The Cryptic Killer

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Chapter 23

With the exception of the occasional static crackling over the airwaves, the operation’s radio channel remained silent. Jack started to concede that with every minute that passed, the chances of another victim before the night was out increased exponentially.

Jack couldn't help but rue the missed opportunity. If the team from the 14th did their job, the perp would have been caught by now. Instead, he was still out there.

As the darkness started to give way to the new day, Jack still had an ace up his sleeve. The killer didn’t know they had cracked the code and would be waiting for him if he tried to dump his latest victim. While it won’t save the girl, the perp won’t get away with it. Jack checked the time: 5am

‘It should’ve been back by now,’ Jack said thinking out loud. ‘And Fourteen haven’t called to advise…unless they missed it. If the car hadn’t returned, maybe he was still out there and hadn’t killed his victim yet.'

‘Maybe he needs the fat fuck to help him return the car…Maybe the perp couldn’t find Wylie so he panicked and dumped it,’ Spence said.

Jack nodded. 'But he would have to drive by the garage to look for Wylie and Unit Fourteen would’ve…should’ve jumped on him,’ Jack said.

‘You’ve got Wylie’s phone. There haven’t been any calls…?’ Jack said, as a question rather than a statement.

Spence checked Wylie’s mobile phone. ‘Nope.’ He shook his head. 'No calls or text messages.’ He returned the phone to his jacket pocket.

Jack flicked the back of his hand towards the front of the vehicle, ‘Let’s go to the Waldorf.’

Following a high speed five minute drive Spence pulled in behind Unit fourteen’s vehicle. The team were maintaining their vigil over the garage. Jack sent Spence in to review the CCTV footage of the garage entrance, while he went to talk to the Detectives.

Phil looked as though he had just woken up as he wound down his window to Jack. ‘Long night…?’ Jack said as he squatted down on his haunches by the open window.

‘You’ve got no idea,’ Phil said.

‘The black Audi hasn’t returned…?’ Jack said as a question.

'There hasn’t been one car return to this garage since midnight,’ Phil moaned.

Jack remained in his squatting position as he cast a curious eye east and west along East 50th Street while he considered his options.

‘OK, Thanks.’ He tapped the window sill twice as he stood up. He crossed the street on his way to the hotel security room to meet Spence.

The guard buzzed Jack into the restricted CCTV viewing room. Spence watched on as the guard fast forwarded the footage on the main monitor.

‘Nothing so far,’ Spence updated.

‘That’s it,’ the security guard said. ‘We’re now up to current time.’

Spence caught Jack’s eye and jabbed his head towards the door. Jack nodded.

Spence tapped the guard on the shoulder as a sign of gratitude, ‘Much appreciated,’ Spence said and they left the room.

Once clear of the Security room Spence said, ‘The vehicle never returned. I think we should drive around the area…The chances are he's dumped the car nearby.’

‘Doesn’t make sense…What about the body?’ Jack said. ‘He doesn’t return the car until he has dumped the body.’

‘We don’t know that he hasn’t, Jobs.’

Jack lifted his portable radio and contacted his units positioned at Madison Square Park for an update. The response he received quickly reassured him that no vehicle had entered the park from any direction, and in no way was a body dumped on their watch.

Jack shrugged. Nothing seemed to make sense. ‘OK, let’s go for a drive,’ He motioned in a circling action indicating the immediate vicinity of the Waldorf.

Spence drove east along East 50th Street, turned right in Lexington Avenue and right again into East 49th Street. As expected, the streets were deserted as most of the general population would be experiencing REM sleep at this time before rising to face the challenges of the new day.

While slowly cruising up E49th Spence pointed up ahead towards the sole vehicle parked about two-thirds along the street. It was a black Audi A6, parked parallel to the left curb.

Jack checked the details he was earlier handed by Unit Fourteen. ‘That’s it,’ he said. Jack scanned the street. ‘Something’s not right…none of this fits the profile, or MO.’

