The Cryptic Killer

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Chapter 16

,With only three or so hours sleep under his belt, the sight of his office this morning was less inspiring than normal. Especially after a night on the drink and a moon light stroll along the banks of the Hudson.

Jack peered through weary bloodshot eyes as he studied the enlarged map of Lower Manhattan that was attached to his office information board. The map had three red pins and three blue pins firmly pressed into it. The red pins represented the locations where the victims were last seen after leaving with a trick. Pieces of string from each red pin linked it to a corresponding blue pin that indicated the site where the bodies were dumped.

The concentration of murders was in the Lower Manhattan area, with the exception of Amber, who went missing from Chinatown, but her body was discovered on the opposite side of the East River in Brooklyn. This location was still in close proximity to the grouping of pins.

Jack’s experience with murderers had taught him that a killer of multiple victims would often subconsciously commit their crimes within their comfort zone, that was, areas that were close to where they lived or worked.

Jack knew that if the killer was consistent with taking hookers from New York’s more prominent red light areas, his theory suggested that Tribeca, or to a lesser degree, further north in Greenwich Village could be the next targets. Murray Hill and Midtown appeared too far north to fit the pattern.

Jack stared at the map so intently he failed to notice Spence enter the office. ‘Have you got something?’ Spence asked.

Jack turned to the approaching Spence who held a café brewed coffee in each hand. ‘Thought you could do with this, Jobs.’ He handed Jack a coffee.

‘You’re a lifesaver Spence,’ Jack said.

Given the night he had, Jack had not been able to fit any breakfast in to his morning routine, or even buy a coffee, and the unappealing coffee they offered at the station was like sump oil.

Jack took a sip from his fresh hot coffee and paused to savor the taste explosion and warming benefits.

‘I want to head down to the Waldorf this morning…You available?’ Jack asked.

‘Cool, yeah sure. I’m there,’ Spence replied.

Jack paused briefly in a moment of contemplation before he spoke again, ‘Maybe we can stop off for some eggs along the way…I’m starving,’ Jack said then sipped on his much needed coffee.

It was only a short drive to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel following breakfast. The Detectives arrived and were greeted by the day shift Duty Manager, who introduced himself as Duncan. He was a thinly built, clean shaven man with short dark hair and over exaggerated camp mannerisms.

Duncan’s hand shake was like holding a dead fish; weak with no strength at all in his limp grip. Jack was a man’s-man and believed that a handshake should be firm and strong. In Jack’s world you judge a man’s character by the handshake he exchanged. And Duncan dismally failed the character test.

Once the Detectives’ identities had been confirmed to Duncan’s satisfaction and the purpose of their visit was explained, he took the Detectives to his office located immediately behind the front reception desk. In the office he had electronic access to the hotel’s guest records.

Duncan tapped on his computer keyboard with a serious expression of concentration. Jack and Spence watched on.

From his computer records Duncan confirmed that Mr. Barry McDougall was a guest at the Waldorf Towers for three nights from 15th to the 17th.

‘He checked out on the 18th,’ Duncan confirmed. ‘He stayed in one of the Grand Suites - room 4514.’

At Jack’s request Duncan printed out the electronic security records that listed every occasion when Mr. McDougall’s room was accessed via an electronic room key.

Jack examined the printed list before realizing the listings only recorded access, not egress.

‘Well of course…’ Duncan began in his camp voice. ‘Mr. McDougall didn’t have to swipe his key to exit his room…’ Jack and Spence exchanged a silent glance.

Jack scanned the records. ‘The records for the 16th show that Mr. McDougall’s room was accessed four times. The first was at 10.30am,’ he said.

‘That was probably house cleaning staff preparing the room after the previous guests checked out,’ Duncan explained.

Jack nodded. ‘The room was also accessed at 1pm.’

‘Mr. McDougall is a VIP guest and the 1pm access would have been by the Duty Manger to ensure Mr. McDougall’s room was in order prior to his arrival,’ Duncan said.

