The Spider Killings (10)

Ramin had enjoyed the interview with Roxanne more than he should have


The Spider Killings (10)
by laleh haghighi

A fictional series based on real events that happened in Iran known as the "Spider Killings". [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

-- “So then, are you saying that there have been no other incidents previous to this recent one?”

-- “What I am saying is, every city has its share of problems and this includes, unfortunately, a criminal element, which the authorities are doing their utmost to weed out.”

Roxanne had been grilling Ramin for a half hour now, about the state of crime, in particular prostitution, in Mashad, his crime statistics, his office hierarchy, the qualifications of his staff etc. It had all boiled down in the end to the recent murder of the woman found on a busy city street a couple of weeks ago. The woman Roxanne believed was maybe the third or fourth victim of a serial killer, nicknamed the Spider Killer behind closed doors. Her friend Peyman’s informant would not elaborate on a precise number of victims, just that there had been more than two. As for other sources, only this latest victim had even been mentioned in the local media, and that was probably only because the killer had forced Ayatollah Kazemi’s hand, leaving the body in such a public place, with loads of witnesses to the crime scene.

Under the Ayatollah’s tight scrutiny however, the papers had portrayed the deceased as a random crime victim, an isolated incident, a minor story that did not make the headlines, far from it. Officially, she had been a vagrant with a history of drug addiction, not a prostitute. Roxanne suspected there were a much larger number of victims and was trying to read the Brigadier-General’s expression as she posed her pointed questions, hoping he would betray some clue, some information that would point her in the right direction. But he was an even better poker player than her, it seemed.


The meeting between the journalist from Tehran and Mashad’s Brigadier-General had been arranged with great pains by Roxanne’s old buddy. Peyman had had to pull in every favor he was owed to achieve this feat. He had finally succeeded by appealing to certain officials who would not be too displeased to see Ayatollah Kazemi’s reign over the city come to a disgraceful end. The Ayatollah had been too stingy with his power and greedy with the generous financial windfall that resulted from his position. This had created many enemies for him. Unofficially, of course.

Upon meeting Ramin, Roxanne had been somewhat taken aback. This was not the backward oaf she had pictured, the type she had been used to when dealing with various law enforcement types in her career. He had an air of intelligence about him, as well as something quite unusual for someone in his line of work: Charisma. However, one thing Ramin had in common with his ilk, he was tight-lipped about his business. No matter how much Roxanne probed, Ramin refused to stray from the party line.

-- “Mr. Rohani, you have to admit this recent murder is somewhat unusual even for a city that deals with the criminal element, as you say.” Roxanne persisted. “For a woman to be murdered, then wrapped up in her chador, one would say, almost ritualistically, then dumped on one of the busiest streets of the city… I am not inventing these details. This was reported by the local media and there are witnesses.”

-- “I beg to differ.” Ramin replied stoically. “I don’t know what you mean by ritualistic. Our police force is dealing with this just as any other crime and I really don’t see anything so unusual in its commission. A murder, any murder, is unfortunate yes, but not unusual.”

-- “And, you are definitely denying that there have been previous, similar murders with the same characteristics.”

-- “As I said, Ms. Joneidi, Mashad is a large urban center like any other, perhaps even more densely populated given the high volume of tourists in and out, and unfortunately, various crimes have occurred in the past, they are still occurring at this moment, and probably will occur in the future as well.”

This was useless. Roxanne was obviously not going to get anything out of him. She would have to do some investigating of her own and then perhaps come back at him with some irrefutable evidence and see whether he would continue playing dumb. The funny thing was, she bore no ill will towards him. For all his lack of cooperation, the charismatic chief of police certainly had been more than pleasant and patient with her, which was more than she could say of many of his colleagues in the capital city.

She got up and thanked Ramin, and he accompanied her on the way out of the police station. As she exited, she noticed a young officer, with piercing blue eyes, an unusual feature to say the least, staring at her, a smirk on his face. There was nothing lewd about his look nor was it expressly threatening yet it sent a chill down her spine. His stillness combined with the intensity of his stare, which was focused solely on Roxanne, as if he could not notice anything else than her, made her think of a snake seconds before it’s about to strike its prey. She was glad to walk out of the station into the sunshine. Peyman was waiting for her in the car.

-- “Well?” He asked.

-- “Go ahead, you can say I told you so.”

-- “I don’t know what you expected. I told you, for all intents and purposes, Kazemi runs the police as well as several other governmental institutions. If he does not want the story to get out, it won’t get out.”

