The Cryptic Killer

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Chapter 12

When Jack arrived at the office most of his team had already reported for duty. He had no idea his choice of casual clothing would create such an interest.

As he strolled through the bull pen towards his office he received an assortment of sarcastic and mildly humorous greetings from his team, fired at him at random from all sides.

‘We didn’t know it was casual clothes day Jobs...’

‘Excuse me Sir, this area is for Police personnel only…Oh it’s you Jobs…didn’t recognize you in your street clothes.’

‘The rubbish bins are over there…Oh sorry Jobs, thought you were the cleaner.’

Raucous laughter filled the bull pen at Jack’s expense.

In his usual fashion the ever serious Jack shrugged it off with a half smirk as he continued through to his office.

As Jack approached Spence’s desk, located immediately outside his office, he stopped to address the smiling Spence. ‘What’s with all the phone calls last night?’ Jack asked.

‘Off the grid last night Jobs…? No one could get a hold of you. Everything cool…?’ Spence asked. He tapped his left cheek.

‘All’s good. So, what’s up?’ Jack ignored the cheek reference.

’Last night a hooker by the street name of Desiree, aka Monica Sellers, twenty-nine from Newark, claimed she was working in Chinatown on the corner opposite to Amber two nights ago…’ Spence began. ‘The same night Amber went missing. She recalled seeing Amber get into a black colored luxury vehicle around 2am. She couldn’t see the driver because the car had dark tinted windows, but she thinks it may have been a Mercedes, but she can’t be sure. That was the last time she saw Amber. Thinking she had pulled an all-nighter, Desiree says she was envious until she heard the news about Amber last night.’

‘So you got called in last night…?’ Jack inferred from Spence’s summary.

‘No, I didn’t actually,’ Spence said. ’I was called, but Desiree refused to make a statement until she finished her beat this morning…Said it cost her too much money to be off the street. So I arranged with her to meet me at the station this morning and I came in early to take her statement. I only just finished a short time ago.’ He lifted his chin to the statement on his desk.

Jack rotated the statement to face him. He scanned the top page. ‘Much in it…?’ Jack asked.

‘She recognized the licence plates as Jersey plates, but she couldn’t make out any of the letters.’

‘No letters at all…?’ Jack nodded. ‘That means we’re going to have to run some details through DMV to try and locate possible hits for black luxury vehicles registered in the Jersey area,’ Jack said. ’Can you get onto that this morning?

‘Will do,’ Spence said. ‘So…’ he again touched his left cheek, then flicked at finger at Jack. ‘How’s your eye?’ Spence asked. ‘Heard about the skinheads from last night in Rosie’s when I came in this morning.’

‘It’ll heal,’ Jack said in his usual non-committal, curt manner as he continued into his office.

Jack relaxed in his high-backed chair causing it to recline back to a forty-five degree angle. The clock on his office wall showed it was 11am. Where did the morning go?

He saw a narrow window of opportunity to head home and quickly get changed.

It’s amazing though how the human brain worked. Thoughts provided little segues that led to the recall of other thoughts and Jack’s mind was involuntarily on a bee-line straight back to re-live his excitement from last night. By contemplating going home to change, it reminded him he was in still in his civilian clothes. Then his mind drifted to why he was at work in his civilian clothes.

This led his recollections of last night and his passionate embraces with Rosie, and how much he enjoyed her company. His thoughts then moved to just how sexy she looked.

A wry grin filled his face as his recollections became more erotic. He even began to feel movement in his groin. He remembered just how beautiful Rosie looked this morning lying naked on the bed, fast asleep. She reminded him of a toga wearing Greek goddess.

He was also quietly pleased with himself, thinking he was like a twenty year old again being able to have sex three times in the same night with such a gorgeous woman. Then, his face tightened. What if I had not been opened up by the punch from that skinhead last night? I may have just gone home alone and never had the opportunity to get to know Rosie better.

‘Got a minute Jobs…?’

A deep voice snapped him from his trance. Jack’s focus flicked towards the voice at his office doorway. Pete Unly leaned in through the door awaiting a response.

He beckoned to Unly. ‘Sure. Come in.’

‘You looked miles away then Jobs,’ Unly said. ‘Everything OK?’

Jack intentionally ignored the question. He motioned to the visitor’s chair opposite. ‘What you got for me…?’ Jack asked.

‘Just an update Jobs.’ Unly slid into the chair at Jack’s desk. ‘You know…On the inquiries I made with Wendy Curry…Matt’s Mom in Jersey.’

‘Oh, Right,’ Jack nodded. He forgot he still hadn’t received that update. ‘How did that go?’ he asked.

‘Pretty well actually. Nice woman,’ Unly said as he lounged back and crossed his legs. With his note pad resting on his lap Unly summarized his meeting to Jack.

‘Mrs Curry verified everything Matt told us. She said Matthew raced in after work without saying hello, which was apparently out of character,’ Unly emphasized. 'He then went straight to his computer in his bedroom. She found out later that he was working on decoding a letter.

'Later on in the night they watched a movie together - Sex in The City 2 on HBO. She says it finished about 10.30pm. After the movie Matt went back to his room.’

Jack reclined back with his hands locked behind his head as Unly continued with his report.

‘HBO…?’ Jack said.

