Prologue | JUST THE FACTS
I KNOW THINGS I don't want to know.
A true psychopathic killer is nothing like your everyday garden-variety murderer. Not like a holdup guy who panics and unloads his gun into a hapless liquor store clerk, or a man who bursts into his stockbroker's office and blows his head off, and he's not like a husband who strangles his wife over a real or imagined affair.
Psychopaths aren't motivated by love or fear or rage or hatred. They don't feel those emotions.
They don't feel anything at all. Trust me on that one.
Gacy, Bundy, Dahmer, BTK, and the other all-stars in the twisted-killer league were detached, driven by sexual pleasure and the thrill of the kill. If you thought you saw remorse in Ted Bundy's eyes after he'd confessed to killing thirty young women, it was in your own mind, because what distinguishes psychopaths from all other killers is that they don't care at all. Not about their victims' lives. Not about their deaths.
But psychopaths can pretend to care. They mimic human emotion to pass among us and to lure their prey. Closer and closer. And after they've killed, it's on to the next new and better thrill, with no boundaries, no taboos, no holds barred.
I've been told that it's "distracting" to be so consumed by appetite, and so psychopaths screw up.
Sometimes they make a mistake.
You may remember back to the spring of 2008 when the swimsuit model Kim McDaniels was abducted from a sandy beach in Hawaii. No ransom demand was ever made. The local cops were slow, arrogant, and clueless, and there were no witnesses or informants who had any idea who had kidnapped that beautiful and talented young woman.
At that time, I was an ex- cop turned mystery writer, but since my last book had gone almost straight from the shipping carton to the remainder racks, I was a third-strike novelist doing the next best thing to writing pulp fiction.
I was reporting crime for the L.A. Times, which, on the upside, was how the highly successful novelist Michael Connelly got his start.
I was at my desk twenty-four hours after Kim went missing. I was filing yet another routinely tragic story of a drive-by fatality when my editor, Daniel Aronstein, leaned into my cube, said "Catch," and tossed me a ticket to Maui.
I was almost forty then, going numb from crime scene fatigue, still telling myself that I was perfectly positioned to hook a book idea that would turn my life around one more time. It was a lie I believed because it anchored my fraying hope for a better future.
The weird thing is, when the big idea called me out --- I never saw it coming.
Aronstein's ticket to Hawaii gave me a much- needed hit. I sensed a five-star boondoggle, featuring oceanfront bars and half-naked girls. And I saw myself jousting with the competition --- all that, and the L.A. Times was picking up the tab.
I grabbed that airline ticket and flew off to the biggest story of my career.
Kim McDaniels's abduction was a flash fire, a white-hot tale with an unknown shelf life. Every news outlet on the planet was already on the story when I joined the gaggle of reporters at the police cordon outside the Wailea Princess.
At first, I thought what all the journos thought, that Kim had probably been drinking, got picked up by some bad boys, that they'd raped her, silenced her, dumped her. That the "Missing Beauty" would be top o' the news for a week, or a month, until some celebrity bigot or the Department of Homeland Security grabbed back the front page.
But, still, I had my self-delusion to support and an expense account to justify, so I bulled my way into the black heart of a vile and compelling crime spree.
In so doing, and not by my own devising, I became part of the story, selected by a profoundly psychotic killer with a cherished self-delusion of his own.
The book you hold in your hands is the true story of a skillful, elusive, and, most would say, first-rate monster who called himself Henri Benoit. As Henri told me himself, "Jack the Ripper never dreamed of killing like this."
For months now, I've been living in a remote location getting "Henri's" story down. There are frequent electrical brownouts in this place, so I've gotten handy with a manual typewriter.
Turns out I didn't need Google because what isn't in my tapes and notes and clippings is permanently imprinted on my brain.
Swimsuit is about an unprecedented pattern killer who upped the ante to new heights, an assassin like no other before or since. I've taken some literary license in telling his story because I can't know what Henri or his victims were thinking in a given moment.
Don't worry about that, not even for a second, because what Henri told me in his own words was proven by the facts.
And the facts tell the truth.
