With her bus approaching the intersection with 15th Street Emma pressed the “Next Stop” button. The familiar ‘Ding’ registered her request. In preparation she slid her butt to the front of her seat, picked up her back pack and sat it on her lap.
Twenty-five minutes on a public bus, although a convenient way to get to and from school, was about all she could tolerate.
The bus jolted to a stop releasing the sound of air gushing from the brakes. After a brief pause the middle exit doors sprung open. Emma stood in line with the other alighting passengers waiting for her turn to exit. The bus conveniently stopped right at the top of Stuyvesant Town leaving only a short stroll to her apartment.
As she stepped from the bus onto First Avenue to commence her short stroll home her senses were awakened by the tantalizing aroma wafting from her favorite Chinese restaurant. She immediately considered what options she had in her apartment for dinner tonight. She eventually succumbed to the enticing odors and bought some Chinese takeout on the way home.
By the time she arrived at her apartment she was salivating in anticipation of her ready-made dinner. She placed her keys into a bowl on the kitchen bench and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge. She moved to her lounge room, turned on the TV and sat back on her couch with her legs crossed, enjoying her Chinese takeout while catching up on daily events on the evening news.
With her stomach now full she started to relax as she reclined back onto her couch. She could quite easily take a nap right now, but she only had about one hour before she had to get ready for work. So snoozing, despite how tempting that sounded, was not an option.
Instead, to keep moving and stay awake, she decided to tidy up after dinner. Her empty Chinese food container and chop sticks were discarded into the kitchen trash and the empty water bottle went into her recyclables bin. She looked around her apartment to check she had everything. That was easy, she shrugged.
On her way to her bedroom she turned off the TV and turned on her CD player, opting to leave whatever CD was in there from the last time. The dulcet tones of Bruno Mars thumped from her speakers. Emma sang and danced along as she ran herself a bath. While it filled she went about laying out her work clothes for tonight.
With the bath full she poured herself a glass of red wine before returning to the stream-filled bathroom. She lowered herself into the soothing hot water. She exhaled gently in the tingling sensation of the hot water on her skin. The thick layer of soft soapy bubbles rose up under her chin as she reclined back into the tub. Emma casually sipped on her wine as she savored one of life’s simple pleasures.
It was a little after 6pm by the time Matthew Curry finally arrived at the station and was escorted up to the Homicide squad room. Spence met him in the Bull Pen and relieved the uniform officer of his escort duties.
After shaking hands Spence thanked Matt for coming down on such short notice and told him to take a seat while he spoke to the boss.
Jack was on the phone when Spence leaned in though Jack’s office door. Jack held up one finger to Spence, then pointed to the chair at his desk. Spence slid into the chair opposite Jack.
Jack hung up the phone a short time later. ‘What’s up?’
‘Matthew Curry’s here. Do you want to bring him up to speed?’
‘Sure, bring him in.’
Spence returned to Jack’s office almost immediately with Matthew in tow. ‘You remember Lieutenant Jack Head,’ Spence said.
Jack eagerly pushed himself away from his desk, like he was excited to see Matthew – which of course he was. He quickly walked around to Matt’s side of the desk with his hand extended to Matt. Matt accepted the gesture with a single shake. Greetings were exchanged.
‘You remember the letter you deciphered for us a few weeks ago…’ Jack said. Matthew nodded in response. ‘Do you think you could do that again?’
Matthew stared blankly back at Jack, then his gaze shifted to Spence. His single eyebrow was raised in an expression of clear confusion. ’What…you want me to decipher the same letter again…?'
Jack looked at Spence then frowned. ‘What…No…Look…sit down.’ Jack indicated the visitor’s chair at his desk.
Matthew calmly lowered himself into the chair and looked up at the standing Jack and Spence.
Jack perched himself on the front of his desk beside Matthew with his arms crossed as he spoke. ‘Are you interested in helping us again with some more code breaking?’ Jack said.
‘Absolutely.’ His eagerness overflowed.
‘Good. This may take some time. Do you have any plans for tonight?’ Jack asked.
‘No, no I’m good.’
‘Now,’ Jack said firmly. He leaned in towards Matthew. ‘What you are about to see and hear is part of an ongoing murder investigation. It cannot leave this building. Do you understand?’
‘I completely understand,’ Matthew said. ‘Nothing will be said. You can trust me.’
Jack placed his hand on Matt’s shoulder. ‘Good to hear….Now do you need to call your Mom to tell her where you are?’ Jack asked.
‘Yeah, I probably should.’
‘OK use that phone out there.’ Jack indicated the phone out on Spence’s desk. ‘Let your Mom know we will drive you home when you are finished.’
