The man kept his hood up and his head down as the elevator raced skyward, showing the security camera lodged in the upper right corner nothing but grey cotton and black leather. When the tape was eventually reviewed there would be no doubt that this man, this base creature, was responsible for the events in the penthouse that night - but he would be unidentifiable.
Unseen by the camera, the man allowed himself a smile at the thought of police detectives watching the tape over and over, as though it might be somehow different on the ninety-fifth viewing.
The elevator slowed gradually before coming to a gentle stop. The doors slid open noiselessly and, with quick glances to the left and right, the man stepped out into the empty hallway. Ignoring the two doors to his left, he strode calmly to the door on his right and pulled the black case from his inside pocket. With quick, measured movements, he pulled an electronic device from the case, plugged it into the card reader attached to the door handle and typed several short instructions into its keypad.
“That’s my baby,” he whispered as the door opened with a dull beep. He slipped inside, closed the door behind him and looked around the living room. He pulled his hood down to free his peripheral vision and waited for his eyes to adjust to the limited lighting before moving from the entranceway.
His first stop was the phone next to the sofa in the living room, which he unplugged quickly before taking another look around. He stroked a gloved finger along the top of the sofa, admiring its fine craftsmanship.
He noticed the empty wineglass next to the phone and raised a single eyebrow. It stood out in the rigid tidiness that cloaked the rest of the apartment - perhaps she was feeling a bit wild tonight? Daring to leave a little mess uncleaned - how risqué.
He pushed the thoughts away and continued his circuit of the room, his nose filled with the scent of the recently cleaned hardwood floor. He reached the kitchen, paused briefly to take in the stainless steel appliances and granite countertop, and eased open the drawer closest to the sink.
The fire in his eyes flared briefly when they found the long carving and chef knives; his fingers flexed and he licked his lips unconsciously. He pulled out the longest first, savoured the weight of it in his hand, placed it in the cupboard under the sink and repeated the action until the drawer was empty. It wouldn’t do to have little Willow knowing where to get those wicked things. He made a mental note to come back once she was secured to find a better hiding spot for them. Nothing was left to chance.
He turned and took in the apartment again, his eyes lingering on the vaulted ceiling and the high-definition TV across from the sofa. This was not his first penthouse job but he was not yet used to such luxury. Maybe with a few more jobs like this one he’d be able to afford a penthouse of his own - and it would damn sure be more secure than this one.
The man moved to the floor-to-ceiling windows and pulled the curtain back ever so slightly to look across to the Marriot hotel. He only had to wait three seconds before the TV sprung to life in his room - the signal that his partner was in place and ready to do his part.
He let the curtain fall back into place before turning away and stalking to the bedroom, his shoes murmuring along the hardwood the only noise in the apartment. The sound of the traffic in the streets below was a distant memory at that height and the walls were sure to be soundproofed to guard against the prying ears of neighbours. The rich were very fond of their privacy.
He reached the bedroom door, pulled his gun from its holster with his right hand and took three long, silent, steadying breaths. With a slight smile playing on his lips, his gun at waist level and pointed at the floor, he tenderly opened the door. As he entered the room his eyes fell on the bed and he came to an abrupt halt.
Willow Brown was not in her bed.