The Coastal Killings

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Chapter 31

Lewinsky returned from his meeting with SDPD and informed Danny Taylor and Matt Duncan they had been seconded to the Coastal Killings’ Task Force, and would now work alongside SDPD Homicide devoting all their time to catching the killer.

‘Who’s got lead?’ Matt asked.

They will retain lead agency and Detective Tom Carter will assume lead investigator,’ the Lieutenant said. ‘It makes sense. It’s been his case from the start.’

‘And look how far it has got them…’ Matt said. ‘Count me out chief.’ Matt firmly shook his head. ‘The guy’s a complete dick and he’s got no idea how to investigate a murder.’

‘I disagree Duncan…He is actually well regarded over there at SDPD Homicide.’

Matt shook his head. ‘I can’t work with him Chief. It would be detrimental to any task force to have both of us on the same team,’ he said. ‘But I tell you what I’ll do though…I’ll happily sit on the pine and whenever they need help in any way, you can sub me in.’

Lewinsky eyed Matt while he considered his offer. He eventually nodded his acceptance. ‘Who do you suggest should replace you?’ the Lieutenant asked.

‘McKinley…He’s sharp and misses nothing. I’d have him on my team any day,’ Matt said.

The Coastal Killings Task Force hit the ground running. The day after they were formed they called a meeting at SDPD headquarters. All available law enforcement personnel were summoned to attend for an update and to learn of the task force’s investigation plan.

Detective Tom Carter stood at the front of the room beside the white board displaying the victims, to address the large gathering. With every chair in the room occupied, a large number of the attending members stood at the back of the room.

Tom systematically went over what was known from each murder, which didn’t take too long given the lack of evidence and witnesses. He stressed the importance of information sharing and team work, not only within the task force, but also across all law enforcement agencies.

‘This killer was out of control and he has to be stopped,’ Tom said. ‘He is making a mockery of everyone who holds a badge. So it is time for you all to take it personally,’ he dragged his eyes across the room.

Tom finished his meeting with a plea to all law enforcement officers.

’Every one of you has a Confidential Informant of some level; someone who feeds you reliable information, someone who keeps you updated on what’s happening in the city’s seedy underbelly. I don’t give a fuck what you do, or how you do it…but I implore you to tap into what they know. Throw some cash at ’em…Call in your favors… turn ’em upside down and shake ‘em to see what falls out…I don’t care, but get out there and find out what they know about these murders. There must be talk on the streets by now. Someone must know something. As soon as you hear anything…make sure your information is immediately passed on to this task force.’

Matt cut a lonely figure sitting hunched over at his desk in the Agency bullpen reading a case file pertaining to the brutal slaying of a local gang member. Unbeknownst to him his colleagues had finished work for the day. All other desks in the open plan office were now vacant.

He paused momentarily while he lifted his eyes to the clock on the wall, before doing a typical double take at the time. He sat back in his chair, his eyebrows lifted in surprise when he realized the time was 4.40pm. He checked his watch in case the wall clock was wrong. It wasn’t.

Matt ran his hands through his shortly cropped hair as he exhaled. He locked his fingers behind his head. He had become so absorbed in reading the file that the time got away from him. He glanced around at all the empty desks and scoffed at himself. I don’t even remember them leaving.

He closed the file and commenced to pack up so he could join the procession of homeward bound highway commuters. As he did so someone called to him from the bull pen doorway.

‘Agent Duncan…’ Tom Carter said.

Matt turned to the voice. The non-law enforcement, public servant from reception had just escorted Detective Tom Carter to their bull pen before returning to the front desk.

Matt sat back in his chair. ‘Detective Carter,’ he said devoid of enthusiasm, as he watched Carter approach.

With a friendly smile, Tom briskly walked over and slid into the visitor’s chair at Matt’s desk. Matt watched on in anticipation.

‘Do you have a minute…?’ he asked. ‘I was just wanting to have a chat about our serial.’

Matt instinctively glanced up at the wall clock. ‘Well…I suppose it’s peak hour at the moment so…I won’t be going anywhere in a hurry anyway…what can I do for you?’

Tom reclined back into the chair and crossed his legs. ’You know how that last vic was found by the beach…the thirty year old divorcee…?

Matt nodded. ’Was she victim number nine…?'

Tom nodded. ‘Correct.’

‘What about her?’

’You know how all the victims were members at the Club Fitness gym in Bay Park...?'

‘Yep. It has been well documented,’ Matt said, wondering where this was going and what it had to do with him.

’Well, I looked into it further and it turns out the last vic wasn’t a member at Club Fitness gym.’

‘That’s interesting news,’ Matt said, dripping with sarcasm. ‘But I’m guessing you didn’t drive all the way out here to tell me that.’