Jack shifted his focus to Spence. ‘Get him an outside line…’ Spence nodded.
With the formalities out of the way Jack and Spence took time to update Matthew on the receipt of the 4th letter and how it appeared to be similar to the letters Matt previously decoded.
Jack told Matt that the literary quote was from a different English author this time: a Samuel Butler. Matt didn’t know this author or his novels. Jack arranged for Spence to get a copy of the letter for Matt and set him up in the first interview room with a lap top. Jack told Matthew to keep him updated after he solved each part of the letter.
It took Matthew less than three minutes to answer all the cryptic clues and five minutes to work out the coordinates and enter them into the Latitude and Longitude Finder website to reveal where the clues directed them to.
Matthew smiled when he poked his head out from the interview room. ‘Excuse me, Detective Spencer…’
Spence’s head lifted to the voice. ‘Yep…’ Spence must’ve noticed the grin. ’Ya done already..?’
Matt nodded. ‘The first part…I’ve worked out the book store…’
Spence pushed himself from his desk and stood. He beckoned towards Matt. ‘Come. Let’s let the boss know.’
Spence and Matt strolled into Jack’s office. Jack looked up from his reading to his entering visitors.
‘Matt has solved the first part,’ Spence said.
Jack looked to Matt and smiled; a rare sight indeed from such a serious man. ‘What cha got for me Matt?’
’I’ve solved the crossword clues and put the numbers into the latitude and longitude finder, and the clues are directing you to Barnes and Noble book store at 555 5th Avenue.’
Jack checked his watch. It was just after 8pm. ’If Matt is to break the code tonight, we need that book,’ Jack said to nobody in particular. He sounded desperate.
‘Most stores will be closed for the day by now, Jobs,’ Spence said.
‘I know… that’s what worries me.’
Jack tapped Barnes and Noble into Google on his desktop computer and drummed his fingers on the desk waiting for the results. ‘OK, their website says they are open until 9pm on Thursday nights.’ Jack again checked his watch. He lifted his desk phone and dialed the book store.
Jack slammed the receiver down and slid open his desk drawer. ’They have a copy of The Way of the Flesh,’ Jack said as he lifted the car keys. ‘And they’re expecting you…’ Jack lobbed the keys to Spence, who caught them with a snatch.
‘If you take the FDR and get off at East 42nd Street you can be there in about fifteen to twenty minutes,’ Jack said. ‘I’ll order us some takeout to be delivered while you are gone.’
Emma toweled herself dry after her bath and then stood in front of her mirror examining and even admiring her form. She turned to her left and checked out her flat stomach and profile, and then to her right to check out her well-toned butt.
She turned to face away from the mirror and peeped back over her shoulder admiring her fit naked body from the rear. All looked good.
Her figure was quite alluring. She had long shapely legs, a tight firm athletic butt, and a narrow waist with well-toned abdominals. She had natural voluptuous breasts and a gentle tan. Her pubic hair was cleanly waxed, but that preference was not her own. For reasons unknown to her, many men were excited by females with waxed vaginas.
She wound her long strawberry-blonde hair into a tight bun and then moved into her bedroom to dress into her work clothes, in readiness for her shift. Her choice of uniform for tonight was a small red leather Bolero jacket. The jacket sat open to expose a black leather push-up bra that intentionally revealed and accentuated her ample cleavage.
She also selected a snug, form fitting red leather mini skirt from her wardrobe and a pair red platform thigh-high boots. She was almost ready.
Next she moved to her dresser and removed a black long haired wig from her mannequin-head wig stand. With a well-practiced move she slipped on the wig and maneuvered it into position.
Instantly she transformed from an attractive strawberry-blonde into a seductive, black haired beauty. She then fitted her red leather Bolero cap onto her silky black hair, clasped on a black leather choker with an array of chains cascading down the front of her chest and she was set.
The baggy sweats and hoodie wearing university student had transformed into her alter ego; a Greenwich Village Street Hooker known by the pseudonym ’Nikki’. She even amazed herself at how different she looked in the black wig.
Coming from a lower socio-economic family background, raised by a single parent, Emma was not able to rely on her mother to pay for her University tuition. The only way she could study law was to fund it herself.
She quickly realized that waiting on tables, or working in retail stores for minimum wage would not pay for her college tuition, let alone rent or food. A university friend of hers, who had since graduated, also worked the streets to pay for her tuition and persuaded Emma to try it as a way to fund her University expenses. Emma tried it and had never looked back.
She did not do drugs and by her choice, she only worked on the busy nights: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, which worked in well for her because her Fridays were free from lectures. About one third of her clients were regulars from her Facebook page and the others were ‘walk-ups’ found during the night.