And the truth will blow your mind, as it did mine.
--- Benjamin L. Hawkins May 2009
Part One | THE CAMERA LOVES HER
KIM MCDANIELS WAS BAREFOOT and wearing a blue-and-white-striped Juicy Couture minidress when she was awoken by a thump against her hip, a bruising thump. She opened her eyes in the blackness, as questions broke the surface of her mind.
Where was she? What the hell was going on?
She wrestled with the blanket draped over her head, finally got her face free, realized a couple of new things. Her hands and feet were bound. And she was in some kind of cramped compartment.
Another thump jolted her, and Kim yelled this time, "Hey!"
Her shout went nowhere, muffled by the confined space, the vibration of an engine. She realized she was inside the trunk of a car. But that made no freaking sense! She told herself to wake up!
But she was awake, feeling the bumps for real, and so she fought, twisting her wrists against a knotted nylon rope that didn't give. She rolled onto her back, tucking her knees to her chest, then bam! She kicked up at the lid of the trunk, not budging it a fraction of an inch.
She did it again, again, again, and now pain was shooting from her soles to her hips, but she was still locked up, and now she was hurting. Panic seized her and shook her hard.
She was caught. She was trapped. She didn't know how this had happened or why, but she wasn't dead and she wasn't injured. She would get away.
Using her bound hands as a claw, Kim felt around for a toolbox, a jack or a crowbar, but she found nothing, and the air was getting thin and foul as she panted alone in the dark.
Why was she here?
Kim searched for her last memory, but her mind was sluggish, as if a blanket had been thrown over her brain, too. She could only guess that she'd been drugged. Someone had slipped her a roofie, but who? When?
"Helllllllpppp! Let me out!" she yelled, kicking out at the trunk lid, banging her head against a hard metal ridge. Her eyes were filling with tears and she was getting mad now on top of being scared out of her mind.
Through her tears, Kim felt a five-inch-long bar just above her. It had to be the interior trunk release lever, and she whispered, "Thank you, God."
Part One | THE CAMERA LOVES HER
KIM'S CLAW-HANDS TREMBLED as she reached up, hooked her fingertips over the lever, and pulled down. The bar moved --- too easily --- and it didn't pop the lid.
She tried again, pulling repeatedly, frantically working against her certain knowledge that the release bar had been disabled, that the cable had been cut --- when Kim felt the car wheels leave the asphalt. The ride smoothed out, and that made her think the car might be rolling over sand.
Was it going into the ocean?
Was she going to drown in this trunk?
She screamed again, a loud, wordless shriek of terror that turned into a gibbering prayer, Dear God, let me out of this alive, and I promise you --- and when her scream ran out, she heard music coming from behind her head. It was a female vocalist, something bluesy, a song she didn't know.
Who was driving the car? Who had done this to her? For what possible reason?
And now her mind was clearing, running back, flipping through the images of the past hours. She started to remember. She'd been up at three. Makeup at four. On the beach at five. She and Julia and Darla and Monique and that other gorgeous but weird girl, Ayla. Gils, the photographer, had been drinking coffee with the crew, and men had been hanging around the edges, towel boys and early morning joggers agog at the girls in their little bikinis, at the wonder of stumbling onto a Sporting Life swimsuit shoot right there.
Kim pictured the moments, posing with Julia, Gils saying, "Less smile, Julia. That's great. Beautiful, Kim, beautiful, that's the girl. Eyes to me. That's perfect."
She remembered that the phone calls had come after that, during breakfast and throughout the whole day.
Ten freaking calls until she turned off her phone.
Douglas had been calling her, paging her, stalking her, driving her crazy. It was Doug!
And she thought about earlier that night, after dinner, how she'd been in the hotel bar with the art director, Del Swann. It was his job to oversee the shoot and be her chaperone afterward. But Del had gone to the men's room, and somehow he and Gils, both of them as gay as birds, disappeared.
And she remembered that Julia was talking with a guy at the bar, and she'd tried to get Julia's attention but Julia wouldn't make eye contact...so Kim had gone for a walk on the beach.... And that was all she remembered.
Her cell phone had been