Alicia and Jason both appeared to be enjoying each other’s company during the Saturday night drinks on Matt and Alicia’s balcony. By contrast, it was incredibly difficult for Matt. He hated the very sight of this man.
Jason was the last person on this earth Matt wanted to spend any time with, but there was method in his madness. He had an ulterior motive for asking Jason over.
As part of his grand plan, Matt needed some DNA evidence from Jason that he could plant at his proposed murder scenes. He figured Jason’s fingerprints would be ideal. And the best way to get them would be to lift them from a glass, or a bottle after his visit to their home. It was perfect.
That was until Alicia served Jason his bottles of beer in a neoprene bottle holder — No fingerprints on the bottles.
Matt put on a brave face throughout the evening. He did his best to appear the most amiable of hosts. He even chose to ignore the furtive glances Alicia and Jason exchanged throughout the night. They were like two love struck teenagers who couldn’t wait for the parent figure to leave them alone.
Jason took a sip from his drink. His eyes drifted to Matt and Alicia’s Jacuzzi at the north end of the balcony. He lifted his chin at the Jacuzzi. ‘Is that heated…?’ He asked Alicia.
‘Sure is…’ she said. ‘We keep it around 95 to 100 degrees in the cooler evenings. During the day we drop the temperature down a bit, so it is more refreshing.’
Jason took a sip of his drink then pushed himself from his chair and ambled over closer to the Jacuzzi. He stood over the dark blue colored octagonal pool staring in at the sparkling clear water.
As he did so, Matt glared at Alicia. He discreetly shook his head once.
Alicia nodded her understanding.
‘Do you need a refill Jason,’ Matt asked. He stood from his chair and approached Jason.
Jason examined what was left of his drink. He emptied the bottle in one gulp. ‘Why not…’ he handed Matt his empty.
‘What about you Leece…? Same again?’ Matt said.
‘Thanks Hun…’ she smiled.
Matt slipped off the bottle holder from Jason’s bottle and dropped it onto the outdoor table as he made his way inside. He would give Jason the refill without the holder, to get that print.
Jason watched Matt disappear inside. Once he was gone, Jason looked to Alicia and smiled. His brilliant white teeth gleamed. He slipped off his t-shirt and dropped it to the floor. ‘Let’s get in…’ he said with an excited tone. He toed off his shoes while he undid the button on his jeans and dropped his fly.
Before he could drop his pants, Alicia firmly said, ‘No…’ She pushed herself from her seat and quickly moved to Jason. She lifted his shirt and pushed it into his chest.
‘Why not…?’ Jason asked. ‘We’re all adults here…’ Jason’s eyes flicked to Matt inside. ‘You didn’t mind it last time,’ he grinned.
Alicia nervously glanced back over her shoulder to Matt inside the house. ‘No…’ she said firmly, but quietly. ‘It’s not appropriate with Matt here…’ she held a firm glare at Jason.
Jason’s eyes flicked to Matt inside the kitchen. He nodded slowly. ‘OK…’ He accepted t-shirt and slipped it back on. ‘Rain check…?’ he said.
Alicia again checked over her shoulder to Matt. ‘Rain check...’ she nodded.
By the time Matt returned with the fresh refills, Jason and Alicia were seated.
When Matt handed Jason his refill, Alicia took hold of the Corona bottle for Jason and slipped it into Jason’s bottle holder for him, then handed Jason his drink. Matt couldn’t believe she did that.
Jason watched Matt slide into his seat. ‘Cheers…’ he lifted his Corona to Matt.
Matt paused, albeit briefly. He nodded once and slightly lifted his Corona to Jason, in a perfunctory response.
‘This really is a beautiful home you have here,’ Jason said. He directed his comment to Matt.
But it was Alicia who replied. ‘Thank you. We love it.’
Jason held his focus on Matt. It appeared like he was trying to get a rise out of Matt. ‘The FBI wages must be much higher than I thought they were,’ Jason said.
Matt took a sip of his drink. He allowed a few beats to pass. He examined the Corona label on his bottle as he spoke. ‘Probably more than what a personal trainer makes…’ Matt’s firm eyes lifted to Jason.
