The Cryptic Killer

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Chapter 7

Desk Sergeant Dave Fox was already in the interrogation observation room when Jack and his team of Detectives arrived. He stood at the observation window with his arms crossed watching the suspect through the reverse side of the two-way mirror.

Dave welcomed Jack with a ‘Hey’, complete with a lift of his chin, before returning his gaze back into the adjoining interrogation room.

The interrogation room was a rectangular room with dark colored, sound proof walls. It was intentionally unwelcoming to its occupants. There were no windows and only one door. The centrally located lighting was deliberately low. A table was located in the center of the room and was secured to the floor for safety reasons. There were only two chairs; one on either side of the table.

A large two-way mirror on the east wall of the room allowed for the monitoring of interrogations from the adjoining room. An intercom allowed the onlookers to listen in on the conversation, while a video camera positioned in the interrogation room, and operated from the viewing room, recorded every interview. A monitor located in the observation room showed what the video camera recorded.

Jack stood at the interrogation room window. 'What do we know…?' Jack asked, then sipped his coffee.

Fox reached over to a nearby table to retrieve a clipboard board with the suspect’s details and handed it to Jack. Jack flicked through the pages. ‘Twenty-six,’ Jack said, as if asking a question. His eyes lifted to the suspect to check if that looked feasible. ‘And a clean skin…?’ he said.

‘Nope. Nothin,’ Fox replied shaking his head. ‘Says he lives with his mum in Jersey and he works in a mail room in the city, delivering office mail.’

Jack turned to Spence as he lowered a thoughtful brow. 'Didn’t someone who worked in a mail room ring here yesterday claiming he thought he could break the code in the letter?' Jack said.

Spence shrugged. ‘Not sure Jobs.’

‘I think that’s the guy I spoke to you about in your office Jobs,’ Pete Unly said. ‘You remember… the crossword guy.’

'He did say he was the National Crossword Champion or some shit,’ Dave said. ‘Says he won some competition recently,’ Dave continued. ‘Apparently he says he is an amateur code breaker or something and he claims he broke the code last night.’

‘Last night?’ Jack turned to Unly. 'Where is your list of fruit cakes that rang the station yesterday after the letter was shown on the news?’

‘On my desk.’

‘Duck in and get it.’

Jack eyed Dave as Unly exited the room. ‘Why did he wait until this morning to come in if he solved it last night?’

Dave shrugged. ‘Dunno.’

‘He doesn’t tell us until the same morning the body was found…’ Jack’s mind worked through the chain of events. ‘Maybe he had to wait until he killed her before reporting it…’ he said. ‘Maybe he was sick of us not being able to crack this cipher and stroke his ego, so he had to move things along.’

‘It’s possible…’ Dave said, ‘but can you prove it?’

Unly re-entered the room and handed Jack a clipboard of names. Jack ran his finger down the lengthy list of names. He flipped the front page over the top of the clipboard. ‘Shit’, he said, ’there are a lot of ‘em.’

Three quarters of the way down the page he stopped and tapped the page. ‘Matthew Curry. Rang at 11.45am.’

‘That’s him,’ Unly said.

Jack addressed Fox. ‘Did he say how he solved it?’

‘He started to, but it was too confusing to me. I told him to wait and someone would be along shortly that he could explain it to.’

Jack’s eyes shifted to his suspect sitting calmly in the interrogation room. His hands were clasped together on the table in front of him and he casually glanced around the barren room in a typical first time survey.

‘He doesn’t look too worried, does he?’ Jack said.

Dave shook his head in agreement. ‘No, he does not.’

‘OK. We have to go down to the crime scene,’ Jack said. ‘I’ll just go in and have a quick chat to him first before we go…You come in with me Spence while I talk to him.’

Spence nodded and both men exited the observation room.

Matthew’s head snapped to his left as Jack aggressively opened the door and entered the interrogation room. Jack’s eyes locked onto Matthew’s as he silently approached Matt’s side of the table.