‘If you’re nothing else, you’re perceptive.’ Tom was flippant. 'It turns out though that she had employed a personal trainer who worked at the same gym – Club Fitness.’

Matt’s attention suddenly piqued.

‘A man by the name of…’ Tom paused to consult his file. ‘Jason Bentley…’

Matt nodded, albeit slightly.

Noticing his reaction Tom asked ‘Do you know him?’

Matt nodded. ‘I know him.’

‘How do you know him?’ Tom asked.

Matt waved a hand at Tom. ‘Keep going with your story,’ he said.

‘Well…’ Tom began. ‘I noticed we had spoken to him previously during our earlier inquiries but he was cleared. But after this latest link we decided to bring him in again for further questioning.’

‘And…’ Matt said curtly.

‘He has an alibi for the night…which is why I’m here,’ Tom said.

’You’re talking to me because this Jason person has an alibi…?' Matt questioned cynically.

’Not exactly…I’m talking to you because of his alibi. Mr Bentley said he was working with a client of his until about 10pm, a Mrs Alicia Duncan...’ Tom eyed Matt to monitor his reaction. ‘That’s your wife isn’t it…?’

‘That’s right. What are you implying?’ Matt asked, knowing full well Alicia never trained until 10pm. He knew all too well that if she was with Jason and was prepared to be his alibi, it would be because she was screwing him. But he wasn’t intending to let Carter know about that. If he made that information common knowledge it could affect his grand plan.

‘I’m not implying anything. I just thought I would chat to you about what you know of this arrangement,’ Tom clarified.

‘Arrangement…?’ Matt asked firmly. He leaned onto his elbows and glared at Tom. ‘Jason is my wife’s personal trainer,’ he said emphatically. ‘They train together about three times a week – on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The times that they train varies based on my wife’s shifts.’

’Is that how you know him?' Tom asked.

’I don’t know him…I know of him…’ Matt clarified. ‘He trains my wife, but I can’t vouch for him, if that’s what you’re asking. But if she says he was with her…’ Matt shrugged. ‘Then I guess he was with her.’ He fell back into his chair. ‘What do you want me to say…? Do I think my wife is lying about him…?’

'So you have no problems with this late night training arrangement then? Just the two of them alone late at night,’ Tom asked with an insinuating tone.

Matt did have a problem with it. Why else would he want them both dead? He had certainly thought of it… and thought of it until it consumed him.

’Who says it was a late night training session,’ Matt said mimicking Tom’s emphasis and tone. ’Do you know the actual time of death for this latest victim?’ Matt asked.

Tom eyes dropped to his notes. He paused while he read something. ‘Ah…Not exactly,’ he said, a little more subdued in his tone. ’Just the day. We know she died on a Wednesday night.'

’So what’s with all the insinuations about my wife…?' Matt asked directly. ‘How good is this guy’s alibi anyway…? For all I know, once they finished their training session together he could have left my wife and killed this latest victim…’ He flicked a finger towards Tom’s file on the desk.

‘All I’m saying Agent is…If she was my wife, I’d be watching her very closely, especially around him. People who we are able to associate with this Jason are being killed – raped and strangled,’ Tom said.

Matt silently absorbed the Detective’s comments.

'We still need to verify this guy’s alibi so…I thought that you would be best suited to ask your wife about the details of her, er…training session on Wednesday night. Times, location, what time he left her. Even ask her if he happened to mention where he was going once he left her.’

‘I know how to verify an alibi, Detective,’ Matt snapped. He then over emphasized glancing at his watch.

‘Of course you do Agent,’ Tom said. He took the hint and lifted his eyes towards the wall clock. ‘Well...’ Tom rose to his feet. ‘I’ll let you get on your way then.’ He extended his hand to Matt.

Remaining seated to intentionally show his disdain, Matt looked briefly at the extended hand before reaching across the desk and responding with a single hand shake, letting go almost as soon as he gripped.

‘Let me know the outcome of the inquiries with your wife,’ Tom said. He turned to exit the bull pen.

Matt lifted his disinterested chin in a silent response.

As he watched Carter walk from the room Matt rued the missed opportunity to plant Jason’s fingerprint at one of the crime scenes, especially now they were looking at him for the murders.

Unfortunately he kept forgetting to take the fingerprint print with him, inadvertently leaving it home every time he went out. But he realized he still had the collection of newspaper clippings from each murder. If he could plant them in Jason’s house, it would certainly direct further suspicion towards Jason.

Matt was reluctant to ask Alicia questions about Jason’s alibi for that late Wednesday night when the ninth victim was killed. If she was with him late at night it could become awkward as she tried to lie her way out of what she was doing with Jason.

If he was being honest to himself, he didn’t want to know what they were doing and frankly, he no longer cared. It would all be over as soon as the right opportunity presented itself. She would be gone and Jason would be implicated.

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