The Cryptic Killer

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Chapter 6

Jack and Spence were due to finish their regular day shift sometime in the evening of the 16th. They were rostered to return on the 17th for their usual 8am start. But the 17th would be too late.

With the deadline looming from the inferred threat in the recent cryptic letter, neither man wanted to go home. Instead they opted to work through the night, assisting the night shift crews by proactively displaying an increased visible police presence around the city, particularly the sleazy underbelly that emerged after dark.

Although not used to working the graveyard shifts, Jack noted the city was busy with vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Everywhere Jack drove around the bustling city, the vivid images of the first two victims were with him, burnt indelibly into his conscious mind.

To Jack, working through the night was a suitable trade-off - the lesser of two evils. By working all night he avoided another night of interrupted sleep from the recurring night terrors he had experienced since he started receiving these cryptic letters.

Every night without exception, he woke in fright, sitting bolt upright with a terror filled wide-eyed gaze. He perspired heavily. His pulse raced and his breathing was labored. It would take several seconds to slowly come to terms with the realization that the graphic images were yet another vivid realistic nightmare.

The convincing nightly recurring visions always involved the two girls depicted on his whiteboard, and always in terrifying life threatening situations. Every night it was something different. In one nightmare, one of the girls hanged precariously from a multi story balcony, or another was slipping down eroding cliff tops, or falling into a raging river at risk of being whisked away in the river’s torrent. Any scenario that his mind could subconsciously conjure up to create these life-threatening circumstances was played out in his unconscious state and only he was around to save them. And in each instance, despite his desperate attempts, he always failed.

All his nightly visions involved Jack’s single outstretched hand as he frantically struggled to prevent one of the girls from plunging to her inevitable death. The perspiration on his hands complicated his desperate attempts. As his lifesaving grip invariably failed to hang on, the girl’s pleading eyes looked back up at him while her failing grip slowly slid down his hand, before slipping free and falling.

In his recurring nightmares Jack had to watch in horror as the girls fell from his sight, sinking away into the darkness that quickly engulfed them. The feeling of failure that followed was overwhelming. The feeling he was responsible for their deaths consumed him.

The dreams always concluded with him waking suddenly, usually screaming out as his grip failed and the girl disappeared into oblivion.

Jack was well aware that the frustration and sense of helplessness he felt from the death of the first two victims manifested itself though his dreams. The same feeling of helplessness was evident in all dreams, but he couldn't control them.

Most of their night was spent talking to the girls from the city’s numerous red light districts, much to the chagrin of the girls’ minders, or pimps. The presence of Detectives talking to the working girls was bad for business. Most people in New York could spot a Detective by their cheap suits and stereotypical cop mannerisms and demeanor, especially someone with heightened awareness that was gutter crawling the streets for prostitutes.

Normally Jack and Spence would be mindful of how their presence impacted on the girls’ business, and as a courtesy, even to illegal street hookers, they would try to minimize their interaction to a needs basis. But this night was different. Tonight they had one thing in mind – preventing the 3rd victim. It was difficult for the girls to understand that the sudden attention from New York’s finest was out of concern for their collective safety, especially during this particular night.

Oblivious to the threats surrounding their kind, the girls became infuriated at the presence of Jack and Spence, and their uniformed colleagues and they didn’t attempt to hide their ire.

Verbal abuse and insults from the girls was the norm throughout the night, but for tonight, Jack was forgiving. He understood the streets were busy and the potential for a lucrative evening was high. However as long as the cops remained, the Johns moved elsewhere. But Jack was only interested in deterring one John – the Cryptic Killer.

The early morning sun crowned the horizon. The blanket of darkness that covered the city during a night that felt like it went for an eternity, was yielding to a new day. The shadows that earlier projected from streetlights and the illuminated shop fronts were no longer visible in the morning light.

The hordes of party goers, clubbers, night owls and drunken revelers that previously populated the city streets had gradually been replaced. Thousands of freshly groomed city workers emerged from subways and cabs to fill the bustling sidewalks during their daily work commute.