‘Yep…I've verified the scheduling of that movie with HBO. It concluded as scheduled at 10.30pm.’

Jack nodded his approval.

‘Um…’ Unly turned the page in his note book. ‘Apparently Matt came out of his room half an hour later or so and told her he had cracked the code in a letter that a killer sent to the police. She said she didn’t know what letter he was referring to, so Matt had to update her on the circumstances of the letter.’ Unly turned another page.

‘Good. It’s what we wanted to hear,’ Jack said, ‘We need this kid in this investigation.’

This relative nobody had helped break a major homicide investigation wide open. Matthew was also indirectly responsible for Jack’s recent restful slumber.

Unly checked his notes and continued. ‘She was with him when he rang the police station at about 11pm. She heard him tell the cop on the phone that he had solved the cryptic letter. She said when he got off the phone Matt mentioned that the police were going to call him back later that night. Matt was apparently devastated when the police didn’t call him back.’

Jack shrugged. ‘He’s a big boy…He’ll get over it.’

‘She said Matt got up early the next morning and went to the police station before work. And that’s pretty much it,’ Unly said.

‘Good. All consistent with what we know. What about her? What do we know?’ Jack said.

Unly’s eyes dropped back to his notes. ‘Ah…’ He turned a page, scanned it quickly, and then turned another page. ‘Ah…Clean skin,’ Unly said. ‘She’s a widow. Works from home in her own business as an accountant. Apparently services clients in the greater Jersey area.’ Unly continued. ‘She owns a light blue 2004 Mazda, but Matt doesn’t drive - he doesn’t have a licence yet.’ Unly closed his note book. ‘That’s pretty much it.’

‘OK, good job.’ Jack returned his chair to the upright position. His eyes fell to his desk. In a moment of contemplation the image of Amber’s lifeless body lying under the tree like discarded trash flashed into his mind. He suddenly remembered he was still waiting for test results.

Jack’s focus returned to Unly. ‘Can you chase up the results with the ME and CSU re yesterday’s body,’ Jack said. ‘They should have something for us by know.’

‘OK.’ Unly rose from his chair and exited the office.

Unly’s partner, Debbie Johnson smiled at Unly as they passed one another at the doorway to Jack’s office.

Debbie waited for Unly to finish his meeting with Jack before bringing Jack’s mail to him. She placed a small pile of envelopes of varying sizes onto his desk, smiled at him and said, ‘Mail’s in.’ She flashed another pleasant smile then exited the office.

Jack sighed as he leaned across his desk and picked up the pile of envelopes. He slid the top envelope from the pile, predicted what it was about and dropped it onto the desk. He repeated the action for the next envelope in line. The third envelope caught his eye. It was a manila envelope and was larger than the others. The branding gave away what it contained.

His focus briefly shifted to the whiteboard as he dropped the remaining envelopes onto the desk. He ripped into the manila envelope and peered inside. His large sausage-like fingers reached in and slid out the contents. It was not a delivery he eagerly expected, but it was one that had to be received.

Jack pushed himself away from his desk and exhaled loudly as he walked over to his white board. He attached the ten by eight inch photo of Amber he just received to the whiteboard, beside the first two victims. It was an enlargement from Amber’s DMV photo.

He stood for a moment and stared at the picture. His shoulders were noticeably rounded. The photo was symbolic of his inability to prevent Amber’s murder. It was a feeling of failure that he still struggled to accept.

Jack stood back and rubbed his chin as he scanned the mounting collection of photos. Each girl displayed a 'before' and 'after' image. One image was happy and smiling at the camera lens, while the other, a gruesome crime scene photo, depicted the girls shortly after their bodies were discovered.

Moving in what appeared to be slow motion, Jack picked up his white board marker from the board’s narrow tray. He lifted his eyes to Amber’s photo and paused briefly while he rubbed a thoughtful hand across his forehead. He then recorded the relevant known details relating to Amber’s murder underneath the copy of the 3rd cryptic letter.

When he was done Jack stood back and again examined the photographs. His anger and frustration escalated. Intense anger rapidly replaced his overwhelming disappointment. Like an erupting volcano the rage and frustration surged from him in torrents.

He pivoted away from the white board and pitched the white board marker at his office wall, like he was delivering a fast ball from the mound at Yankee Stadium.

‘FUCK!’ he yelled through gritted teeth. The white board marker bounced off the wall. The cap separated from the marker and flew off in a different direction.

Jack’s determined focus shifted to his desk. He briskly walked over to it and opened the top drawer with an aggressive pull, causing it jam and shake as he tugged it open. Reaching inside he removed his service revolver and slammed the drawer closed. A loud thud resonated. The drawer contents rattled and bounced about inside.

In almost robotic fashion he proved his weapon. He slipped out the magazine, catching it as it fell. He checked to ensure it was full with rounds. He tapped the magazine lightly on the side of his pistol to ensure the rounds were lying flat. With a sharp thrust he palmed the magazine back up into its housing. A firm ‘click’ reassured him it was securely fitted.

He pulled back on the slide and peered into the barrel to ensure a round wasn’t chambered. He was good to go.

As he glanced around his office he lifted the tail of his untucked shirt and slid the barrel of his pistol down the back of his jeans. It was time to get some fresh air, and a change of clothes.

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