Both men were pictures of concentration as they perched their butts on the side of Jack’s desk. Both had their arms folded tightly across their chests and both stared intently, but silently at the white board in Jack’s office.
It had been four days since Emma Fisher channeled her jungle survival skills and eluded the Cryptic Killer, and still they hadn’t heard anything from him. No follow up letter. No further abduction attempts of street hookers. Nothing.
Jack considered the injury must have been severe enough to put him out of action for a considerable period. CK had gone off the grid.
Jack and Spence discussed how the failed murder attempt would have affected the perp. The profile they had for him was that of a narcissist who didn’t like to lose. With Emma eluding him, she beat him. They were uncertain how he would react. And with the humiliation of the injury she inflicted on him, it would be difficult for his personality type to accept.
Consistent with the first three murders, the perp failed to leave anything that would incriminate himself. ‘The reason the perp took the clothing items left in the park by Emma was to ensure they didn’t contain his DNA,’ Jack said.
Forensic examinations from the Audi A6, Emma’s clothing, the surrounds of the parking lot and the vehicle recovery site all failed to locate any usable evidence. The phone the perp used to contact Wylie to arrange the vehicles was a disposable burn phone. All leads had once again hit a dead end.
All the planning, all the effort, all those man hours around the Operation and Jack still failed to expose the perp, or worse, prevent him picking up a hooker – Emma.
The photo-fit IDs from Emma and Wylie were similar in many ways. Copies had been released to the media and were being run in newspapers and TV news bulletins. Jack also released the fact the suspect could have an injury to his groin. Anyone aware of someone with such an injury was requested to contact the police. The net was being cast wide, but this guy was very, very good.
‘Thank god we don’t have to put Emma’s picture up there,’ Jack said to Spence as they continued to deliberate over the white board.
‘Anyone’s picture…’ Spence corrected. ’Thank god we don’t have to put anyone’s picture up there Jobs,’ Spence said. ‘About time we got a break…We were well overdue,’ he added.
‘Yeah true…but I think it was Emma that got the break - not us…We are no closer to catching this guy,’ Jack said. He lifted his chin to the whiteboard. ‘I look at this board every day,’ he said. ’I re-visit the evidence every day in case there is something that I am missing and I’ve got nothing, Spence…absolutely nothing.’
’Don’t beat yourself up Jobs… We now have a photo-fit description of what he looks like. Those distinctive sharp blue eyes. Large stature. Articulate and charismatic. Someone out there must know someone like that…Plus…we have not one…but two people who can positively ID him now. That’s better than anything we have had before. The only ones that could ID the killer before this are looking at us from that whiteboard.’
‘OK. Where to from here?’ Jack asked himself out loud. Jack rubbed a hand over his chin. ‘Will the killer accept a failed murder attempt…? Will he move on to a 5th letter while the 4th remains unfinished? Or will he attend to loose ends. Will he try and finish off what he started and hunt down Emma?’ Jack said to himself out loud. ‘You’re right though Spence - She knows what he looks like. That makes her a real threat to him.’
’I can’t see him sending a letter, boasting in code that he was going to kill a hooker – “catch me if you can,” then try and fail. He won’t be content to just walk away and leave it at that with an “oh well” blasé attitude… I can’t see him doing that Jobs.’
‘Agree…’ Jack said. ’He won’t just move on to letter number five like nothing happened. His credibility, his reputation, his ego have all been questioned. Imagine the embarrassment someone like him would feel. He can’t send a new letter until this 4th one – Emma, is taken care of.’
’Should we put an around the clock on her?’ Spence asked.
‘The Gnome would never approve it. We just have to make her aware that she needs to be extra careful…. She’s switched on...she’ll be OK.’
Easter was a busy time with hundreds of thousands of people migrating across the country to spend time with their families, that is, those that have someone to spend the period with. For Jack it was just another Saturday. His de-facto family are his work colleagues, but on the weekend, this Easter weekend in particular, they would all be spending time enjoying the company of their own families.
The morning was clear and fresh, with a gentle breeze blowing, swirling at times among the inner city buildings. As Jack exited his apartment building he made his obligatory assessment of the street for any perceived risks; anything out of place that could suggest an ambush.