-- “We’ll see about that. Peyman, I am thinking, let’s go straight to the horse’s mouth. Let’s hear it from the women of this city, what they have heard, what they are thinking. Will you take me to one of their hang-out spots and maybe some of them will agree to talk to me.”

Peyman chortled.

-- “I don’t know why you would assume I would know where prostitutes hang out in Mashad. What exactly are you implying my dear?”

-- “Absolutely nothing other than the fact that a knowledgeable reporter like you knows every nook and cranny of his city.” Roxanne smiled back, as she lit a cigarette with relief.

They both looked at each other and laughed.

* * *

Ramin had enjoyed the interview with Roxanne more than he should have. While keeping a deadpan exterior, he couldn’t help an inner smile. Not that he was lusting after all or anything like that. Roxanne was not a great beauty in the classic sense, at least not his classic sense, though her features were far from unpleasant. No it wasn’t quite physical attraction that he felt. It was something a bit more complicated, which surprised him, considering he had just met her and he knew nothing about her. There was something about the woman that drew Ramin to her in some way, something that felt familiar yet he couldn’t put his finger on what it was exactly. Her mixture of femininity combined with a hard edge baffled him. He had liked her mocking smile whose sharpness was softened by a pair of almond-shaped eyes with a hint of mischief in them. Her melodious voice contrasted with the blunt words that were expressed through it.


Ramin had found himself often glancing at her hands, which she used a lot to accentuate her words. They were dainty with elongated, graceful fingers, like that of a musician who had practiced on the piano or guitar strings for thousands of hours. By contrast to this gracefulness, her fingertips were stained with nicotine. Though her face and voice were the picture of cool, calm and collected, her hands’ fidgety movements betrayed her real state of mind. She is probably jonesing for her cigarettes. Ramin had thought with a half smile. He knew all about addiction.

Yes, Ramin had been impressed by her. This woman was ballsy and he liked that, although he would never admit it, to her or anybody. He was very surprised when he had first learned that a journalist had come all the way from Tehran to his city, with this particular subject of inquiry in mind. He became even more astonished when he realized that the journalist was female. Talking to her, he grasped that Roxanne definitely knew something was going on more than a simple, random murder, although Ramin was not sure to what extent she knew of the existence of the so-called Spider Killer. Like him, she kept her hand close to her chest, out of sight. What was definite was that she wasn’t buying the lines he was stubbornly clinging to. So much for keeping the rumors of the Spider Killer contained. It would be very explosive when Ayatollah Kazemi found out about this little meeting (and it was a matter of when, not if).

Well, Kazemi had only himself to blame. Ramin had done everything he could to convince him to loosen his purse strings a little, so that he could make some headway into the case before the shit hit the fan. Well, okay, the purse strings would have to be loosened a lot, not a little. But if Kazemi was serious about Ramin stopping this serial killing spree, how else did he expect him to do it, by consulting a faal-geer, a palm reader?

Ramin had exposed his plan to Kazemi. He wanted to divide his police force into three task groups. The first would set up sting operations, with the cooperation of prostitutes, to catch their clients in the act. Once they were arrested, they would be swabbed for their DNA. These DNA tests would then have to be sent out to Tehran to a forensics lab, to see if they matched any of the samples found on the eight female victims. Ramin instinctively knew with almost complete certainty that the killer had had sex with his victims, although the testing done on the bodies had in all cases yielded more than one type of sperm. It was of course not unusual for these women to have several if not dozens of encounters in one day, which made it impossible to identify which one of the men they had come into contact with that day could have been their last, and most lethal, customer.

The second task force would have the sole goal of looking through the hundreds of files on previously arrested prostitutes and their clients, going back several years, in order to weed out the ones where there had been a violent incident. A killer does not suddenly drop out of the sky, Ramin reasoned, there had to have been some sort of gradual rise in violence, and hopefully it had been documented in his criminal history. Perhaps he had started by harassing the prostitutes, then graduated onto beating them. And then, seeing no resistance from them, sensing no retribution from the authorities, he would have naturally escalated until he reached the ultimate level: murder. Ramin was hoping some sort of pattern would emerge from studying these old files, maybe even one description or one name that would keep popping up, so that a list of suspects could be compiled. This was of course premised on the assumption that the killer had frequented prostitutes and that he had been cited or arrested in connection with them.