Jack glanced at his watch. It was 7.30am. He yawned then looked over at Spence. He grinned to himself when he noticed his loyal partner was barely awake. Spence’s eyes were merely narrows slits in his face. His mouth was open and his head leaned against the passenger window.

It had been a long night. Jack considered now that it was morning and there hadn’t been any reports of missing hookers or the discovery of a body anywhere that maybe the all-nighter did the trick.

Jack nudged Spence’s shoulder. ‘Hey partner…how ya doin’?’

‘I’m stuffed Jobs,’ Spence said. He hardly moved his mouth.

‘What do ya think…time to head back,’ Jack said. ‘It’s 7.30 and we haven’t had any reports of missing, or murdered hookers,’ Jack crossed his fingers to Spence.

‘I thought you’d never ask.’

The short stroll from the garage back to the office briefly exposed the Detectives to the fresh, chilly morning air, which provided Jack with a ‘second wind.’

With overcoats folded over their arms they walked through the Bull Pen. Jack’s face wore a rare smile. He felt pleased with himself. His all-night operation appeared to have been a success.

Those from the team who didn’t work through the night had arrived for work and lounged around the Bull Pen ingesting their morning caffeine fix.

Spence followed Jack through the Bull Pen. As Spence passed his desk he lobbed his overcoat onto his chair then followed Jack into his office.

Jack hung his overcoat on the freestanding coat stand behind his door. He ambled over to his desk and unloaded his pistol and badge into his desk drawer before slumping back into chair. The momentum caused it recline back at 45 degrees.

Spence flopped into the chair in front of Jack’s desk. He lifted his feet and dropped them onto the corner of Jack’s desk as he as he lounged back with his fingers locked together behind his head. He was long overdue for bed.

Jack glanced across the desk at Spence; he looked beat. 'Why don’t you head home and get a couple of hours sleep, Spence?'

‘I might just do that Jobs. What about you? You gunna try and catch some zeds?’

‘Yeah, I might,’ he said. ‘This lot can hold the fort while we recharge,’ he lifted his chin towards the morning crew in the Bull Pen.

Neither man had moved when Jack’s office phone rang. Jack's cynical gaze met Spence and rolled his eyes at the irony of the situation. ‘Didn’t wanna go home anyway.’ He lifted the telephone handset.

‘Yes.’ Jack’s tone was intentionally abrupt in the hope the person on the other end would sense his impatience. The caller was Uniform Sergeant, Dave Fox, from the front desk.

‘Yeah Good…What can I do for you…? Aha.’ Jack reached for a note pad and pen.

At the same time someone from the bull pen called out to Spence. Spence dropped his legs back onto the floor and promptly exited the office.

Jack wedged the handset between his shoulder and ear as he scribbled, “Brooklyn Bridge Park – Main Street, in a bush under the Manhattan Bridge,’ onto his note pad. He underlined it several times.

‘How does he know that…?’ Jack asked. ‘He what…?’ Jack’s voice rose in astonishment. 'Bullshit. When…? The whole letter…? So he knows exactly what’s on it…? Well I’ll be…When…? Last night…? I’ll be- Who the hell is he…? Who…?’

Spence re-entered the office while Jack continued his conversation with the desk Sergeant. Jack looked up to Spence and noticed he held a piece of paper in his hand. His arm dangled by his side like the piece of paper was too heavy to hold up. An expression of shock was frozen into Spence’s face.

Jack mouthed the word ‘What…?’ to Spence while Dave continued on the other end of the phone.

Without saying a word Spence dropped the piece of paper onto the desk. It floated and came to rest beside Jack’s note pad.

Jack was too focused on the exciting news he had just received to notice Spence’s note. It was potentially the break he had been waiting for.

Jack continued with his phone call. ‘Why do I know that name…? Aha…Did he…? Who did he speak to…? Is he still there with you…? No. No, I’ll come down…see ya soon.’

Jack hung up the phone. He was excited to share his news with Spence. There was a male at the front desk who claimed to have cracked the cipher on the third letter. But Spence’s forlorn expression started to register with Jack.