Satisfied all was clear he glanced up at the sparse scattering of clouds and inhaled a lung full of New York air as he headed off on his morning run.
Working as a Homicide cop exposed him to some of the most dangerous and vindictive criminals in the country. Vicious street gangs the likes of MS-13, 18th Street Gang, Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings, as well as prison gangs the likes of Trinitarios and the Aryan Brotherhood. All were merciless people who placed no value on human life. They would not think twice at the revenge killing of the cop who incarcerated their brother, father, friend or colleague.
Jack accepted nothing in his life could be routine. Everything had to change around so his routine couldn't be established in case of contract hits. Things such as his daily run paths, when he did his shopping, the time he left for work, the time he walked home, the way he walked home, everything had to differ from the day before. His spatial awareness was sharper than most, but routine was what would get you killed in his line of work.
Today Jack opted to run down to the East River, along the bike tracks, down around Battery Point, up the Hudson bike tracks and back home. He checked at his watch. It was 9.30am.
He pressed his stopwatch and sent the timer racing as he plodded off.
For Jack these runs were therapeutic. They cleared his head and oxygenated his brain. The scenery was pleasant and the endorphin release helped relieve his stress levels.
For the duration of the run at least, he forgot about the things that weighed him down. He forgot about the things that ate away at his health; things like the elusive Cryptic Killer.
For the next hour or so the only thing on his mind, apart from the music feeding through his earphones, was the rhythm of his breathing in harmony with his pacing.
Twenty minutes in and Jack had hit his rhythm. His stride was long and strong. A Velcro strap securely tethered his mobile phone to his bicep. Its music player fed his headphones with his selection of tunes to run by.
Without warning the song he mentally sang along to was interrupted by his mobile phone cutting in and chirping in his ears.
He briefly considered answering it, but decided whoever it was could wait. He wasn’t on call this weekend, so they could leave a message until his run was over: This was his time.
Less than twenty seconds later his music was once again interrupted by the chirping of his mobile in his ears. He again ignored the call.
‘Fuck me,’ he said to himself, as the unforgiving tone of his phone chirped in his ear for a third time. It must be important for someone to ring three times and not leave a message. Jack took the call, while he continued to jog. ‘Jack Head,’ he puffed.
‘Thank God Jack I’ve been trying to get you all morning…’ The clearly distressed voice on the other end exclaimed.
Jack frowned. ‘Lynnie…?’ Jack asked. Although now divorced, he knew every one of her emotions learned from over twenty-eight years of marriage. This one worried him. The obvious distress in her voice was serious. He stopped running. ‘Everything OK?’ His eyes darted. He could hear crying on the other end of his phone. ‘Lynnie, for God’s sake what’s wrong…? Are you alright?’ he asked.
‘It’s Maxie, Jack…he’s…he’s...’ Her voice broke down as she became overcome by emotion. Her body shuddered and prevented her from articulating any discernible words.
The two uniformed officers who came knocking at her door had just delivered the most devastating news; news that every parent dreaded. Their somber faces expressed more than any spoken words to her could; the only question was who…?
‘What about him…Lynnie…What about Max?’ Jack asked. The pit of his stomach grew heavy.
‘He’s dead Jack…He’s dead,’ she blurted.
Jack’s mouth fell open. His shoulders slumped. The color instantly drained from his face. He stared blankly ahead. ‘What are you talking about? How?’ Was all he could muster as his words jammed around the lump forming in his throat.
‘Car accident… They said he was passenger in a car that collided with a truck. He’s gone Jack…He’s gone and he’s never coming back… Oh my God… Oh God,’ her voice faded off.
Jack stumbled to the side of the track. His legs struggled to hold his weight. He unknowingly crossed in front of other track users, unaware of the evil glares he received as they were forced to take evasive action to avoid colliding with him.
His eyes were fixed into a blank stare. His face was devoid of any discernible emotion while the sounds of Lynne’s heart wrenching cries resonated through his earphones.