‘I take it the 2.30pm access would have been McDougall moving into his room…?’ Jack said.


‘There was a further access at 6pm and another at 9.15pm,’ Jack noted. ’Nothing further on the 16th.’

Duncan returned his focus to his computer and began tapping at his keyboard. After a quick search he said, ’Mr. McDougall had a reservation for one at 8pm in our hotel restaurant. Records indicate…’ he said tapping more keys as he spoke, then pausing to wait for the computer screen to refresh, ‘he took that reservation and his meal was charged to his room.’

‘So it is fair to assume the 9.15pm entry was McDougall returning from his meal,’ Jack said to nobody in particular. He kept reading the list. ‘Records for the 17th show nothing until 7.30am, at which time his room was re-entered.’

Duncan again accessed guest records. ‘Mr. McDougall attended for breakfast in the Astoria Lounge at 6.30am. I would say the 7.30am access was him returning after breakfast,’ Duncan said.

Jack thought for a moment before offering his considerations. ’These records can’t conclusively demonstrate McDougall spent the night in his room after 9.15pm,’ he said. ‘Hypothetically…’ he continued, ‘if he had exited the room at any time after 9.15pm, it wouldn’t show on any records. If he didn’t return to the hotel until 6.30am for breakfast, the exit records wouldn’t be any different would they?’ Jack said.

‘No, I suppose not,’ Duncan replied in his familiar effeminate voice. ‘But where would he stay if he wasn’t in his room?’ Duncan asked naively.

Where he stayed is not the issue right now,’ Jack said. ’It’s if he stayed here that night.’

‘Do you know if Mr. McDougall garaged a vehicle when he stayed during 15th -17th?’ Spence inquired.

Duncan tapped at his computer keys pausing to monitor the results. ‘Ah…Mr. McDougall’s vehicle was Valet parked. So to answer your question – yes,’ He said in his overt campness.

‘Is there CCTV footage of the 45th floor hallway outside McDougall’s room?’ Jack said.

‘Yes there is.’

‘What about the garage…? Are the entries and exits covered?’

‘They sure are. And so is the garage internally.’

’Would the footage still be available from the 16th and 17th?’

‘Sure would. They keep the footage for thirty days before erasing. If you follow me gentlemen I’ll take you down to the security room…They will be able to answer any of your questions regarding security camera footage.’

The restricted access Security Monitor Room was a small dark room about the size of the average bedroom. It was located in the hotel basement and was only accessible from the sub-level garage.

The incandescent light radiating from the three twenty inch flat screen monitors provided diffused lighting for the room. Positioned above the three monitors were six smaller ten by eight inch monitors, all of which were assigned the various fixed cameras positioned throughout the hotel; mainly over the entrances and restricted access areas.

The Security Room was permanently manned by one security officer who utilized a keyboard and toggle stick to operate the pan-tilt-zoom cameras. The operator could rotate the cameras 360 degrees, zoom in and out and follow guest activity. Using the unique numbers assigned to every camera in the hotel the operator could key the camera number into the keyboard and call up any camera within the building to one of the larger monitors at the desk.

Every camera recorded 24-7 and all recorded footage was digitally date and time stamped for security purposes; including everything that was manually assigned to any of the three large monitors at the officer’s desk.

Shelving units housing banks of computer hard drives were located in a room immediately adjacent the monitor room.

The CCTV footage from the hallway of the Waldorf Towers 45th floor clearly showed the doorway to McDougall’s room. The security officer called up the footage from the 16th and fast forwarded it to the times listed on the print out provided by Duncan.

Footage they reviewed depicted McDougall entering his room at 9.15pm and he did not leave the room again that night. Footage from the morning of the 17th showed him exiting his room at 6.25am and returning at 7.30am. The fact he was in his room all night exonerated McDougall from any direct involvement in the murders.