Jason grinned. He obviously got the rise he wanted. ‘I didn’t mean to offend you, Matt…’ Jason said.
‘It’s just that…well, this is quite an affluent area of San Diego, and you own a luxury home right on the beach…It couldn’t be cheap,’ Jason said. His eyes remained locked on Matt as he took a sip.
‘Your point…?’ Matt glared at Jason.
Jason adjusted himself in his seat. ‘Oh, there’s no point, Matt…’ Jason said. The trainer was smug. ‘I just noticed that you live in a beautiful luxury home right on the San Diego coastline, so I assumed the FBI must pay pretty well.’
Matt glared at Jason. Jason grinned back at Matt.
Alicia interjected into the testosterone fueled to-and-fro. ‘Actually Jason,’ Alicia began. ‘This home is owned by Matt’s father. He is a very successful business man in New York City.’
‘You don’t have to explain ourselves to him, Leece…’ Matt said firmly. He glared at Jason.
Alicia smiled at Matt. ‘It’s OK,’ she said to Matt with a reassuring nod. ‘This was Matt’s parents’ vacation home. They often moved out here to escape the snow of New York’s winter months.’
Alicia smiled at Matt, then continued. ‘When Matt’s Mom passed away four years back,’ she placed a reassuring hand on Matt’s forearm. Her mouth straightened. 'His Dad lost interest in vacationing at this luxurious holiday home. It was no longer the same without his wife of forty years.
‘Apart from some occasional summer rentals, this magnificent home sat vacant for most of the year. When we decided to move from New York to the West Coast, Matt’s Dad insisted we move into this house. He said it would give us somewhere to live, it was close to San Diego where we both worked, and with us living here, it would prevent the house becoming a vacant property overrun by rodents, insects or squatters.’
Matt took a sip of beer. ‘Anything else you want to know about us…Jason?’ Matt took another sip. ‘Our bank accounts…?’
‘I’m sorry, Matt. I’ve offended you,’ Jason said. ‘I didn’t mean to upset you. I was only admiring your beautiful home,’ he said.
He lifted his chin to Jason in response. And my beautiful wife, you snake…
As the night progressed Matt struggled to gain any real usable insight into who Jason really was, what he liked – apart from other men’s wives - and what he did in his spare time.
He found Jason very guarded when discussing himself. Often answers to questions were brief and were quickly deflected to a different topic. A skill Matt recognized immediately.
While the men chatted, Alicia volunteered to return to the kitchen and retrieve another round of fresh drinks for everyone, and refresh the nibbles. Matt and Jason remained on the balcony.
Jason stood leaning back against the balcony hand rails with his hands in his pockets, while Matt sat on one of the dining chairs off to the side.
Jason noticed Alicia approaching the rear glass sliding patio door with her hands full of empty bottles. He pushed himself away from the hand rail and moved quickly to slide open the door for Alicia.
Matt smiled to himself as he watched the chivalrous Jason inadvertently place his guiding left hand on the glass panel of the door, while he slid the door open by the handle.
Gothcha. An evil smirk emerged out the side of Matt's face.
With the time approaching midnight Jason checked his watch. He placed his near empty bottle onto the outdoor dining table. ‘Well, if we’re going to be working out in the morning…’ he said addressing Alicia. ‘We’d better get some rest.’
About time… Matt thought.
Jason extended his hand to Matt. ‘Thank you for your hospitality,’ he said.
Matt rose from his chair. Fuck you. You piece of shit, was what Matt thought as he shook Jason’s hand. What he actually said was, ‘It was interesting…’
Jason held Matt’s handshake. ‘I hope I didn’t offend you earlier, Matt,’ Jason said.
Matt waved a hand, then released his grip. ‘Water under the bridge…’ Matt said. He lied.
After seeing Jason off on his way home they retired for the evening. Matt waited until Alicia fell asleep. When her breathing was deep and controlled he slipped out of bed, grabbed a fingerprint lifting sheet he brought home from work and quietly returned to the balcony.
He located the area on the sliding door where Jason’s fingerprints were. He exhaled heavily onto the glass door. The fog from his breath briefly formed on the window to identify the fingerprint.
