The following morning a tired Matt and Alicia attended at the office of the Homicide Squad Task Force for statements and follow up. They had not slept well that night, if at all.
Alicia struggled to cope with the fact that she killed someone, especially someone she knew – or thought she knew. Matt continued to reassure her that had she not shot Jason, neither of them would be here now. He reassured her that Jason intended to club him to death and kill her.
Matt also knew that Jason had Alicia earmarked as his 11th victim, but he couldn’t disclose to her how, or why he knew that information, so he reluctantly kept that to himself.
Detective Tom Carter welcomed his visitors and sat them down at his desk. After obtaining a glass of water for Alicia he sat down to discuss the case.
‘After we left your house yesterday we obtained a warrant to search Jason Bentley’s house,’ Tom began. Tom snapped on a pair of latex gloves. He reached down to the floor beside him and lifted a maroon colored photo album from the floor and dropped it on the desk.
Matt’s eyebrows arched when he saw the album. He was relieved they found it hidden in the bedroom. He was also relieved he removed the naked pictures of Alicia from the wall.
‘During our search we located this album…’ Tom placed his hand flat on top of the album. He looked to Matt. ‘What I’m about to show you could be distressing to you both.’
He flicked open the album cover.
‘Jason Bentley was wanted in Philadelphia for the rape and murder of twenty-six women.’
Alicia quickly drew in a breath as her hand shot up to her mouth.
Tom flicked through the pages showing Matt and Alicia the various news articles and photographs of the Philadelphia murders, before stopping at the San Diego killings.
‘He was also responsible for the rape and murder of ten women in the San Diego area over the last six months,’ Tom said.
Alicia’s head rolled to the side. It was difficult to discern if she was disappointed or disgusted. She lifted her eyes to Matt sitting beside her. Her mouth opened. She appeared she wanted to say something, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
Matt gently shook his head and placed his arm around her to comfort her.
Tom watched on before continuing. He turned the pages of the newspaper articles and photographs, pausing at the pages relating to victim ten.
‘What I am about to show you may be distressing for you both…but I think you need to see this,’ Tom warned.
Tom slowly turned the page to the black and white photograph of Alicia. He tapped the red number eleven as he looked directly at Alicia and calmly said, ’It is quite apparent that you were to be his next victim – the 11th,’
Matt had seen it all before in Jason’s house, but she hadn’t. She had no idea the man she had an affair with was a wanted serial killer who planned to add her to his growing list of victims.
Matt’s eyes lifted from the photograph to Alicia to monitor her reaction. She stared silently at the photograph. Matt knew Jason had suggested to Alicia that she leave him. So Jason’s infatuation must’ve soured when she refused.
Tom continued. ‘We found an entire wall of photos of you in the same room where we found this album,’ he said to Alicia. ‘I think there were fifty-three photographs in total. This man had an unhealthy and unnatural obsession with you Mrs Duncan,’ Tom said. ‘I think you were very fortunate your husband arrived home when he did…’
Alicia’s eyes met Matt’s.
‘And I’m lucky you knew how to shoot straight...’ Matt said as he squeezed his arm tighter around Alicia’s shoulder. She forced out a half smile in response.
‘Anyway…’ Tom continued, ‘I just wanted to show you what we found and to let you know that because of the actions of both of you…a very sick and dangerous individual has been stopped and the streets of San Diego are now much safer.’
'There may also be some families in Philly who will get some closure as well from the knowledge that this evil bastard is dead,’ Matt suggested.
Tom nodded in agreement.
‘Something has been puzzling me though Detective,’ Matt began. ‘If this mongrel killed twenty-six women in Philly, using the same unique signature on each victim…why wasn’t that picked up earlier? Why wasn’t it linked to the San Diego killings?’
Tom nodded. ‘Unfortunately our data recording was not very efficient. We spent all our time chasing this unknown offender, and neglected to update the electronic database, which as you know, is just as important. When I contacted the BAU, the analysts they sent down was sharp. She ran crime scene analysis and case linkage analysis and was even able to prepare a basic offender profile for us. She was the one who linked the Philly murders to ours using the duct tape signature.’
‘So…you already knew about the connection with the Philly case?’ Matt asked.
‘We did, but only just before you found that print. We chose not to release the information to anyone outside the task force. It wasn’t a straight forward find though. The analyst had to trawl through a number of different databases and records – across State and Federal boundaries, before she was able to find it, hence the untimely delays. Once we found that print at the last victim, it was a lock. He was definitely our man.’
‘So Jason left a fingerprint during the earlier Philly murders?’ Alicia asked.
Tom nodded. ‘The first one,’ Tom said. ‘He left the print at his first crime scene…and nothing since. Problem was the authorities at the time didn’t have anything to match the print to and he didn’t leave another print after that. He learned as he went on. He evolved, which is why his crimes scenes were so clean. He had a lot of practice.’
‘So how was it that he was so careless this time?’ Alicia said. ‘I mean, after what was it…nine murders…? You said the crime scenes were clean…yet he leaves this print at number ten… Isn’t that careless?’ Alicia said. She looked to Matt who simply smiled back at her and nodded.
He knew all too well how the print was found so he let the Detective answer that one.
