?”
“Well, Mr. Simmons…”
“Ken? So why K. Elliot?”
“It’s stupid, really. When I was trying to publish my first novel I didn’t like the way ‘Ken Simmons’ sounded, and Ken E. Simmons sounded too much like Kenny Simmons.”
“What about Kenneth Simmons?” Allen asked with an amused smile.
Ken smirked. “I’ve never liked that name. Probably because that’s what my mother used to call me when I was in trouble.”
“I know what you mean,” Allen said with a chuckle. “I got the ‘Allen Nathaniel James’ from my mother too.”
“So why are you interested in my husband’s book?” Sara asked. Apparently she wasn’t up for small talk. “It’s not even his best work.” She looked at Ken. “Sorry, babe, but you know how I feel about it.”
“Why do you say that?” Allen asked.
“For one thing, it’s gruesome. Ken’s never written stuff like that before. None of his other books describe crime scenes in that kind of detail.” Ken looked away. He didn’t like to admit it, but he agreed with her.
“Well, frankly, it’s that detail that I want to talk to you about,” Allen said.
Ken was used to people accusing him of stealing their ideas and even occasionally of copying a real crime, which is what he figured was about to happen.
Allen leaned forward, his eyes focus on Ken. “What I want to know is, who gave you the information.”
And there it is. “What information would that be?” Ken replied, already knowing the answer to the question.
“Your book is obviously based on a real case. But there are things in your book that were never released to the public. So either you’ve interviewed the killer or you’ve been talking to someone on the inside. Now, if it was one of my deputies or one of the officers from the Ashford Police Department, I’d like to know. The case has been cold for years, but I’d still like to know who’s been talking out of school.”
Ken smiled. “You left out the other possibility.”
“And what would that be?”
“That I’m the Suburban Stalker.” The first time Ken had been accused of copying a real case and the police questioned him he had been afraid he was going to be arrested or sued or something. Now it didn’t bother him so much, so he decided to have some fun with it.
“Nice name, but I know you’re not my guy. I checked. You were very publicly in New York City the night of one of the… murders, and in Los Angeles for one of the others.”
“Well, now that we’ve got that established, what’s good to eat here?” Ken asked still smiling. He always found these conversations amusing. Who leaked information, how did he know the details? He has obviously changed things slightly to throw off suspicion, but someone had to have let him in on something.
Ken could see Sara glaring at him from behind her menu. She always told him that he should take these kinds of accusations seriously. Even if there was nothing to the claims, making a game of it was reckless.
“Have you ever had chislic?” Allen asked.
“What’s that?” Ken wasn’t very adventurous when it came to food.
“Deep fried mutton. I prefer it with venison, but they use mutton here.”
“That sounds interesting. I’ll give that a try. What do you think, Sara?”
Sara shuddered. “I can’t eat lamb. That’d be like eating your pet. I’ll just have a Cobb salad.”
Ken laughed. He saw Allen smiling, but he was being too polite to outright laugh.
“I guess it’s not for everybody,” was all Allen said out loud.
The waitress, showing impeccable timing, came back with their drinks and took their food orders.
“So you’re not going to tell me your source?” Allen asked when the waitress had left. “I know you writers are like reporters and like to hide behind the ‘protecting your source’ mantra, but this is a serious issue. If I have a leak in my department I need to plug it. On the other hand, if you got the information from somebody else…” Allen trailed off looking at Ken.
Ken laughed. “You can relax, Sheriff. You don’t have a leak in your department, and I didn’t interview anyone. The story is completely made up. I didn’t base it on anything. Sometimes fiction, especially crime fiction, seems to mirror reality. I mean, there’s only so many ways to portray a serial killer.”
Allen nodded. “I get that, and if it was just a book about a guy that stalked women in a small town, breaking into their homes to torture, rape, and kill them, then maybe I could chalk it up as an eerie similarity. Maybe you just saw it on the news and forgot about it. Then it came out as a made up story. But in this case there are too many details that aren’t just close. They’re dead on. And like I said, some of the details were things that we never released to the public.”
“I think you’re reaching. You have some unsolved murders and a book comes out that is remarkably similar, and, well you need something to grab on to.”
“I wish it was that simple, but the details are just too specific. Let me ask you this. What was your first victim wearing? When Cory Rivers kills her?”
“Well, she had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready for bed so she was wearing a nightgown.”
“Yeah, but what color was it? What was the description?”
“I wrote that over a year ago. I don’t remember every little detail of every scene.”
Allen opened up his copy of Terror In Suburbia and turned to the first sticky note.