A sinister smile emerged as Matt peeled open the celluloid sheet and placed it over the fingerprints. With a few rubs across the sheet, he peeled it away from the window to examine the quality of the lift. Perfect. He smiled to himself.
Matt re-applied the film to its protective backing and returned upstairs where he hid the celluloid lift in his walk-in wardrobe.
Alicia’s breathing was still deep and controlled when he slipped back into bed. All was in readiness.
Matt lay staring at the darkened ceiling with his hands clasped behind his head in contemplation. His mind was too active to sleep.
The next step, he considered, was to decide on his suitable targets. He needed to choose the right victim type for his killing spree. His preference would be young, female loner types. When the timing was right, he would leave Jason’s stray fingerprint strategically placed at one of the crime scenes.
Let’s see you explain your way out that, Jason. Matt smirked to himself. Time to make things happen.
Due to the paucity of personal information gleaned from Jason during last Saturday night’s visit, Matt had no choice but to conduct surveillance on his target, if he wanted to know more about him. In fact, if his plan was going to work, he needed to know more about the personal trainer.
Matt was aware Jason worked as a gym instructor at Bay Park. He was also aware the gym closed nightly at 9pm.
For the next two weeks, when time permitted, from 8.30pm onwards, Matt sat in his car in an obscure corner of the gym parking lot waiting for Jason to leave work. As far as Alicia was aware, Matt’s regular evening absences were due to a case he worked on.
Apart from the two nights a week when Matt followed Jason to his secret rendezvous with Alicia, Jason usually departed the gym shortly before 9pm and almost always with a different young female. He appeared to be giving the girls a ride home.
On each occasion Jason escorted his female passenger inside her home, where he would remain for an hour or more before emerging and usually driving home. Matt had no doubt he was screwing all these young women.
To Matt, this was too good to be true. He had his pattern. Jason clearly considered himself a player, so any of these young girls would make the perfect victim for Matt’s staged serial killer murders.
The personal trainer had already done the ground work for him. When discovered, each victim would be traced back to the common denominator – Jason.
For all Matt knew, Jason may already have left his DNA at some of these girls’ houses. But to be sure, Matt still had to leave one incriminating fingerprint at a crime scene, probably on an external window. He would then hide some recent newspaper clippings of the murders in Jason’s house, to add further weight to Jason’s complicity in the murders.
Matt didn’t have the innate predisposition of a serial killer. It was not how he was wired. If anything, he was the polar opposite. So to make this look authentic, he researched mass killers such as Bundy, Gacy et al, so he could ensure the murder scenes resembled that of a narcissistic, or misogynistic killer of young women.
A Bureau serial killer case out east where the killer bound his victims using duct tape gave him an idea to copycat already recognized serial killer behavior.
Once this case was considered to be serial killer murders, it would be referred to FBI jurisdiction. This would allow him to monitor, maybe even steer the investigation towards Jason.
Saturday morning was overcast and cool. The threatening clouds were an appropriate outlook given the dark plans Matt had in store.
Alicia and Matt shared their Saturday morning breakfast on their rear balcony before Alicia had to leave for her 8am shift.
‘What are your plans today Hun?’ Alicia asked as she sipped on her coffee.
Matt lounged back, casually crossing his legs. ‘Not much, actually.’ He lifted his chin to the beach. ‘The weather looks pretty threatening…it might be an indoor day,’ Matt said.
Alicia drained the last of her coffee then stood from her chair. She started to gather the empty dishes.
‘Leave them Leece…I’ll do that,’ Matt said. ‘You should probably get going.’
Alicia checked her watch. ‘Do you mind…?’
Matt waved a hand. ‘Of course not. Go. Go,’ he said firmly.
Alicia smiled. She moved to kiss him goodbye. ‘Thank you,’ she smiled. ‘I’ll see you tonight, Hun,’ Alicia said as she exited from the balcony.
The smile from Matt’s face wiped. His face tightened as he watched her disappear inside the house.
His day was planned long before he woke this morning. With Alicia working until 4pm, at least, today would be the day when he would acquire some of the tools of the trade for his upcoming plan.