He deliberately dropped his folder onto the desk from a height. The sound bounced around the enclosed room. Jack leaned a hand on the back of Matthew’s chair, while his other arm rested on the table. He was effectively hovering over Matthew in a controlling show of dominance. Spence leaned against the wall beside the door with his arms folded.

‘My name is Lieutenant Jack Head from the Homicide squad…’ he said. ‘And this is Detective Sergeant Doug Spencer. Thanks for coming down Matthew.’

‘That’s OK. I was just wondering if this is going to take long,’ Matthew checked his watch. ‘I have to be at work,’ he said.

’It might take a little while. Is there someone you can call to let know you are here?’

‘Just my boss. He’ll be pissed coz the mail has to go out about now.’

‘Would you like us to ring him for you…? We can tell him you are assisting us with our inquiries.’

‘That would be great. He wouldn’t question you guys.’

Jack retrieved a note pad from his folder and placed it in front of Matthew. ‘Write down the telephone number and your boss’s name for us.’

Matt scribbled down the details. Jack ripped the page from the pad and handed it to Spence, who took the page and exited the room.

‘Detective Sergeant Spencer will take care of that for us.’

‘Thank you,’ Matthew said in a quiet tone.

‘OK, Matthew… Do you prefer Matthew or Matt?’ Jack asked.

‘Either is fine.’

‘OK…’ Jack said. He made his way around and sat at the table opposite Matthew with his back facing the observation room. ‘I just want to ask you some questions. Is that is OK with you?’

‘No problem.’

‘Tell me why you came down here this morning, Matt?’

‘I was working on the cipher in the letter last night, you know, the coded letter you received, and it all came together for me last night and I think I solved it.’

’You think you solved it?’

’Well…no…I solved it,’ Matt corrected.

‘I’ll get you to show me later how you solved it. But for now I have a few more questions. How did you get a copy of the letter?’

‘The CBS website…I printed it off.’

Jack nodded his understanding. ‘What time did you solve the letter?’ He asked.

‘Ah, Last night…it was late. I finished it after the movie we were watching.’

Jack scribbled some notes down as Matthew talked.

‘Who is the “we” you referred to?’

‘Me and my Mom.’

‘What’s Mom’s name’

‘Wendy.’

’Wendy…Curry?

‘Yep.’

‘What about your dad… where was he last night?’

Matt’s head lowered. He paused before answering. ‘Dad passed away three years ago… It’s just me and Mom now.’

‘I’m sorry Matt. I wasn’t aware.’

Matt shrugged his shoulders. ’That’s OK,’ he said quietly. ‘How would you know?’

Over the ensuing ten minutes Jack asked a series of strategic questions, essential in ascertaining a preliminary understanding of Matthew’s background and his whereabouts and actions from the previous night. Verification inquiries would be made while Jack visited the crime scene from the latest murder.

Once Jack established an understanding of the new crime scene and murder circumstances, he would return and conduct a more detailed interview with Matthew.

‘Why didn’t you contact us last night when you solved the cipher?’ Jack said.

‘I did…well, not straight away. I told my Mom first and we talked about it and she suggested I ring you up. We live in Jersey so I didn’t want to come into the city at night.’

‘Why did you change your mind?’ Jack said.

‘With what…?’

‘Deciding to ring us up?’

‘I didn’t…I rang last night.’

‘You rang last night…?’ Jack repeated as a question.

‘Yep.’

‘Who did you speak to…? Was it a male or female officer?’

‘Male…I can’t remember his name but I asked for you.’

‘Why did you ask for me?’

‘Coz your name is on the letter,’ Matthew said.

‘I see,’ Jack said as he continued to jot down his notes. ‘What did you tell this Police officer you spoke to…?’

‘I told him that I had some information about how to solve the cipher letter that was sent to Homicide, and I wanted to speak to Lieutenant Head.’

‘What time was this?’

‘About 11.30pm or so.’

‘What happened then?’ Jack slowly glanced over his shoulder and held a brief glare at the two-way mirror.