Jack asked the Security camera operator to call up the garage exits for the morning of the 17th from midnight onwards. At 2am McDougall’s car was depicted exiting the garage onto 50th Street. The fixed camera was unfortunately too far away to identify any facial features of the driver. Fast forwarding through the footage, McDougall’s luxury black Mercedes was recorded returning at 4.30am.

Jack lifted his eyes to Spence before asking the Security officer, ‘Did Mr. McDougall report his car stolen, tampered with, or any damage to his car at any time during his stay?’ Jack asked.

The Security officer tapped on his keyboard to check his list of incident reports on his computer records. After searching through a short list he advised that there was no such report made by Mr. McDougall.

‘Then the vehicle’s key had to be used to access and drive McDougall’s vehicle.’ Jack rubbed a thoughtful hand across his chin stubble. Did McDougall give his keys to someone…? Were his keys stolen and returned…? These were points he would have to clarify with McDougall.

Jack asked the security guard to call up the camera footage of the area where McDougall’s car was parked, to see if they could identify a person getting into McDougall’s car.

The Security Officer punched in the unique numbers for several cameras, calling them up one after the other to view their coverage, but none covered the area where McDougall’s car was parked.

‘It is impossible to cover every square inch of the garage by CCTV cameras,’ the guard said. ‘The area where McDougall’s car was parked within the garage was unfortunately in one of those few locations where the CCTV cameras do not cover: a blind spot...’

Jack rubbed his chin.

From the review of footage no-one was seen approaching the car, yet the car was captured on video driving out of the parking space towards the exit. The footage suggested someone approached the vehicle from this apparent camera blind spot.

‘That can’t be a coincidence,’ Jack mumbled. ‘This person had to know where the camera blind spots were within the garage. Who had access to these cameras…?’ Jack said. ‘Who would know what coverage these cameras had?’

‘Only Security Staff and Hotel Management have access to the monitor room to view camera footage, usually following the report of an incident,’ the Guard said. ‘Events such as a guest who had a trip and fall, a pickpocket theft, theft from rooms, a troublesome guest and guests collapsing from illness, such as a heart attack are all recorded for the protection of the hotel.’

‘What if a car is Valet parked. Where are the keys kept?’

’Central Parking operates the Waldorf’s Valet garage parking. They will be able to help you with that, but I’m pretty sure the keys are secured in a locked cabinet,’ the Guard said.

‘Does anyone from Central Parking ever enter this room and view CCTV footage?’ Jack said.

‘Um…’ The Guard thought for a moment. ‘On occasions the Supervisor might come in to check the garage footage if there was a complaint by a guest that their vehicle was damaged while parked.’

Jack nodded.

All relevant viewed CCTV footage was subsequently copied onto a disc and handed to Jack.

From the Security Room Duncan escorted the Detectives to the Central Parking Valet team located at the Hotel’s 50th Street entrance. At that location he introduced them to the on duty team supervisor, Brenton Wylie. Wylie was an overweight twenty-eight year old male with flushed cheeks. He was articulate and appeared well educated.

It didn’t take long before Jack realized that Wylie was full of his own importance. He was an over-confident egotist with an obvious, yet inexplicable superiority complex.

‘All VIP guests of the Waldorf Towers, such as Mr. McDougall, use this discreet entrance off 50th Street where they have access to private elevators to their upper floors,’ Wylie said. ‘If they have a vehicle it is valet parked for them.’

‘Do you know who parked Mr. McDougall’s vehicle in the garage when he arrived on the 15th?’ Jack asked.

‘That responsibility would be assigned to someone from day shift, but I am unaware at this juncture as to who parked it,’ Wylie said.

‘Who decides where the car will be parked in the garage?’ Jack asked.

‘Parking space availability determines where a vehicle will be parked within the confines of the garage,’ Wylie replied as if he was quoting verbatim a rule, or by-law. ‘Once the vehicle is parked the keys are assigned to the corresponding hook in the key cabinet?’ Wylie gestured to his right.