It was mid-morning by the time Matt had finished cleaning up the breakfast dishes then showering. He checked his watch. It was time set the wheels in motion.
Matt drove forty miles north to Oceanside to purchase some duct tape from an obscure little hardware store he found on-line.
His law enforcement experience told him that once the murder victims were found bound by duct tape, any investigator worth his salt would canvass the hardware stores and sellers of duct tape in the area looking for any leads from recent purchases. But they won’t look forty miles away.
So Matt’s guile had him heading out of town, far enough away to prevent the risk of such inquiries identifying him purchasing duct tape. He also intentionally chose a smaller, Mom and Dad run store that did not appear to utilize security cameras.
Once the duct tape had been purchased Matt tore the receipt and discarded it into the roadside trash bin. His next stop was a pharmacy.
Following exfoliating advice received from a pleasant and very helpful young girl at an Oceanside pharmacy, he purchased a pumice stone and grainy exfoliating scrubs and acid based washes before returning to La Jolla Shores. Purchase receipts for all these items were also suitably destroyed.
Matt had it all worked out. First he had to select his victim, which would be difficult. She would essentially be an unfortunate sacrifice for his cause. Then prior to leaving his home to go out and commit his murders, he would shower and aggressively scrub his skin using his recent exfoliating purchases to remove all dead skin. This would ensure there was no inadvertent skin samples or epithelial evidence left at the scene.
His hair was already shaved short, so it was unlikely he would drop incriminating hair follicles, but he would still aggressively scrub his hair, just to be sure. Except for his face, all skin would be covered by gloves and dark clothing.
Matt obtained some latex gloves and disposable shoe covers from his crime kit at work to prevent leaving any trace transfer evidence or shoe prints at his crime scenes.
When he visited his chosen victims, he was confident he could use his FBI profile to bluff his way inside their homes. Once he was satisfied she was alone, he would claim his unsuspecting victim. It all seemed a little too easy in theory.
Alicia’s rubber soled shoes squeaked on the linoleum flooring as she strolled down the empty hallways of her 4th floor ward. She had just completed her mid-morning patient rounds from the east wing and was moving around to complete the north wing.
As she passed the 4th floor nurse’s station Alicia smiled to her colleague, Lucy who was manning the desk.
Lucy raised her hand towards Alicia. ‘Oh ah, Alicia…’ Lucy called. ‘Got a minute..?’
Alicia stopped and turned back to Lucy. ‘Hey Luce. What’s up?’ she asked as she approached the nurses station and leaned on her elbows.
‘Did you hear about the poor girl in room 404…?’ Lucy checked the patient list. ‘Ah…Sarah Sanderson,’ she said. ‘She was only moved to us from ICU early this morning.’
‘Is that the rape victim…?’
Lucy nodded. ‘Yep, that’s her. She told the cops she was raped and strangled in her own home last night.’
‘Yeah, I heard about it at shift hand over this morning,’ Alicia said. ‘Poor thing. It’s horrible.’ She shook a sympathetic head. Alicia glanced in the direction of room 404. ‘I’ll be checking in on her soon, actually,’ she said.
‘She is understandably traumatized by the ordeal,’ Lucy said. ‘Poor thing. I hope she’ll be alright.’
‘They should castrate the bastards when they catch them,’ Alicia said. ‘Sounds like she was lucky to get away?’
‘Her house mate was away on a two-week vacation apparently. She came home and disturbed the offender.’
‘That’s great…’ Alicia said. ‘That means they should have a witness description of the rapist then…’
Lucy shrugged. ‘Don’t know the details, but I think he fled out the back door when he heard the friend coming through the front. I don’t think she got a look at him. Her house mate walked in and found her friend on the floor. Her clothing was ripped off…her hands tied with duct tape…’ She slowly shook her head. ‘It’s just terrible really.’
’Not quite the Welcome Home she was expecting, was it?’ Alicia pushed herself away from the station desk. ‘OK, thanks Luce,’ Alicia said. She continued on her rounds. ‘I’ll keep a check on her this morning,’ she said back over her shoulder.