'That’s an interesting question Mrs Duncan…and one that we in the Task Force have all considered. It was the analyst from the BAU that actually answered that question for us. She mentioned that as serial killers continue to offend without being captured they become empowered, feeling they will never be caught. Some begin to take shortcuts when committing their crimes, or they become arrogant and start to take more chances that eventually lead to them being identified,’ Tom said. 'This is what seems to have happened in this case. So you see, it is not that the serial killer wants to get caught...he arrogantly feels that he is too good to get caught.’
Yeah, let’s go with that… Matt thought.
Once the formalities at the SDPD were completed Matt drove via his office on their way home.
Although he had been given time off from work to look after his wife, as well as his own health, he told Alicia there was something urgent he had to attend to in the office before they returned home.
After parking his car in the bureau parking lot, he said, ‘You may as well wait here… I won’t be long.’
After making his way inside he quickly made his way to the Comms room and without speaking to anyone, he accessed a spare console, logged in and removed the roving bug from Alicia’s mobile phone. It never existed.
From the Comms room he made his way to his desk. Apart from the occasional courteous silent head nod greetings, he avoided discussions about how he felt and what he was doing there.
Once at his desk he opened the bottom drawer. He stared at the contents which he had earlier purchased as part of his grand plan to deflect suspicion away from him once Alicia was dead.
The purchase was designed to help portray him as the loving husband whose future plans with his loving wife were ruined by the Coastal Killer.
He now realized how close that came to being reality.
He scoffed to himself and shook his head. He rubbed his forehead. What an idiot.
His mind drifted to thoughts of what could have been. What if I hadn’t planted Jason’s fingerprint at the crime scene of the 10th victim? What if I hadn’t tried to plant the newspaper clippings in Jason’s house…?
He was overcome with the realization that he could very well be mourning the loss of his beautiful wife, claimed as that monster’s 11th victim. And what’s more, Jason would still be free to continue his murdering ways - just like in Philly. No-one would know any different.
Matt didn’t know which emotion was more dominant right now; fear, anger or sheer relief.
He removed something from the bottom drawer then closed the drawer with his foot. From there he exited the building; no goodbyes, no see you later to his colleagues, nothing. He walked straight out.
Although not for the reasons initially intended, this item would now be of benefit in assisting them both through the long and arduous healing process that was to follow.
When he returned to the car he was distressed to find Alicia crying. She had a tissue tightly bunched up in her right hand, which was being supported on her lap by her left hand. Her eyes were reddened and her cheeks were streaked with mascara. She sobbed as she watched Matt slide into the driver’s seat.
‘What’s wrong Hun…? Are you OK?’ Matt was concerned for having left her alone so close to the traumatic shooting.
Alicia shook her head in response. She brushed her fringe from her eyes. ‘No…’ She dabbed her eyes with the tissue. ‘I’m not OK…’ Her head lowered and she stared into her hands. ‘I have something…something that I have to tell you…’ she began. ‘Something that you need to know...’
Matt knew exactly where this was heading. He knew she was about to confess her sordid affair with Jason; an affair with the man who had just tried to kill them both.
He didn’t need to hear it. He had been through all the anger and all the hurt and he was emerging out the other side.
While he realized it was probably part of Alicia’s healing process, and also probably a way for her to purge the guilt from her wrongdoings, he didn’t want to hear it; not today – maybe not ever.
Matt reached over and took her hand and sandwiched it between his large hands. He looked into her eyes. ‘I don’t care…’ He said directly. ‘If what you want to tell me involves you and that bastard…’ he said, ‘then I don’t want to hear it. OK…’ he rubbed her hand. ‘He was an evil, violent, manipulative man – a very sick man,’ Matt said looking deep into her eyes. ‘What has happened is the past...it can’t be changed,’ he said. ‘I’m just so thankful that I still have you.’
Alicia burst into tears. Her beautiful face distorted from her uncontrollable surge of emotions.
After several minutes of consoling her, Matt placed the item he retrieved from his desk drawer onto Alicia’s lap. Her eyes dropped to the white standard sized envelope on her lap. She frowned.
Matt lifted his chin to the envelope. ‘Open it,’ he said with a reassuring smile.
Her eyes dropped back to the envelope. She lifted it up. She slowly parted the envelope and peered inside. She quickly drew in a breath as her hand shot up to her mouth.
Matt smiled at her reaction. ‘I thought we both could do with a break…’ he said. ‘A chance to take the time to appreciate what we have together…and despite what has happened…a chance to celebrate the fact that we still have each other.’
Alicia’s eyes lifted to Matt. Her eyes, although puffy and reddened from her tears, suddenly showed a sign of life – a tiny glimmer of her usual sparkle returned.
‘Cancun…’ she smiled.
Matt nodded. ‘I thought…what better place than where we first met.’ He gestured to the envelope. ‘Those right there are two first class tickets to Cancun, Mexico where we will be staying for ten days at the same resort we stayed at when we first met…’
Alicia nodded. ’Temptation Resort,’ she said.
Matt smiled. ’It will be like a 2nd honeymoon for us. What do you say…?’
Alicia’s eyes welled with tears as she stared at the e-tickets inside the envelope. She lifted her teary eyes from the tickets to meet Matt’s gaze.
For the first time since the tragedy of last night, the sad and the hurt had vanished, even if only for a brief moment. Her face once again hosted her beautiful smile.
She extended her arms out towards Matt. ‘I say yes...’ she said smiling at him. Matt responded by embracing his wife. ‘I say yes…yes please,’ she repeated.