The Coastal Killings

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Chapter 26

As 1am neared Maddie and Elli each informed Zoey their new male acquaintances would be taking them home that night. This now meant that Zoey, who drove the two girls to the bar, would be driving home alone.

All three girls, with the two new male interests in tow, left the bar together and made their way to their respective vehicles. Unlike earlier in the night, the parking lot was now almost deserted, with very few vehicles remaining.

Zoey said her goodbyes and drove her vehicle towards the parking lot exit down the side of the bar. As she crawled towards the exit she noticed a familiar vehicle parked off to her left. It was Harper’s blue VW Passat. Zoey checked her watch. ‘What is that still doing there?’ she mumbled to herself.

She parked behind Harper’s vehicle and quickly jumped out to check Harper hadn’t fallen asleep inside her vehicle. No-one was inside and the car was locked.

Zoey stood with a thoughtful hand on her forehead scanning what was now an empty parking lot. Harper left about 1 ½ hours ago.

Returning to her car, Zoey retrieved her mobile phone from her purse and called Harper. The call went to voice mail.

‘Hi Hun…it‘s just me. Call me as soon as you get this OK…I’m a little worried you are alright.’

After disconnecting the call Zoey sent a text message to Harper, similar to the voice message she just left, just to cover all bases.

While she considered her next move a vehicle in which Maddie and Elli were passengers approached Zoey on its way to the exit. Zoey noticed her friends and waved the car down. When the vehicle stopped Maddie and Ellie quickly alighted from the car.

After a quick update from Zoey the girls decided to send their new male friends on their way while they remained with Zoey to consider what to do next. They all agreed this did not look good.

With Zoey and Harper sharing an on-campus apartment in the Student Village, they decided to drive back to their apartment to see if Harper was there.

One of the down sides of working in Homicide was the requirement to be on call. Sleep interruption and sleep deprivation were just part of the job. If a call came in – regardless of the time of the day, or night, you had to attend.

It was 2am when Tom Carter received the call from SDPD in relation to concerns over Harper Bourke’s whereabouts.

’Harper is a twenty-one year old university student who left the Where the Action Is bar in Clairmemont Mesa on her own at 11.30pm and had not been seen since,’ the uniform cop said. ’Her locked car was found in the parking lot when her friends left about 1am. She is not answering her phone and she is not at her home.

‘The spare set of keys to her vehicle were retrieved from Harper’s university apartment by her roommate and it appears that Harper’s vehicle had been tampered with,’ the uniform cop said.

While there was no body and no indication of any murder, and despite his wakening senses, Tom was well aware that everything pointed towards another victim in the media branded Coastal Killings.

‘OK. Tape off the area and arrange for crime scene fingerprints to be taken,’ he instructed the cop.

After calling Frank, Tom drove by to pick him up on the way to Harper’s vehicle.

Upon his arrival at the parking lot the uniform police updated Tom and Frank of their concerns and inquiries. They also indicated to them Harper’s three friends who were seated in the back of a nearby black and white.

Tom approached the girls to ask some initial questions to help gain an understanding of what went down.

While squatting down beside the black and white’s open passenger side rear door he asked questions like what time did Harper leave the bar? Did anyone leave with her? Did anyone approach her, or talk with her while in the bar? Had she been drinking and if so, was she drunk? Did she usually leave with men she met?

But the response that resonated with him the most was when he asked if Harper was the member of a gym. The girls told him they were all members of the same gym – Club Fitness in Bay Park. He knew right then this was not going to end well.

After slapping on some latex gloves Tom lifted the hood and examined the engine of Harper’s vehicle. Neither Tom nor Frank knew anything about vehicle engines but it was evident that the unattached leads sitting loosely on the engine block should have been attached somewhere, more than likely to the distributor cap and spark plugs.

Tom accessed the vehicle and tried to start the car using the spare key. Nothing. As expected, it wouldn’t start.

After alighting from the vehicle Tom approached Frank. ‘Don’t tell me our perp has moved to immobilizing vehicles to get his victims,’ Frank said.

‘I was thinking the same thing…’ Tom said. ‘But if her car wouldn’t start after leaving the bar…’ Tom’s focus shifted to the concerned friends in the back seat of the black and white. ‘Why not give them a call…’ He lifted his chin towards her friends in the police car. ‘Or go back inside and get a ride from them. You don’t just jump into the car of someone who happens to drive by offering to give you a ride home.’

‘Unless she knew the driver…or if she didn’t know the driver…trusted the driver,’ Frank suggested.

Tom’s eyes flicked to meet Frank’s. ‘You mean…Like an off duty cop…?’

Frank shrugged. ‘Could be,’ he said with a single shake of his head.

Once Harper’s vehicle had been dusted for prints by the Crime Scene Unit, and after exhausting all possible inquiries at the bar and parking lot, including available Bar CCTV footage, Tom and Frank returned to their office. It was too late in the morning and they were too wound up to consider returning to bed.

Their first interest was to peruse the list of law enforcement personnel who resided within a seven mile radius of the Bay Park gym. Their Lieutenant, Bob Winter had liaised with the FBI and sought their assistance in researching the list from records they were able to access in such circumstances.

A list of seven names had since been provided. After removing all females from the list, the number was reduced to four law enforcement names of interest. However once the shift roster of each man was consulted, none of the four remaining names were off the clock at, or around the time of all four murders.

Much to their growing frustrations, they were no closer to finding out who was hunting these young women of San Diego.

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