‘What’s up…? You OK…?’ he asked. He lifted his note pad in preparation to inform Spence his news. As he did so Jack noticed the note Spence dropped on his desk. He paused while he read the words “Brooklyn Bridge Park – Main Street, in a bush under the Manhattan Bridge” on Spence’s note.

Jack’s eyes lifted to Spence in confusion. He frowned. He lifted Spence’s note and held both notes side-by-side for comparison. His eyes flicked back and forth, from note to note comparing their identical contents.

Both notes contained the same message. His brow dipped. Jack held up Spence’s note. ‘What’s this?’ Jack said.

‘About twenty minutes ago…’ Spence began. His voice broke. ‘At the location I wrote on the note…’ he flicked his finger in the general direction of Jack. 'The third victim was just found at that park. Female…Neck broken.’ Spence’s shoulders slumped. His head lolled to the side.

Jack’s legs gave way and he fell back into his chair. His hands, which still held the two notes, fell limp onto his thighs. His face stared blankly forward in disbelief.

‘It can’t be,’ Jack said. He lifted his note to Spence. 'Dave from the front desk just rang to tell me he has a guy at the desk who apparently cracked the code last night. This was where he said the body would be found…He was warning us…’ Jack lifted Spence’s note. ‘Are you telling me a body has just been found at this same location…?’

Spence nodded. ‘CSU are there at the moment. They have it cordoned off. They want us to attend ASAP.’

‘FUCK!’ Jack’s face turned an unappealing shade of puce. The veins on his neck and forehead bulged. ‘For weeks, no one was able to crack this fucking code and now someone turns up and tells us they have crac — …’ Jack cut himself short. His eyebrows arched high into his forehead. His gaze shifted to Spence. 'What if he’s our guy…?' Jack paused while he processed his comment. 'Think about it Spence…No one can crack this code. Then this guy comes along out of nowhere claiming to have broken it and he tells us where the body will be found. Around the same time the body is found – at that same location. It can’t be a coincidence. What are the chances?’ Jack asked rhetorically.

Spence shook his head. ‘I dunno Jack,’ Spence said. ‘I suppose he has some explaining to do.’

Jack picked up telephone. As he did so, he said to Spence, ‘Get in touch with the unit at the scene and tell them we have the job and we’ll be there as soon as we can.’ Jack then punched the front desk’s extension into the phone. ’Dave, Jack….Is he still there…? Good… Do you have all his details…Good…Have you run them yet…? OK get someone to run them… Coz we do, just run them, OK… Look take him around to the interrogation room, give him a coffee, or a soda or something and tell him someone will be with him shortly…No, the interrogation room,’ Jack emphasized…I know all that…I’ll explain later…’ Jack said. He slammed the telephone handset into its cradle.

Jack stared in disbelief out the window of his office into the adjoining Bull Pen. His face was expressionless, having just experienced an emotional roller coaster ride that would challenge the strongest of characters. He had gone from a considerable high, feeling satisfied with himself that the night’s operation had prevented the 3rd murder, to a higher feeling of excitement at the prospect of the letter’s cipher finally being solved. Only to crash to a sudden and intense low from the realization that another girl was dead. He had failed to prevent the 3rd murder. In an instant, he crashed to the depths of despair

Jack's eyes shifted to the white board, to the smiling faces of the first two victims. He quickly looked away. He couldn’t hold their smiling faces. His head dropped and his shoulders rounded in a helpless feeling of failure. It was clear that the direct and implied pressures of investigating the Cryptic Killer case were starting to take its toll. Cracks were starting appear in what was once an impermeable façade.

The sound of Spence’s voice snapped Jack back into reality. 'We going to see this guy in interrogation Jack?' Spence asked. 'You OK buddy?' Spence placed a comforting hand on Jack’s shoulder.

‘Yeah…,’ Jack nodded. ‘Yeah I’m good. Let’s do this. I need a brew though to give me a kick. Let’s get one on the way down.’

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