David set the letter down and shrugged. “Anything. I want to get into this guy’s head. I want to know what he was thinking. There’s still one big question we haven’t answered yet.”
Cassie looked around at the table and took in the dozens and dozens of letters. Twelve victims were twelve too many, but was that number significant? “Why did he stop?”
“That might not be a question we can answer.” Laura gestured to the letters. “Like you said, the first victim might not have been his first kill. The last victim might not have been his last kill. Does he have another set of letters hidden somewhere?”
“Not that we know of, but it was difficult to find this set,” David said. “Who knows what else he’d gotten up to over the years.”
Cassie’s stomach dropped. She didn’t want to run into Shapiro’s ghost a second time, but if there were more victims out there, they deserved to have their souls laid to rest along with the rest of them.
David must’ve noticed the look on Cassie’s face because he offered her a reassuring smile. “But as much as I’d love to answer that question for the sake of my sanity, it’s not at the top of our list. For now, we need to figure out where he buried those final five bodies. Meanwhile, my team is doing their damnedest to get us a list of potential suspects.”
Laura clapped her hands together. She had a gigantic smile on her face. “Then I guess it’s time to get to work.”
Three hours later, they were halfway done analyzing the letters. There were nearly two hundred of them to go through with a fine-tooth comb. Cassie’s eyes burned and her throat was dry. She had a harder time than she anticipated parsing out real and relevant information amongst what Shapiro had made up to cover his tracks.
But what Cassie found most frustrating was the lack of psychic vision off the letters. Not even the hint of a vibe that could tell her which victim might be important to investigate. She felt some relief because she didn’t have to explain her gut feeling to her sister now, but she also felt angry. Why couldn’t she control her abilities? Why couldn’t she decide when they worked and when they didn’t? Did God have a sense of humor? Or maybe the Devil enjoyed singling her out occasionally to make her life miserable.
David must’ve seen her eyes glossing over because he tossed his pen down
and then stretched his neck to one side and then the other. “Let’s take a break. Go over what we’ve noticed so far. I need a change of pace.”
Cassie tossed her pen down as well. “Me too.”
“Me three.” Laura agreed.
“A consensus. Perfect.” David got out of his chair with a groan and started pacing the length of the room. “Okay, Laura. I’m curious to pick your mind first. What’ve you got?”
Laura looked down at the yellow legal pad she’d been scribbling on and skimmed her notes. “Shapiro is a smart guy. He uses a lot of the same techniques as therapists who want to ingratiate themselves with their clients.”
Cassie stifled a yawn. “What do you mean?”
“It’s clear he’s done his research on the victims. It isn’t overtly obvious, but a few times he’s brought up specific subjects first—certain familial relationships, events, locations. This sparks a response in the recipient. He’s guiding the conversation. He’s laying a foundation of trust that he can then later use. Or, rather, abuse.”
Cassie looked over at David. “How would he get this information? Maybe he talked to them in person? Talked to their family members?”
“I doubt he talked to them in person,” David said. “There’d be a record of him at the prison, and he’d want to avoid detection at any cost. He might’ve talked to a family member or two, but again, he’d want to keep a low profile. We know he was smart, methodical, and patient. He wouldn’t want to do anything to give himself away.”
“It was the mid-nineties.” Laura tapped her chin with her pen. “The internet was around, but not as widely used as it is these days.”
“He could’ve picked up information in the newspaper when they were arrested. Maybe he went to some proceedings. If you hang around in the right places, you can learn a lot. Let’s remember he was also a postal worker, so he worked for the government.”
Cassie nodded. “Maybe he knew someone who could get him information.”
“Exactly.” David tipped his head back at Laura. “What else you got?”
“He was an active listener. Empathetic. Understanding. Non-judgmental. He took the information they told him and used it to his advantage. He’d be more open and vulnerable with them first, so they either felt comfortable or compelled to return the favor. Most of the information seems to be fake—or, at least, only a partial truth—but it still worked. Just about every time.”
“Some of what they’d opened up about in these letters were deeply personal.” Cassie flipped through a few of the pages in front of her. “Loss of a child. Being closeted. Experiencing abuse.”
“He would become their genuine friends,” Laura explained. “They had nothing better to do in prison but write letters and wait for a response. He became their sole confidant.”
“And the final letters always end the same.” David chose one at random and held it close to his face. “Congratulations on your release. Let’s celebrate. Dinner’s on me.”
“The response was always enthusiastic.” Laura looked down at her notes. “It’s sad, really. They thought they had made it out. They thought they’d found a friend or a sponsor or a partner in crime. Instead, he betrayed them. Murdered them.”