“He watched through the crack in the closet door as Sandy came out of the bathroom, her wet hair clinging to her bare shoulders. Her off the shoulder nightgown caused his pulse to race. The silky lavender fabric clung to her skin, still damp from her shower. White lacy trim framed her neck, shoulders, and thighs. Small decorative pearl buttons ran from the open neck to her waist. He licked his lips as he watched the thin fabric brush against her thighs as she made her way to the bed.”
“It’s a nightgown,” Ken said. “They’re pretty generic.”
“Our first victim was Sandra Bell. She was killed in her bedroom wearing a lavender nightgown with white trim and decorative buttons down the front.”
“Spooky,” Ken said. “But it’s just an interesting similarity. I’m sure lavender is a pretty common color for a nightgown.”
“Okay, what about your second victim?”
“Like I said, I don’t remember the details. She went out to the movies with some friends and Cory followed her home.”
“Taylor Hamilton,” Allen said turning to the next sticky note. “Our second victim was Jenna Taylor Hampton. She went by Taylor.”
Ken raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
“She was a college student home for the weekend. She was killed in her bedroom while her parents slept just down the hall. The crime scene you describe in the book is almost identical to what her parents found the next morning.” Allen leaned toward Ken again. “There were several details of these murders that we didn’t release, partly because they were too gruesome, but one in particular seemed like a signature. Even the victim’s families don’t know about it.”
“Let me guess. He took their hearts.”
Allen watched Ken, but didn’t answer.
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. The book is complete fiction. I wrote the first draft in two months, spring of last year. I didn’t even research it like I usually do. This one just came to me as I wrote it.”
Allen didn’t say anything. He just continued to study Ken.
“Are there other similarities?” Ken asked. He was feeling uncomfortable under Allen’s scrutiny. Maybe Sara was right about taking accusations like this more seriously.
“Every one of our victims has a match in your book. An exact match.” Allen opened the book to another sticky note. “In your book Katy Sanford worked nights at a twenty-four hour diner by the highway. She was killed in the morning when she got home from work. The real Catherine Stafford was a waitress at a truck stop on I-29. Worked third shift, killed late morning or early afternoon.” He turned to the next one. “Jordie Ross was a nurse. The real victim, Jordan Rosenbaum, was a doctor. Both were killed in their bedrooms. They were found tied to the bed, gagged, tortured, raped, and killed. Both had their hearts removed, just like Sandra Bell and Taylor Hampton.” Allen closed the book and looked up at Ken again.
“Frankly, Mr. Simmons, the only significant differences between the victims in your book and the real ones is that all of yours were single women living alone. Sandra Bell was the only one of the real victims who lived alone. Catherine Stafford was a divorced mother with two kids. She lived with her mother who watched the kids at night while she was working. When she was killed her kids were at school and her mother was at work. Jordan Rosenbaum lived with another doctor she worked with at Ashford Medical Center. The night she was killed, she and her roommate were working opposite shifts.”
Ken glanced at Sara. She looked a little pale. Ken felt a little queasy himself. “Doesn’t that just help show that the story is made up?” he said, but he was starting to wonder. It had to be made up. He hadn’t heard of any of these women before he wrote about them.
“The important details are the same. Maybe you changed it because you wanted to prey on the fears of young women living alone. I don’t know. You’re the writer.”
“You make it sound like I’m the monster.”
“I’m just trying to say that some minor differences don’t prove anything. But what really keeps me up at night since reading your book is that you have more victims than we’ve found. Maggie Hall, Rae Price, Lexi Morris, and Sydney Wilson don’t match up to any known homicides in Woodford County. Given the accuracy of the rest of the book, I’m concerned that there may be four more dead girls out there that we don’t know about. Earlier this afternoon I sent out requests to the counties around Woodford for any homicides where the victim’s heart was removed. I haven’t heard back yet, but I expect I will.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” Sara asked. “Did Mandy put you up to this?” Mandy Quinn was Ken’s agent. She was good at drumming up publicity for his books, although Sara didn’t always care for some of her more unconventional approaches. She had once hired actors to do a mock interview as characters from Billie Blue. Another time she had posted false news stories on the Internet about the death of Teri Chambers from Forgotten. Even so, this seemed a little extreme even for Mandy.
“Ma’am, I don’t know who that is, but I can assure you this is no joke.”
The waitress delivered their food and they ate without speaking. Ken just picked at his meal, not really hungry anymore. Sara was doing the same. After a few minutes, Ken broke the silence.
“Okay, let’s just say everything you told us is true. I don’t know what I can do to help you. I didn’t interview anybody for this book. Sure, I do that from time to time to get a better feel for a particular type of character or occupation or whatever, but for this one I didn’t even use the Internet. Everything just came to me. Anyway, I didn’t get any of the information from anybody else.”