Although estranged from his family for many years, Max was still his son; his oldest boy. He was still the same son, that tiny bundle of joy he so proudly cradled in arms, wrapped tightly in the securing comfort of a blanket only minutes after he entered the world. The son who was an adult version of the little boy smiling so happily in the picture he so proudly carried in his wallet.
Jack swallowed hard. He took a breath. ‘Where was the accident Lynne…? Are you there?’
‘California…’ Caitlyn said. ‘He was only over there for work Jack,’ she said. ‘He was only over there for work…’
This was too much for him to process; a death message over the telephone. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem true. Jack rubbed a hand across his mouth. His face filled with lines of concern. ‘I’m coming over…I’ll be there as soon as I can,’ Jack said.
Years of investigating murders, some bodies too gruesome to recall, never worried Jack; it was all part of the job. It was always someone else’s family. But the thought of one of his own family – his son, tore at him.
The thought of him lying there with a “Y” shaped incision on the chest of his pale and lifeless body broke Jack. The impenetrable facade Jack had erected over all these years now started to show signs of cracks. His eyes started to well up. It was a feeling he had not experienced since he was a small boy, so he fought to fight it off, to conceal it, in case he was noticed by anyone showing weakness.
Jack was raised by a tough disciplinarian. His father was a giant of a man, not unlike Jack’s build, and he was tough to Jack and his three brothers. He was a laborer, a man’s-man, who believed it was a sign of weakness for a man to show emotion- any emotion.
“Real men don’t cry and they don’t show fear, boy”. His Father’s words still resonated after all these years.
When disciplined, if Jack, or his brothers cried as young boys, his father would always say, “You gunna cry are ya…? Then I’ll give you something to cry about” and he would hit them again - only harder. They learned very quickly to suppress their emotions.
His Dad always said “Father’s don’t hug their sons coz men don’t embrace other men, unless they’re homosexual. They shake hands and they shake hands firmly – like a man”.
Years of this narrow-minded way of thinking and mental abuse taught Jack to conceal his true feelings. He learned to hide any emotion, happy or sad, to avoid incurring the condescending wrath of his father.
Jack’s father didn’t see it as abuse. It was the way his Father brought him up, and he turned out alright, or so he thought. It was the way a Father should bring his boys up. It was the only way Jack’s Father knew how to turn his boys into men – real men.
Unfortunately for Jack, all this suppression and concealment of emotion he had developed through his youthful years contributed to the failing of his marriage and the estrangement from his boys. He loved them with every piece of his being, but his father made sure he stripped Jack of the ability to show it. He stripped Jack of the ability to let them know he loved them unconditionally. In the case of his boys, they simply had no idea because Jack didn’t know how to show it.
The front door swung open and Caitlyn flung herself at Jack. She wrapped her arms around him and nestled her head into his large chest as she let it all out. She cried so hard her body bounced in his arms.
Jack fought hard to stave off his own tears. He couldn’t cry in front of Lynne. He had to be strong. But his emotions gurgled inside him, like a volcano waiting to erupt.
A few shots of whiskey each and a strong coffee later and Caitlyn and Jack sat in her lounge room discussing the circumstances of the accident, as relayed to her by the police.
‘How’s Dan handling it?’ Jack asked.
‘He’s devastated. He’s lost his best mate. He looked up to Maxie, Jack.’ Caitlyn’s eyes lifted to Jack. ‘Please don’t take this the wrong way…but Maxie was the father Danny never had.’ Jack’s head fell forward. Her frank honesty cut close.
‘Where is he now?’ Jack asked.
‘He’s staying at his girlfriend’s place.’ She dabbed her eyes with the drenched tissue she had scrunched up in her hand. All Jack could do was nod his understanding.
Jack stayed with Caitlyn most of the night to keep her company. He wouldn’t admit it to himself, but he also stayed so he too had company.
Caitlyn regaled Jack with anecdotal tales of the happier times with Max. Sadly, they were all new stories to Jack. It was as though he listened to stories about someone else’s child.
She talked about her happy memories from before and after the marriage split.
It was all they talked about; Max’s short life. Whether they realised or not it was therapeutic for the both of them.