‘The cop I spoke to took down my name and phone number and said he would pass on my message to you…and that you would call me back. I waited till quite late, but when you didn’t ring me back I went to bed and decided I would come in here this morning on my way to work.’ Matthew must’ve noticed Jack’s reaction. ‘You didn’t get the message I left, did you?’ Matthew said.

Jack ignored the question. He realized that if he had received the message last night, like he should have, he may have been able to prevent the 3rd murder. For the moment he contained his frustration to continue with Matthew.

‘How did you know where the body was going to be dumped?’

‘When I decoded the message in the letter…the location was in the letter.’

’Did the letter actually name a location?’

‘No. It gave coordinates.’

‘Coordinates..?’

‘Yeah, you know, Latitude and Longitude coordinates.’

‘OK.’ Jack nodded his understanding. ‘How did you know where these coordinates were?’

’I typed them into a website that pinpoints Latitude and Longitude coordinates and the Main Street Brooklyn Bridge Park came up.’

‘Did the letter provide a time or date when the body would be dumped?’

‘No.’ Matthew shook his head. ’It just said in “two days’ time”, but it didn’t state an actual time.’

Jack nodded. He believed this kid was not his murderer; more likely just a clever kid. Jack’s experience and training had taught him that 70% of all communication was through body language. Most verbal responses from offenders during interviews were usually lies. He worked on the theory that the majority of all true responses to his questions were derived from non-verbal behavior and cues, which was why years of experience from interviewing some of the most vicious and sadistic murderers had taught Jack to read his suspect’s body language during strategic questioning.

Jack identified early on in questioning Matt that his body language was too calm. The kid was too cool and he didn’t seem intimidated by the environment of the interrogation room. In fact, he appeared the opposite. He appeared intrigued. He answered every question directly, without hesitation. He didn’t have any of the usual tells that suggested lies or evasive answers. And more relevant was that he didn’t appear to know of the discovery of the 3rd victim, or that it coincided with his arrival at the police station this morning.

Jack continued his discussions with Matt. 'I have a couple of things I have to do. I might be a little while, but I will be back as soon as I can. I’m really interested to see how you broke the code. OK?'

‘Sure.’

Jack slid his notepad into his folder. As he pushed himself away from the table and stood he said, ‘Can I get you anything Matt…? Water? Soda?’

‘No, I’m good thanks.’

‘OK. I won’t be long. If you need the bathroom or anything else just sing out.’ Jack gestured towards the mirror.

Dave Fox was still in the observation room when Jack burst into the room. ‘What the fuck, Dave,’ Jack blurted. ‘Please don’t tell me that one of your guys took a message last night from this guy,’ he jabbed a thumb towards Matthew, ‘a message that the letter had been cracked. The fucking letter that we have not been able to crack for months… and because of that two gir-’ Jack cut himself off. His shoulders slumped at the thought of saying it… 'Three girls are now dead,’ he said. Dave didn’t respond. ‘This kid Dave,’ Jack lifted his chin towards Matthew, ‘tells one of your officers that he solved the cipher in the letter and asks for me… AND I DIDN’T GET THE FUCKING MESSAGE,’ his voice rose to a frustrated yell. ‘Do you understand what this means?’ He glared at Dave.

‘I understand Jack. I’ll look into it,’ Dave said. ‘We’ll know more when I speak to the officer concerned. I’ll let you know what I find out…OK?’

‘We better get down to the crime scene Jobs…’ Spence said, ‘They’re waiting for us.’

Jack opened his folder and quickly scribbled something onto his note pad. He ripped off the page and handed it to Detective Peter Unly.

‘Head out to this address in Jersey…it’s his home,’ Jack jabbed his pen towards Matthew. ‘Speak to his mother…her name is Wendy…See if she can verify where Matt was last night.’ Jack said.

Unly accepted the note from Jack. ‘Will do.’

Jack briefly stared at Matthew through the two-way mirror. Matthew sat calmly in the interrogation room. His hands remained clasped together on the table in front.

Jack would know more once he returned from the crime scene and finished their discussion. He was particularly interested to see how Matthew cracked the code, and what this mystery letter actually said.

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