Allen looked at Ken for a minute with his brow furrowed and his lips pursed in a slight frown.
“That’s unfortunate. I was hoping you would tell me you had talked to one of my deputies and he had given you the details. Then I could just go home and have a talk with whoever it was about releasing details on open cases, put a warning in his file, and go on back to work. If you didn’t talk to one of the people working the case, things get a little more complicated.”
“Why’s that?” Ken’s mouth was dry. He fumbled with his glass and took a drink.
Allen was watching Ken closely. “I think you know our killer.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t.”
“Then how do you explain the similarities between your book and the real murders? You have to admit that they’re too close to be a coincidence.”
“I don’t know how to explain it. They do seem to be pretty close, but I made it up. I don’t know what I can say to convince you, but that’s the truth.”
“I find it hard to believe that you could just make up the whole story and have it that close to the real thing. Hell, even the names of the victims are almost identical. Should I be looking for somebody with a name similar to Cory Rivers? Casey Pond? Coby Brooks?”
“I don’t know. All I can tell you about the names is that I usually struggle to make up names for my characters. When I need a name, I just pull out an old phonebook, flip to a random page, and point to a random name. For this book the names just sort of popped into my head.”
“So what then? You’re some kind of psychic then?” Allen scoffed.
“Kenny doesn’t even believe in that stuff,” Sara chimed in. “Mr. James, should my husband be calling his lawyer?”
“Take it easy now. I’m not accusing your husband of breaking any laws. I’m just trying to find the son of a bitch that’s killing people in my county. Pardon my language, Ma’am, but my job is to keep the citizens of Woodford County safe, and this piece of shit is out there hunting them down. And I think your husband knows something about who it is.”
Ken wasn’t paying attention. He was staring off into space.
“But didn’t you say this was a cold case?” she asked. “How do you know the killer’s even still around? How long ago was the last murder?”
“Jordan Rosenbaum was killed almost five years ago. She was the second victim after I was elected Sheriff. The first was Catherine Stafford in 2008, but I worked the other two as a deputy: Sandra Bell in 2005 and Taylor Hampton in 2006.”
“Maggie was 2007,” Ken said, still staring over Allen’s head. “Cory killed once a year until Detective St. James killed him.”
Allen leaned back, stroking his chin. “That would mean we have even more victims than you wrote about,” he said after a minute. “You only have two murders after Jordan. Three if you count the one that gets away at the end. Even if you do, that still leaves last year and this year.”
“It’s just a theory, and not a very good one, considering it’s based on a made up story.”
“Yeah, you keep saying that.”
“You asked Ken about another woman earlier,” Sara said. “Who is she?”
“Debbie Bishop? She may be nobody. She was attacked in her home by a man back in 2007. We think she may have been a victim that got away, but there’s no way to know for sure. We don’t get a lot of home invasions. The ones we do get are usually kids trying to steal small stuff they can sell to get money for drugs. Jewelry, cell phones, that sort of thing. Even those only happen once or twice a year, and they don’t usually attack the homeowner. I don’t think there’s been a single case like that that wasn’t solved in a couple of months since I joined the Sheriff’s Department back in 1993. They’re usually wrapped up less than a week. Kids stealing for drugs aren’t too bright, and there’s only so many places around Woodford County where you can sell that kind of stuff. Occasionally we’ll get an ex-husband or boyfriend that breaks in, but they’re obviously identified pretty quick.”
“How’d Debbie Bishop get away?” Ken asked, not really paying attention.
“A nosy neighbor saw some commotion through the window when a lamp got knocked over. She went over and knocked on the door to see if everything was okay. The guy jumped out the back window and ran off. The only description we got was pretty useless. Average height, average build, bald, wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. He left a coat, but it didn’t help. It was just a generic Carhartt work coat. Damn near everybody in the county owns one.”
“You couldn’t get any DNA from hair or skin cells or something?” Sara asked?
Allen chuckled. “If only real life was like TV. We’d have had him locked up the next day. We sent the coat to the state forensics lab in Pierre. They found some trace evidence, but nothing particularly useful. Maybe if we get a suspect, it might lead to something.”
“Hey, there’s another difference,” Ken said. “None of Cory’s victims got away.”
“Except for his last,” Allen said. “And just because you didn’t write about the one that got away doesn’t really mean anything, does it? Wouldn’t including that just take away from the suspense?”
“I suppose.” Ken looked down at the remains of the deep fried meat chunks on his plate. “There is one thing. Probably nothing at all.” He paused again.