Spence pulled up behind the vehicle. His car’s high-beam illuminated the abandoned vehicle. With guns drawn both men alighted from their police vehicle and cautiously approached the Audi.

Jack’s eyes were fixed solely on the Audi’s interior, in case someone was armed and lying down in the car. Spence scanned around the immediate area in case of a planned ambush. As a team they knew one another better than any married couple, and each knew their respective role to ensure each other’s safety.

Jack inched along the side of the car, peering cautiously inside. As he reached the driver’s door he lifted his eyes to Spence and shook his head. ‘Empty,’ he said. Both men quickly scanned the immediate area looking for movement, or anything that was out of place: There was nothing.

Jack returned his torch light to the vehicle’s interior. There was no property, or anything appearing out place. He was mindful of the effectiveness of imported vehicle’s alarm systems so he gently tried the door handles. The vehicle was secured. He briefly rested the back of his hand on the vehicle’s bonnet. He then moved to the vehicle’s front grill and held his hand in front of it.

‘It’s been here a while,’ Jack said. 'This doesn’t fit Spence. Why is the car dumped out here and not returned to the garage…? And if he dumped the car…where did he dump the body?'

Is there a body?' Spence said.

‘Well, his letter mentioned there would be a body tonight…And based on the three previous letters…’ Jack said, ‘we have to treat the threat as genuine.’

Spence walked around the Audi. His torch light searched under the car for any incriminating evidence that may have been inadvertently dropped. He stopped at the rear passenger side wheel. ‘Jack,’ he called as he reached into his pocket and removed a single latex glove.

‘What ya got?’ Jack made his way over to Spence.

Spence indicated the rear wheel while he positioned the glove loosely in his palm. He reached under the rear wheel arch and removed a set of car keys that were perched on top of the tire. Spence stood back upright and held out the keys enveloped in the latex glove. ‘They’ve obviously been left for someone to pick up the car later,’ Spence said.

‘And Wylie couldn’t pick it up because he's in custody,’ Jack said.

Jack retrieved a plastic bag from their vehicle to seal the keys in the bag for examination at a later stage. He then arranged for a Forensic Crime Scene unit to attend and examine the vehicle and scene for any evidence.

‘At the moment this is only the recovery of a stolen vehicle,’ Jack began. 'We have no information or evidence to suggest it was used in a murder tonight.’

Had Jack been outsmarted once again by this perp? Was this 4th letter a cunning diversion? Could the perp possibly have known they had finally cracked his code? Had the perp read him like the proverbial book and while Jack had strategically deployed resources elsewhere, the perp was able to quietly pounce on his 4th unsuspecting victim?

A “black and white” with two officers was assigned to crime scene protection until the Forensic team arrived.

Once clear of the scene Jack and Spence returned to the station to speak to Wylie.

During the drive back to the station Jack checked the time. It was 5.33am. ‘Either we have the profile completely wrong and he has dumped the body somewhere else, which doesn’t make sense, or the letter was a smoke and mirrors cover up and he’s duped us,’ Jack said.

‘Or…he didn’t go through with it for some reason,’ Spence said. ‘Maybe all the cops in the red-light areas served its purpose…you know…spooked the perp…stopped him picking one up.’

Jack shook his head. ‘I don’t know…maybe. I’d like to think so. But something just doesn’t seem right.’

Jack’s gut had never let him down in thirty years of policing. He’d learned to trust his instincts, and tonight, something just didn't seem right. The change in MO suggested that something went wrong. The perp changed his mind, or maybe he was interrupted…or he just never went through with it. Maybe he had fallen ill, or was in an accident. Maybe he was arrested for something unrelated before he could commit the murder. Maybe….maybe…maybe. Jack stopped himself.

Jack thoughts sounded desperate and desperation was a sign of weakness in the world of Lieutenant Jack Head. He had done all he could. He had prepared well and deployed effectively. All he could do now was wait and see if a body was discovered somewhere in the morning light. He would then have to deal with any changes in MO from there.