The tricks of the trade were learned very early on. The more erotic and seductive she was dressed, the more excited the Johns were. The more excited the Johns were, the quicker it was all over. She intentionally never carried any bills with her so she was not able to give change to the Johns. She also carried extra pairs of panties, most of which she bought for the purpose, because some men, particularly her Japanese regulars, asked to buy her panties as souvenirs.
Twenty percent from all her takings was paid to her pimp, LeVander, which increased to 30% on weekends. LeVander was normally a casual guy, but he was not averse to hitting females. Rip him off and he would inflict a relentless barrage of physical pain to punish the transgression and breach of trust, as well as to deter recidivism.
He did so comfortable in the knowledge that street hookers do not report assaults from their pimps at the risk of being busted themselves.
Unbeknownst to LeVander, Emma charged much more than the prices he set for his Hookers; a very risky practice indeed. But she was gorgeous, clean and incredibly sexy. Most men looking for a hooker gravitated towards her, and were happy to pay her prices.
Emma earned between $1000 and $2000 a night from which she was able to adequately cover her University fees, her apartment and still lived very comfortably.
Her biggest fear was not LeVander, whom she believed she could manage. Her fear was being busted for street prostitution and the consequences of such a prior conviction when pursuing a law career.
She often recalled the time she was caught up in a police sweep of street hookers. The arresting copper could see she was not like the others and took a liking to her. When she convinced him she only did it out of necessity to pay for her University tuition, he was sympathetic and let her go with a warning to be careful in the future.
For reasons unknown to her the same copper now alerted her via text messages when planned raids were occurring in her neighborhood. He asked for nothing in return.
After a short cab ride to her street corner in Greenwich Village she was ready for the long night ahead.
The delivery of Italian take out arrived at the station around the same time Spence returned from Fifth Avenue. Jack and Spence enjoyed a feed of gnocchi pasta, while Matthew devoured a large pepperoni pizza.
Once dinner was out of the way Matthew adjourned to the interview room to decipher the letter with the assistance of the book by Samuel Butler. Mathew studiously worked through the pages of the book locating the words identified in the code.
In less than five minutes the puzzle was complete. Matthew had deciphered the message in the cryptic killer’s 4th letter.
His face struggled to contain the beaming smile as he moved towards Jack’s office to tell him the news.
‘Are you done already?’ Spence asked as Matt approached.
Matthew didn’t need to respond. He just beamed a proud smile back at Spence, which was as articulate as any spoken word.
Jack sat at his desk reading when Spence and Matt entered his office. He lifted his eyes to his visitors. He noticed both men had pleased expressions. Jack removed his reading glasses and held them in his hand as he sat back in his chair. His eyes flicked from Spence to Matt and back.
Spence grinned. ‘He’s all done Jobs.’
Jack checked his watch. ‘You’re kidding…that’s fantastic.’ Jack gestured to the chair opposite.
Matt slid into the chair. Spence perched himself on the front of the desk.
‘Well, what can you tell us…?’ Jack said.
Matthew appeared to take great enjoyment in explaining the message he had deciphered. ‘As suspected, the message was similar to the 3rd letter,’ Matt began. ‘Using the coordinates uncovered in the code I was able to establish what the killer’s message was…’ He lifted his notes and read, ’the next body, a hooker, will be found in Madison Square Park with her neck broken. Same deadline of forty-eight hours was provided,’ Matt said.
Jack and Spence exchanged a glance. A simultaneous grin emerged on their faces.
‘Great job Matt,’ Jack said. ‘You have no idea how helpful you have been. You might just have saved someone’s life…’ Jack said.
Matt’s smiling eyes shifted from Jack to Spence.
This was Jack’s first real breakthrough. He now had a small conduit into the killer’s mind. Had the killer’s complacency caused him to slip up? The killer would not have expected them to crack the code? Cautious enthusiasm slowly replaced Jack’s excitement. He now knew the location where the body would be dumped. He next had to work out a contingency to try and prevent the murder occurring.
He glanced at his white board, at the three sets of eyes staring directly back at him. This time he confidently held their gaze. This time he was worthy to look them in the eye. He was not going to be responsible for the death of another girl. There was no way he was adding another photo to this collection.
Jack pushed himself from his seat and stood. He rubbed his hands together. ‘We gotta get you home Matt,’ Jack said as he opened the top drawer and lifted the car keys.
‘Want company for the ride back Jobs?’ Spence said.
‘Why not,’ Jack said.
On the return trip both considered the option of a night cap at Rosie’s. But the closer they came to the city, the less interested they became. Instead they called it a night.