The Cryptic Killer

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Chapter 15

Rosie’s was a great place to unwind after a day’s heavy workload. Fourteen houses and who knows how many miles they drove in one day, interviewing vehicle owners. It was taxing on the two Detectives.

Seated at their usual place at the bar, Jack and Spence were joined by four other members of their crew Pete, Debbie, Ryan and Mark who also felt the lure of a quiet beer at Rosie’s at the end of a hard day was too good to refuse.

The bar was alive with patron numbers nearing maximum. The atmosphere was charged. Movement within the bar was limited without involuntarily bumping into someone, but no-one seemed to mind. The normally audible background music playing in the bar was drowned out by the raised voices of party conversation amongst alcohol affected twenty to thirty somethings.

Rosie had six girls and herself working frantically behind the bar to keep the thirsty and impatient customers hydrated. Patrons stood as many as four deep leaning over and between other patrons trying to convince the bar girls to take their order next.

Jack found watching the efficiency with which the girls worked behind the bar entertaining for some reason. The precision with which they prepared drink orders that only seconds before were screamed at them over a crowded bar, was fascinating to watch. On occasions they pulled down a beer from the tap with one hand while simultaneously pouring a shot with the other, all without one drop being spilled and achieving the perfect head on the beer.

The pace of the night limited the amount of time Rosie could spend with Jack, but it was great for her business. Whenever Jack had a number of work colleagues in with him Rosie usually kept away anyway, in case they wanted to talk shop, which cops invariably did. Rosie returned at intervals to top up their drinks.

Rosie and Jack spent most of the night exchanging suggestive glances and smiles at each other on the occasions when Rosie was able to lift her eyes in Jack’s direction, or refill their drinks.

Jack and Spence discussed their day with their colleagues, the highlight of which they both agreed was the marriage miss-match of the McDougalls. The more alcohol Jack and Spence consumed, the more alluring and beautiful Mrs McDougall became, and conversely, the more unappealing and nerdy her little husband became.

Their short lived humor, for tonight anyway, was at Barry McDougall’s expense. That was until Spence put it all into perspective in his usual sarcastic offering, ‘Yes…poor ol’ short, fat bald-headed Barry… It must be tough being a multi-millionaire with a gorgeous young trophy wife. Probably doesn’t know what his net worth is, living in his twenty million dollar mansion, one hour’s drive from the city. Oh, not to mention his six luxury motor cars, nothin’ under eighty grand... How does he cope?’ Spence grinned as he raised his glass then took a sip.

‘Hope he had a good pre-nup,’ Jack said then raised his glass and took a sip.

The Cryptic Killer investigation dominated their topics of conversation that evening. All shared the frustrations that Jack experienced, with the only difference being, this was personal for Jack. For some unknown reason the callous killer directly involved Jack in each of the murders by sending him the letters.

The killer had to know that if Jack failed to decipher the codes in time, or at all, he would feel the victim’s death was on his hands. The killer must be someone who knows Jack very well. He must know exactly how Jack would feel, and how he would react. He must know his failure to save the victims would consume him both mentally and physically. But surely this couldn’t be his only motive for the killings. There had to be something else that the Detectives had missed.

Alcohol fueled discussions turned to what the team had tried and not tried in the investigation to date. They had trawled the social media sites, Internet blogs and video postings looking for anything that could provide them with the slightest hint of a clue, or a lead as to the killer’s identity, all without success to date.

Jack knew that with the meticulous care and planning the killer had shown in the three murders to date, it suggested that he would not be so careless as to post anything incriminating in the sordid world of social media.

The investigation considered Jack’s previous collars. This included those who had been released from prison prior to the first letter being received. They even tried associates and family of previous collars. They considered offenders with prior convictions for offences against prostitutes, or offenders with anything similar to the killer’s MO, but nothing came up that suggested they were even close to the elusive and Machiavellian Cryptic Killer.

'What if we get a 4th letter Jack…what’s your plan with that?’ Spence asked.

Jack was in the process of raising his glass to take a sip. He paused and lowered his glass. He glanced at Spence. 'When…When we get a 4th letter…’ Jack said, then took a sip.

Spence nodded his agreement. ‘True…I suppose we have our secret weapon though,’ Spence said.

'We do…But he’s only able to tell us where the body will be dumped, not where the victim will be taken from. I want to catch this prick in the act, before he kills, not when he is dumping another body into our laps,’ Jack said.

The wear and tear of the investigation started to show. Some days Jack looked like shit. He looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks, or eaten a decent meal in ages. He looked like death warmed up.

Exactly what this killer was doing to Jack’s health was the unknown. Jack was a fighter, the toughest around and he wouldn't give up until the killer was caught, but at what cost.