Jack scanned the vicinity. ‘The Key cabinet…?’

‘That’s correct. The key cabinet,’ Wylie said. ‘It is organized to mirror the garage floor plan. For example, when a car is parked in a particular spot in the garage, say parking bay C7, the vehicle’s keys are hung on the corresponding hook for C7,’ Wylie explained.

Not exactly rocket science. His cynical gaze moved to Spence as Wylie explained. His dislike for this person grew by the minute. Something about this guy rubbed against Jack’s grain.

’OK…So where is the key cabinet?’ Jack was direct.

Wylie escorted the Detectives to a small inlet just east of the hotel lobby entrance and indicated a locked black wall-mounted cabinet about three feet by two feet. Jack watched as Wylie used a key attached to a retractable cord on his belt to unlock the cabinet. He opened the cabinet doors and proudly showed the Detectives how the keys were arranged in the cabinet.

The front door of the cabinet opened outwards to the right and a second internal door then opened outwards to the left, giving a winged effect to the cabinet that exposed a number of vehicle keys hanging on hooks.

‘Who has access to the keys that secure this cabinet?’ Jack said.

‘Only the Shift Supervisors…and yes it is always locked,’ Wylie added.

Ignoring his arrogance, Jack lifted his eyes towards the ceiling. There was a fixed camera mounted on the ceiling to record the key cabinet.

Wylie must’ve noticed Jack had observed the camera. ‘That’s right…’ Wylie said in anticipation. ‘We have the key cabinet recorded 24-7. After all, we are responsible for some very expensive motor vehicles.’

Jack’s focus returned to Wylie. He paused briefly with a look of exasperation. He then turned to Spence and whispered quietly an instruction for him to head back to the CCTV room and view the camera that recorded the key cupboard.

Jack addressed Wylie as Spence disappeared back down to the Security Room. ‘Can you tell me who was in charge of the cabinet key on the night of 16th and into the morning of the 17th?’ Jack said.

Wylie watched Spence depart. When Spence was out of sight Wylie removed a manila folder from the key cupboard. He ran his eyes over the contents of the folder containing records for past shifts.

His eyes lifted to Jack. His response was over-dramatized. ’It appears that I was working night shift during that period,’ Wylie said.

Jack’s eyes thinned as he regarded Wylie, trying to convince Jack his surprised reaction was genuine.

‘Did you allow anyone access to the key cabinet, or give anyone Mr. McDougall’s keys at any time during your shift on the 16th or 17th…?’ Jack asked.

‘Absolutely not.’ Wylie was adamant. He punctuated his comment by slamming the manila folder closed between his hands. His tone suggested he was offended by the insinuation.

Jack’s dislike for Wylie continued to grow exponentially. Something about this guy did not sit well with Jack. Jack responded firmly. ’CCTV footage from your cameras shows Mr. McDougall’s vehicle being driven out of the garage via that exit there…’ Jack motioned towards the closet garage exit, ‘at 2am in the morning,’ Jack said. ‘They are the facts…The vehicle was seen on the footage returning at 4.30am,’ Jack said. ‘Yet you tell me the keys to his vehicle never left that locked cabinet.’

‘Absolutely correct. Maybe his car was stolen…Maybe he gave someone his spare set of keys. I don’t know,’ Wylie said. ‘Maybe you should ask Mr. McDougall,’ he said.

‘Oh we will…’ Jack said. ‘That you can be sure of.’

Although it was an emotion that was completely foreign to Jack’s character, he decided that discretion was the better part of valorat least for the time being. He allowed Wylie to think he held the upper hand, which in reality however a clever ploy by Jack.

He was confident there would be a round two of questions for Wylie, and he opted to keep his powder dry for the moment.

Jack recorded Wylie’s full name, address and contact details before he left to meet up with Spence down in the CCTV room.