‘NOOOO!’ Emma screamed as she sat bolt upright. Her muscles had tensed. Perspiration ran into her eyes. She panted heavily like she had just completed a 100 yard sprint. Her chest heaved to drag in what oxygen it could. Her eyes were wide open in fear, as she slowly scanned her environment while her conscious brain limped awake from its slumber.

‘Shit,’ she said, rolling her eyes. She collapsed back onto her sofa in the realization she'd just had a nightmare. She draped her arm across her forehead and lay there staring at the ceiling while she tried to calm the rapid rhythmic pulsing in her chest, temple and ears.

The therapeutic benefits of her hot shower had served its purpose. The hot water had sufficiently relaxed her enough to allow her to doze off on her sofa for a couple of beneficial hours sleep. That was until the visions of her attacker chasing her through the streets invaded her restful slumber.

She glanced across at her large wall clock. The hands on the large roman numerals pointed to 5.50am. She remained for two or three more minutes, still deciding what she should do.

Should she let it go and just move on? What if he did this to someone else? But that’s not her it? What if…, she suddenly stopped herself and sat bolt upright. Her wide eyed stare was fixed straight ahead in contemplation. What if he came back looking for her? He knew where her patch was in Greenwich Village. LeVander couldn’t protect her all the time. ‘Shit,’ she said as her eyes darted.

Her eyes fell to the telephone handset on the floor beside her. She gazed at it for several contemplative seconds. If I don't do this, I will never be able to relax. I will just have to manage the fall out if, and when it happens.

She picked up the handset and promptly dialed 9-1-1. Her mind was made up to call... Wait… Or was it?

Two or three seconds of silence followed before the chirping ring tone pulsed in her ear. After the second ring, her questioning fears once again took control and she promptly disconnected the call.

She stared at the phone in her hand, completely lost in her own confusion. What should I do?

Emma startled when her phone started ringing in her hand. She glanced at the phone’s display. There was no number displayed. Her heart rate rocketed. She cautiously answered the call.

‘Yes.’ She was curt, hoping the caller would feel the strength and confidence in her voice, in case it was her attacker.

‘Hello… ma’am. This is 9-1-1 dispatch, we just received a hang up call from this number. Is everything alright ma’am? Are you OK?’

Emma didn’t answer. She was too busy biting down on her lip to suppress her emotions.

‘Are you in any danger ma’am?’ The concerned female voice on the other end inquired.

Emma took a breath. ‘I’m OK,’ she said ‘I…I… just changed my mind.’

‘What is your emergency? Can we still help?’

‘No…I’m good,’ she said. Her tone sounding more abrupt that appreciative.

‘Ma’am don’t answer me straight away, Just listen to my voice… Is someone there preventing you from talking to me?’ the operator asked.

‘No…no it’s not…I…I…’ Emma’s words trailed off as a wave of emotion engulfed her. She broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. Her body heaved in spasms with each sob.

The compassion and concern coming from the anonymous voice on the phone broke down the flimsy defensive wall she had slowly been erecting over the past three hours.

‘Ma’am are you alright…? Do you need the police...? Ma’am…? Ma’am?’ The concern in the operator’s voice grew louder. ‘Ma’am… ARE YOU ALRIGHT?’ The voice rose to a yell.

Emma positioned the phone back to her ear, exhaled loudly and informed the operator that someone had tried to kill her earlier tonight. She was safe now, but didn't know what to do.

The 9-1-1 operator remained on the phone talking to Emma, calming her to ensure she was safe; safe from intruders and safe from herself as the operator skillfully elicited the circumstances of the night’s events.

Emma told the voice on the phone everything. She was someone Emma had never met, but that didn’t stop her revealing all that had happened to her tonight. It was like she subconsciously tried to purge all her fears to the sympathetic ear on the other end of her phone.

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