“Go on,” the Sheriff said.
“My wife was right about this not being my best work. In a way it almost doesn’t even feel like my book. While I was writing… I don’t know. It was just different from the way I normally work.”
Ken sighed. “I don’t know. A couple of years before I wrote it I was attacked by a man claiming to be a fan. He was under the delusion that if he killed me I would write about him in my next book.”
“Yeah, I read about that. Shot you in the face. Nice work by your doctors, by the way. You can’t even tell. So how’d he expect you to write a book about him if you were dead?”
“He was insane.” Ken shrugged. “Anyway, I had a lot of trouble getting back into writing after that. It took a long time, but when I finally started Terror… I don’t know. It almost felt like somebody else was writing it.”
Ken looked up. Allen didn’t respond. He just looked back at Ken and waited for him to continue.
“Well, anyway, after I finished the manuscript and sent it off to my agent, I started having second thoughts about it. I was even debating whether or not I wanted to publish it, but once my agent read it and sent it off to my publisher, it took on a life of its own. Eventually I just wrote off my concerns as jitters about getting back to work.”
“Well, I don’t know what to make of that,” Allen said. “It’s interesting, but I don’t think it helps me.”
The waitress showed up to see if they wanted dessert. They declined, so she thanked them for coming in and left the check.
“I’ll take care of this,” Allen said, picking up the check. “I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.”
“I wish I could have been of some help, but I’m just a fiction writer and the story is a figment of my imagination.”
“You don’t really still believe that do you?”
“I don’t know. I do know that I didn’t talk to anybody about your case and I’m not a psychic. I’d never even heard of you or your case before tonight, so it has to be a coincidence.”
“A pretty amazing coincidence,” Allen said. “Let me ask you one more question. In your book the detective catches Cory just before he kills the last victim. That almost never happens in real life. That’s all TV and movie drama. With everything else in your book being so close to reality, why did you decide to do a Hollywood ending?”
“That’s just the way it happened. I can’t explain it any better than that. I don’t script my stories. What comes out of my head is what goes on the page. Cory slipped up and Detective St. James tracked him down. Tammy got lucky.”
“Okay, fair enough. I suppose that makes for a better ending anyway.” They all stood up, then Allen turned back to them. “What was Tammy’s last name again?”
“Tammy Knight. Tammy, not Debbie?”
“Sorry, I’m not a psychic.”
“Yeah, okay. I don’t believe in that stuff either.” Allen pulled out a business card and handed it to Ken. “If you think of anything that might be useful, would you mind giving me a call?”
Ken took the card and looked at it.
“I’ll email you. We don’t have cell service at home.”
“That’d be great. Thanks again for your time. It was nice meeting you both.”
“You too. Good luck, Sheriff.”
Ken and Sara walked to the door while Allen went to pay the bill.
“That was strange,” Ken said when they got outside.
“Strange? That’s the understatement of the year.”
Ken put his arm around her as they walked. Thinking that there was someone out there like Cory Rivers made him shiver. Sara pulled him closer. Maybe she just thought he was cold.
The small coffee maker on the hotel room counter was still bubbling when Ken’s phone dinged the next morning with an incoming email. Ken had just gotten out of the shower.
“Can you check that?” he said to Sara, toweling off.
Sara put down her brush and checked his cell phone.
“It’s from Mandy.”
“Can you read it?”
“You want me to dry your hair too?” she said, smiling.
“Would you?” Ken grinned back at her.
Sara tapped on the phone, opening the e-mail.
“Hey Ken,” she read. “Hope the book tour is going well. I still plan on meeting up with you in Denver next week. Is there anything you or Sara need? Just let me know. One other thing. I got a call this morning from a Sheriff James from Woodford County, South Dakota. He wants you to call him right away. He says you have his number. What kind of trouble are you guys getting into out there? Moose tipping? Anyway, call me if you need anything. See you next week.”
“Guess the sheriff heard back from someone,” Ken said.
“Can’t you just pretend you lost his card? I don’t like any of this.”
“It’s just a phone call,” he said. He found his wallet and pulled out the sheriff’s business card. “Maybe he wants to send us a box of chislic.”
Sara grunted and went back to brushing her hair. Ken dialed the number on the card. It picked up on the first ring.
“Woodford County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff James speaking,” said the voice on the other end.
“Sheriff James? This is Ken Simmons. I received a message that you wanted me to call.”
“Mr. Simmons, thanks for getting back to me so quick. I heard back from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department this morning. They have an unsolved murder from 2007 that matches our killer’s MO. The victim’s name was Margaret Hale.”