Spence had just concluded his reviews and was exiting the room as Jack arrived. As they walked back to their vehicle Spence updated Jack on his review.

‘It looks like the camera was moved and then returned,’ Spence said. ’Up until 1.54am the fixed camera recorded the key cabinet and its immediate surrounds uninterrupted. At 1.55am the recording shows that the camera was moved upwards, to the right so the key cupboard was no longer visible. The camera then recorded the white ceiling.

‘At 4.35am the camera was returned back to its proper recording position covering the key cabinet. The camera does not capture who moved it on either occasion,’ Spence said. ’I had the Security Officer check the entrance and surrounding external fixed cameras to see if he could identify anyone walking to the Valet inlet, but this too proved fruitless.’

‘I don’t like that fat prick,’ Jack said. He held strong suspicions Wylie was possibly involved in some way. ‘He knows more than he is letting on,’ Jack added. ‘You know he was the minder of the cabinet key on the night McDougall’s car was driven out of the garage.’

‘That would not surprise me at all,’ Spence said.

During the drive back to the office Jack summed up what was learned from the Waldorf. ’The vehicle suspected of being used in the 3rd murder, McDougall’s Mercedes, was taken from a car parking space that was conveniently out of view of any CCTV cameras. McDougall did not leave his room all night and quite possibly did not know his car was gone. This would be confirmed when McDougall was able to be interviewed.

’The driver of McDougall’s car did not appear to try and conceal his face as he drove it out of the garage, presumably because he already knew the camera was too far away to distinguish facial features and characteristics.

‘The camera that recorded the key cabinet was moved shortly before McDougall’s vehicle left the garage, obviously to prevent the person accessing the vehicle’s keys from being detected on CCTV footage. The camera was returned to its proper viewing position shortly after the car returned. The suspect driver was then able to exit the garage and avoid being caught on any CCTV cameras. He would require knowledge of the camera blind spots.’

‘I forgot to mention…’ Spence began. ’Just out of curiosity, I asked the Security Officer to bring up the footage for the same time from the night before and the night after the 17th. As expected the camera did not move at all during those shifts.’

Jack shook his head. ‘Someone who works at the Waldorf with a knowledge on what the CCTV cameras depict is either our killer, or is in some way helping our killer…That you can be sure of,’ Jack said.

‘My money’s on that fat prick Wylie,’ Spence said.

‘What we need now is for Barry McDougall to come in for a chat,’ Jack said.

No sooner had Jack’s words left his mouth when his mobile phone began ringing. Jack retrieved the phone from his inner suit jacket pocket and answered the call.

‘Jack Head…Good…yep…that’s right.’ Jack looked across to Spence. His beaming smile suggested good news. ‘OK, we’ll be five minutes.’ Jack disconnected the call and returned his phone to his pocket. ‘Ask and you shall receive,’ he smugly said, wobbling his head.

‘Don’t tell me money man McDougall is at the station now,’ Spence said. Jack’s smug smile was the only response Spence needed.

Both Detectives made their way up from the under building garage to the Police station front counter. Jack had a brief chat with the Desk Sergeant.

The Sergeant indicated a short plump gentleman wearing thick glasses sitting in the front row of chairs in the pubic waiting area. ‘Says his name is-’

‘Barry McDougall,’ Jack finished the Sergeant’s sentence.

The Sergeant smiled. ‘Correct. Apparently you wanted to see him.’

‘Thanks,’ Jack said in his usual uninformative manner.

Jack made his way to the public side of the counter and walked across to the public waiting area. As he approached he caught the eye of McDougall, whose reaction suggested he anticipated it was Jack walking over to him.

‘Mr. McDougall…?’ Jack said.

McDougall stood to his feet. He smiled and extended his hand. ‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘You must be Lieutenant Head.’

Jack responded to the gesture and the gentleman shook hands. McDougall’s hand was small, like a child’s and plump. Jack’s massive meat cleaver hand completely engulfed the smaller man’s hand.