To free up Jack and Spence’s time tomorrow Pete and Debbie offered to visit the remaining five owners on the list of luxury vehicles in the New York area, so Jack could conduct follow-up inquires at the Waldorf Astoria.

The time approached midnight and only Jack and Spence remained at the bar from their work group. Rosie’s bar was still jumping and the crowd had only thinned slightly. Spence decided that he too was heading home.

Jack looked over at Rosie to consider his options. She was midway along the bar still serving her patrons. She was so focused and committed to her bar responsibilities it was too hard to predict when things would moderate, so he decided that he would also call it quits for the night.

Spence reached into his pocket to retrieve payment for the tab. Rosie didn’t normally charge the guys for their drinks, but when there was so many of them from work, Jack couldn’t expect Rosie to cover their tab.

Jack raised his finger to Spence. He then reached into his shirt pocket and removed some bills, flicked off a single Benjamin and threw it onto the lower level of the bar counter. He lifted his eyes along the bar to Rosie, but she was still too engrossed in her work to notice he was leaving. Jack looked back at Spence then lifted his chin towards the exit door.

Both men bumped and shuffled their way through the reveling crowd, which seemed to obligingly open up in front of them as they walked and quickly close up again behind them as they made their way to the exit.

Rosie looked up over the queue of customers, still three deep and noticed Jack leaving. She managed to catch his eye as he turned for the last time to look at her before he exited into the street. Rosie raised her hands out to her side. With a shrug of her shoulders she mouthed the word “Sorry.” Jack smiled and nodded back to Rosie. She blew Jack a kiss and quickly returned to serving her impatient thirsty customers.

It had been many nights since Jack woke in fright from his recurring nightmares. But unbeknownst to Jack, for some reason it was about to happen again...

It was an unseasonably hot sunny day for March. The breeze was gentle as Jack drove across the Brooklyn Bridge in his silver BMW convertible. The top was down to take in the glorious sunshine and fresh air.

The traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge had come to a standstill. He stood up in his car, resting his hands on the top of his windscreen. His scanned the roadway ahead seeking an explanation for the delay, but all he could see were vehicles stretching as far as the eye could see.

Pedestrians on the bridge’s elevated walkway were gathered half way along, peering over the side to the roadway below at something catching their attention.

He could hear voices yelling and screaming but he was unable to discern where they were coming from. Sensing he could offer some assistance he jumped from his vehicle and ran to where he thought the noise came from.

Jack stopped dead in his tracks when he saw what confronted him; an horrific single vehicle accident scene in the middle of the bridge. Crowds of onlookers had gathered. People were standing around yelling and pointing. Women were screaming and children were crying.

The bridge’s protective barrier was broken with protrusions jutting outwards from the bridge. The small red car that had earlier lost control and crashed through the barrier sat teetering precariously over the bridge edge.

The two rear wheels were the only part of the vehicle having contact with the bridge. The rest of car pointed downwards to the blackness of the East River below. The front drive wheels were still spinning from the jammed accelerator. The engine roared.

A fractured piece of the bridge’s barrier was wedged under the passenger side rear wheel arch and prevented the car from plummeting into oblivion.

Suddenly, it was night time. Street lighting illuminated the crash scene. Stinging torrential rain pelted into Jack’s face at a forty-five degree angle.

The prevailing winds high on the bridge approached dangerous hurricane levels. Jack scanned the vicinity. The crowd of onlookers was gone. The bridge was now completely empty; not a car in sight. The blanketing rain had further reduced visibility.

Jack held onto an undamaged portion of the bridge railing and leaned over the edge. His free hand continually wiped the flooding rain from his drenched eyes. He shielded his eyes from the pelting rain as he looked down into the stricken vehicle through its smashed rear window.

The sole occupant of the vehicle, a young woman, had scrambled her way to the back seat. She looked up at him. Fear and desperation filled her eyes. The car creaked and rocked slightly and slipped down several inches before coming to rest again.

The sole occupant of the vehicle grabbed at the seat in a nervous reaction. For the moment that mangled bridge barrier held on, but for how long in this driving wind?

Jack locked his arm around the undamaged railing on the bridge and slid himself as far forward as his shoulder joint would comfortably allow. He reached out his massive hand to the woman, beckoning her to grab his hand.

Her terror filled eyes locked onto Jack’s eyes, silently pleading with him to help her. The wind buffeted the pelting rain into his face and eyes making his rescue attempt all the more difficult.

The woman stretched and reached with everything she had. She lunged upwards and locked onto Jack’s hand with both her hands, clinging for her life to his extended lifeline. The sudden upward movement unbalanced the car. It creaked and moaned then it dislodged and slowly slid from the bridge.

Within seconds the car plunged downwards, disappearing into the darkness below. The woman, still holding onto Jack’s hand, slipped straight out through the broken back window as the car plummeted.