The third and most controversial aspect of the plan was creating a special task force designed to round up Mashad’s prostitutes in order to warn them of the danger they faced, and obtain their cooperation to act as look-outs for the police for anything strange or any information that could help police in catching their predator. This would be quite a feat as, by Ramin’s guess, there was probably around 5000 street women operating at any given time in Mashad. They would not be able to gather them all at once. Not only was there not enough manpower to accomplish this but if he was to keep it low key, he certainly could not hold the meeting at a soccer stadium to accommodate all of them! No, this would be a long and painful process, rounding them up a few at a time, maybe 50 or so, and also rely on word of mouth, to spread the information.

-- “Absolutely not!” Kazemi had banged his fist on his desk in a rare display of emotion, when Ramin had explained his plan. “Are you out of your mind? I am trying to keep this under wraps, not to add fuel to the fire. And you don’t have any proof this is a serial killer.”

So we are back to that, Ramin thought with exasperation. Kazemi wanted him to take care of the problem and at the same time, the cunning old man would not admit to a problem existing in the first place. He was more interested in saving his own ass than in preventing more deaths. He wanted the impossible. Make a potentially scandalous story go away, at no cost, and without any leaks. Ramin tried to interject but Kazemi was on a roll, almost foaming at the mouth.

-- “You expect women to keep it a secret.” He scoffed. “As if women can shut their trap for anything! They wouldn’t even be able to keep their bowel movement a secret, let alone this… No, Mr. Rohani, you are going too far. And as for your other so-called strategy, do you know how much it would cost to perform all these DNA tests? Who do you think I am, Aristotle Onassis? My political rivals would have a field day with this. I think you have been watching too many Hollywood films.”

No, Kazemi was certainly no Onassis, by any means, Ramin thought bitterly, for the famous Greek tycoon had been a self-made millionaire who had put blood, sweat and tears into his enterprises. To the contrary, Kazemi was a fat cat who just sat back and pocketed public funds, funneled donations into bogus charities, and made himself a nice nest-egg of bribes. And this was just the tip of the surface. Ramin was sure Kazemi had his fingers into many other pots that even he, the police chief, was unaware of.

So then, that was that. The only thing that remained was to have officers go through the old files, probably the most time-consuming of the three options, and the one least likely to yield a result. And now here was this woman, sniffing out a story worthy of headlines. Yes, Ramin sighed to himself, just like in Hollywood movies.

Despite himself, he had felt from the get-go incredibly sympathetic to Roxanne. In a weird way, she had reminded him of his late wife Mandana, although this was the most far-fetched and illogical feeling he could have. Mandana was soft and sweet, reserved, whereas this woman was edgy and no-nonsense, a real ball of fire. Perhaps it was the scent of jasmines he had smelled on her when he had initially greeted her. Or was that his imagination? He couldn’t tell anymore. Although he had quit his opium addiction cold turkey weeks ago, he was still feeling its after-effects, including nightmares that plagued him nightly and sometimes followed him into the daylight as hallucinations, ghostly visions and sounds, and now maybe scents too, that blended with reality so seamlessly that Ramin could not distinguish what was real and what was a figment of his imagination.

As Ramin walked Roxanne out of the police station, he noticed with great displeasure that little weasel Majid, with his treacherous eyes, looking Roxanne up and down with a smirk. It was all Ramin could do to control himself from slapping that smirk off his face. Majid was an untouchable. He was Kazemi’s nephew, really his de facto son since he had been orphaned and raised by his uncle from a tender age. As Ramin well knew, Majid was Kazemi’s eyes and ears in the police force. In a matter of seconds, Kazemi would be apprised that a nosy female journalist from Tehran was poking around the police chief, asking about the latest victim of the Spider Killer.

Ramin’ stomach churned and just then, he realized what it had been about Roxanne that had made him think of his late wife, that had drawn him to her. Just like he had felt that first day he had seen Mandana, bending over his hospital bed with concern in her eyes, Ramin had been overcome, upon first laying his eyes on Roxanne today, by the overwhelming desire to protect her. With growing unease, Ramin looked at Majid, still focused in Roxanne’s direction, long after the door had closed behind her. He hoped against all hope that his secret fears would not become a reality>>> PART 11
PARTS [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]


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by devoted reader (not verified) on

I love this series - where has it gone? I eagerly open this website every morning hoping that a new part has been posted! I still enjoy the other articles but I am just dying to know what happens in the next installment of the Spider Killings!!