- The Shoe Soiler
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[End Page 46]
The headline in the upper-right-hand portion of the front page caught Rachel's attention.
"University Police Hunt Library 'Shoe Soiler,'" it read.
Rachel was sitting on a cement bench in the Emory quad. She had an art history class soon. It was early November, but the temperature was, and had been, unseasonably warm. The leaves on the trees were still green, though faded.
Rachel, who always looked forward to fall in Atlanta, felt vaguely annoyed by the conditions as she read the article. [End Page 47]
ATLANTA—Emory University police on Tuesday sought information from the public on the so-called "Shoe Soiler," a male suspect who police said has left his genetic calling card in women's shoes at the Robert W. Woodruff Library.
Two female Emory students were victimized on separate nights, police said. Police have increased security patrols on the campus.
"The suspect apparently spied on the victims as they studied in the library," Sergeant Ian Walker said in a news conference the day after the most recent incident. "When each victim got up to retrieve study material, leaving behind her shoes, the suspect moved in and ejaculated in the footwear."
* * *
Rachel laughed—the quiet, breathy kind that comes when you have no idea what else to do. She had a picture in her head of a sorority sister sliding her feet into a sticky pair of Pradas.
She opened the paper to the second page, where the article continued. It said that the two women had come forward with similar stories. Their identities had not been revealed because of the nature of the crime. Police believed the suspect was someone involved with the university, either as a student or an employee, but they weren't ruling out the idea that someone in the greater community could be responsible. They were reviewing security-camera videotape and records of those who had entered and exited the building that night; everyone was required to check in through the front entrance.
'The samples that were taken from the shoes are authentic,' Sgt.Walker was quoted as saying. 'We believe this is not a college prank but the work of someone who has difficulty controlling his urges and is willing to engage in high-risk behavior. For this reason, we are treating the matter very seriously, and we consider the suspect dangerous,'
Rachel was a sophomore at the university. She had shoulder-length "Jewish-girl hair," as she called it—brown curls that she pinned away from her face with colorful barrettes. It was the only girlish accent in her wardrobe. She wore navy-blue A&F sweats—which did little to reveal the slender frame she had inherited from her mother, nearly recovered from the Freshman Fifteen—and red flip-flops, in which she unconsciously curled the toes of one foot as she read the article for the second time. [End Page 48]
Perhaps she had missed something, she thought. Why would someone come in a shoe? She was quite aware of sexual fetishes; she had lost her virginity in high school to a boy who loved to smell her armpits. And her little brother, Patrick, had happily e-mailed her links to sites that featured the most grotesque pictures of oddball fetishes. But this was different: it was so public. Perhaps that was the real fetish: the idea of being caught.
But how did he get away such a thing and not be seen? The library was often crowded, even late at night when the incidents happened. And how did he work so quickly? Rachel knew boys could be quick about it—her boyfriend Gerald often finished too fast for her liking. She also knew that the older a man got, the longer he took. She wondered if the police had considered such fine points.
"I'm never going back to that library," said the voice. Rachel looked up from the paper. It was Susan, a friend and classmate. "They keep spending millions of dollars to build new stuff around here, but they can't figure out how to...