Once clear of the falling vehicle Jack’s hold on her caused the woman to swing in towards him. Her body crashed into the side of the bridge with a muffled thud. The impact forced one of her hands to lose grip. She now hung for her life by only one hand, the other hand flailing about as her body turned and twisted in the torrential conditions.

The driving rain drenched Jack’s face. His eyes blurred from the unrelenting flow of water. With no free hand to clear his vision, he shook his head to flick off what water could while he hung on as tight as he could. The woman also tried to hang on, all the while looking up to him. Her eyes pleaded not to let her fall.

His rain drenched hand struggled to maintain purchase on her grip. His desperation increased. He could feel the woman’s body weight pulling her down. He tried to better his grip but that only caused the woman to slide further from his grasp.

Regardless of how hard his huge hand squeezed her small hand, she continued to slide slowly through Jack’s hand. He hung on with all his strength. He screamed out for help from anyone that could hear him. But no-one came. The woman continued to slowly sink further through his grip.

In desperation he hooked his fingers upwards as a last ditched effort to save her from slipping away. No matter how hard he tried to grip the woman’s hand, his wet hands just couldn’t hold her any longer. It was like gripping a bar of wet soap. Despite every ounce of energy and strength he could muster, the woman slipped free from his grip.

Her expressionless face stared back up at him. As if in slow motion, she slowly sank away into the darkness below him, before completely vanishing from sight.

‘NOOOOOO.’ Jack screamed at the top of his voice. His feeling of helplessness was overwhelming as the woman disappeared from view.

Jack sat bolt upright. His breathing was heavy. His pulse raced and the Adrenalin coursed through his veins. His heart thumped through his chest. Perspiration dripped from his forehead into his eyes. He looked around his room trying to recall where he was.

After a few brief seconds Jack slumped back heavily onto his bed cupping his hands to his face. He had just experienced yet another vivid nightmare episode. It was another dream where a woman’s life was literally in his hands, and once again, he failed to save her life.

As he calmed down he realized the woman’s expressionless face staring back at him from the ill-fated car in his dream was Amber.

Jack took a moment staring at the ceiling above his bed. His eyes were wide open without the slightest suggestion of tiredness. Trying to get back to sleep was futile after such an intense and graphic nightmare. His mind still raced, along with his pulse rate. The glowing red digits on the alarm clock beside his bed reminded him it was still the middle of the night; 2.09am.

Jack swung his feet to the floor. He sat there for a moment resting on his knees with his head cupped in his hands.

After a brief pause he stood up from his bed and stretched his arms above his head. He slowly dragged his feet into his kitchenette. His exhausted body shuffled as if his feet were too heavy to lift.

He lifted a glass from the sink, upended it and shook it a few times, then grabbed a half empty bottle of bourbon and poured himself a drink.

The first two shots did not touch the sides. After he poured his 3rd shot and raised it to his mouth, he paused. Here he was at 2am seeking temporary comfort from a bottle of bourbon. He shook his head then drained the third shot. He poured his next and lifted it to his lips. He paused again. This time he lowered the glass and examined the contents.

All the anger, all the frustrations Jack had experienced suddenly manifested into overpowering rage that bubbled up inside him. It took control and he was powerless. In an explosive crescendo to his raging fury he sprung from his chair and pitched his drinking glass directly across his kitchen, sending it crashing into the wall.

Shards of glass fragments exploded in all directions, releasing the glass contents into a vertical spray pattern up the wall.

Jack was a sorry sight as he sat with his head in his hands while he tried to calm himself down. He decided it was fresh air he needed to clear his head, not bourbon shots.

Jack needed to take a stroll. He quickly pulled on his track pants and donned a hoodie before making his way down to the street.

Jack wandered aimlessly, without purpose or direction. The night air was cool and it wasn’t long before he realized his hoodie probably wouldn’t be suffice in keeping him warm. He draped the hood over his head and threaded his hands into the hoodie’s front pockets and pressed on.

Before long he found himself strolling along The Esplanade at Battery Park. The tempting lure of a riverside park bench for him to sit and gather his thoughts was too strong to resist. Jack lounged with his feet outstretched and his hands buried into his hoodie pockets. He stared out across the Hudson to the splattering of lights over on the Jersey side.

The tranquil flickering of the lights was entrancingly peaceful. Jack could feel the rage seeping out of him as he reclined on the bench.

After thirty minutes of sitting and staring, his mind was blank. The thoughts from earlier in the night were a distant memory. His walk and the exposure to the fresh night air had served its purpose. The cool breeze off the river reassured him that it was time to return home.

It was 4.30am before Jack finally returned to bed after cleaning up all the glass fragments from his apartment floor.

Jack awoke to music blaring from his alarm clock radio. Jack rolled over to his left and squinted with one eye, the only eye he was able to open. 7am. He flicked the switch to silence the radio’s din before collapsing onto his back.

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