The painting hanging over the fireplace in McDougall’s sitting room flattered how this guy appeared in real life. He was a short, corpulent man with the top of his balding head only coming up to Jack’s chest. His male pattern baldness contributed to the appearance he was much older than his fifty-six years. The thick lens of his dark framed glasses magnified his eyes to twice their actual size. Life does not imitate art in this case.

‘You met my wife yesterday, I think it was,’ McDougall said to open the conversation, ‘and she told me you wanted to see me.’

‘That’s correct,’ Jack said. ‘Thanks for coming down.’

Jack extended his hand towards the interior of the police station. ‘If you could accompany me please,’ Jack said as he began to walk towards a door situated to the side of the front desk. ‘Did you drive down here this evening?’ Jack asked as they walked.

‘I did. I am on my way back home after I finish here.’

‘Is your car parked out the front?’ Jack asked.

‘It is…Is that OK?’

Jack raised his hand. ‘Yes, of course. It’s fine.’ Jack wasn’t concerned about where McDougall had parked his car, he was interested in the car and what evidence it may contain.

Jack escorted McDougall to an interview room usually utilized for compiling witness or victim statements. These were separate rooms to the intimidating interrogation room. Spence met them in the room a short time later.

Jack explained to McDougall why the police wished to speak to him. McDougall confirmed that he was in New York City from the 15th to the 17th.

He also confirmed that he drove his black Mercedes to the Waldorf Astoria hotel where he stayed. He told Jack that his Mercedes was Valet parked when he first arrived and he did not use it again until he checked out on the 18th. His business meetings were all in close proximity to the hotel so he traveled by foot, cab or subway.

Although diminutive in height, McDougall’s voice was deep and assertive. He was in no way introverted or nerdy. He spoke with confidence and implied power in his voice that suggested corporate leadership and strength. He was clearly a clever and intelligent man that commanded respect. He was a short alpha-male personality and for some reason, Jack developed a liking to him.

McDougall confirmed that he did not lend his Mercedes keys to anyone, nor did anyone have permission to use his car while he was staying at the hotel.

He didn’t notice anything different about his vehicle when he drove it after he checked out from the Waldorf.

He was incensed when he found out his vehicle had been driven by someone while he was staying at the hotel. He informed the detectives that he intended to make a formal complaint to hotel management. He was horrified when told his car may have used in a homicide to transport a body. But the Coup de Grace was when he was told that his vehicle was evidence in an ongoing homicide investigation and it would have to be impounded while forensics examined it for evidence.

‘That was one week ago from what you’re telling me...’ McDougall said. ‘There won’t be any evidence in the car now…will there?’ His confident tone faded with his uncertainty in these areas. ‘I’ve been driving it all this time.’

‘If you are the only driver of your vehicle, and you haven’t taken passengers, or used the trunk much, then there could still be some vital evidence in your vehicle,’ Jack said. ‘We won’t know until we take a look. We will also need to take some elimination fingerprints from you so we can identify any of your finger prints in your vehicle.’

A detailed statement was taken from McDougall. His black Mercedes was moved to the forensics’ garage for examination while his elimination fingerprints were taken.

McDougall stood bent over the wash up area scrubbing his fingertips trying to remove the residual black fingerprint ink stains from his fingers. He glanced over his shoulder to Spence. ‘If my car is able to assist you in your investigation, then I don’t mind, really,’ he reassured. ‘If you require my car for a day or two it’s OK. I have some work I can do in the city. I just need my overnight bag from the trunk. I always carry changes of clothes in the event that my work causes me to stay longer than anticipated,’ McDougall said.

Once all the formalities were completed Spence escorted McDougall from the back-of-house area to the police station front foyer. McDougall rejected Spence’s offer for a lift anywhere. As they shook hands prior to parting ways, McDougall told Spence that although he was slightly inconvenienced by what had happened, he was happy to help in any way he could and hoped his information was useful to them.

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