The Thousand Words

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Chapter 23

I drove out from the office driveway and headed over to Sarah Jacobs apartment. There was virtually no traffic on a Sunday afternoon, only a single car a hundred or so yards behind me when I pulled out of my neighborhood. Church was over and everyone had run their errands earlier in the weekend. There were a number of people out for walks, jogging, and bike rides one last time before it simply got too cold and rainy for these types of activities.

I was deep in thought on the drive over reviewing the past few days in my head, trying to figure out what I missed. Nothing new came to mind. Some additional clues or different viewpoint were needed for an insight into my current situation. Reviewing the details in my head over and over again wasn’t going to provide any solution. It reminded me of reviewing what you wanted to write and not what was actually written down.

A honking pickup truck snapped me back into reality. It was then I noticed an old Chevy car a couple of vehicles behind me. The same car may have been in my neighborhood when I left this morning. My dad had drilled into me the importance of constant surveillance when driving around to make sure you are not being watched. We played the game every time I got in the car with him from an early age, looking for anyone who might be tracking us. In the over two decades I have been followed exactly twice. Once when he had one of his cop friends shadow us for fun, with the second being him following me a week after I got my driver’s license.

Wishing I had paid more attention, I kept a close eye on the car as I drove across town. The odds were extremely low anyone was actually following me, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I kept my speed fairly low and drove past the entrance to Sarah Jacobs’ apartment complex. The old Chevy followed at my pace and kept behind me. Not much of a surprise when driving straight on a major road. There were two people in the car. That’s about as much detail as I could get from a few quick glances using the various mirrors.

When you believe you are being followed and want to verify, you have a couple of choices that are very different from wanting to lose a tail. The first is speed. Most people when driving in open traffic maintain the same general pace with only some slight variations. When you are following someone you generally want to stay a certain distance away as not to be seen by them, but still close enough so you can follow. That means going at the same speed as who you are watching. To see if someone is following, a simple tactic is to vary your speed above the normal variations and see if they match. It’s not a guarantee as many people follow the flow of traffic, but it is still an overall indication.

I was going about ten miles beneath the posted speed limit practically crawling along. The Chevy was a few car lengths behind me. To not draw any attention to what I was doing, I gradually sped up to ten miles above the posted speed limit. Looking in my rearview mirror, the Chevy was still there. Needless to say, I was concerned. For the first time ever in a real situation, I thought I was being followed.

The other easy way to determine if you are being followed is taking a number of turns no one in their normal course of driving would ever take. Taking three lefts when a right would have been the simpler route. Or taking a longer route to get from point A to point B. The only problem with this method is it’s usually a dead giveaway to the person who is following you that you are onto them.

Wanting to know if the police had decided to follow me I took the more aggressive action. I made a quick right onto a side road and then another immediate right hitting the accelerator for some jolt of speed. The Chevy had followed me through the first turn but had kept going slowly through the second turn. I immediately pulled over on the side of the road and kept watch. After nearly five minutes without seeing the vehicle, I decided to continue. It might just be my paranoia over the past few days showing.

I put the car in gear and drove over to Sarah Jacobs’ apartment complex. Finding a different spot that still had a direct view to her front balcony, I backed in and parked. There was very little going on in the entire complex. It looked like everyone was in for the day resting up for the upcoming work week.

While watching the apartment and checking all of the cars for his client’s car, I called Bruno. He picked up after a couple of rings.

“Hey, Alex,” he answered. “What’s up?”

“Quick question. You are the lead on the two murders, so you should be informed on everything going on with it. Correct?”

“Yes,” Bruno said very suspiciously. “Where is this going?”

“I have a very blunt question then. Do you have someone following me?”

“No. I wouldn’t have to have you followed. Why are you asking?”

“I could have sworn an old Chevy was following me from out of my neighborhood a little while ago. The car appeared to be a seized car that had been repurposed by the police department.”

“So all of the training from your dad finally paid off for you?” He was laughing, thinking this was funny. I was having nothing of it.

“Bruno. This is serious. There was an older Chevy car with two people in the front who were following me for quite some distance. I varied my speed wildly on Montgomery Road and they always stayed five or six car lengths back. They followed me through one quick turn but not the second. This wasn’t something I imagined. Do you think the twins could be doing something without your knowledge?”

“To be honest, I hadn’t thought of the possibility but I wouldn’t put it past them. Where are you by the way?”

This was not something I wanted to answer truthfully. Sitting outside of the apartment of a murder victim where you are considered a suspect is not the best of circumstances. I still went with the truth, but left out the vast majority of.

“I went out for a few errands and to clear my head. This whole situation is really starting to fray at my nerves and overall sanity. I figured it would do me good to look at it all from a new position and point of view, so I got in my car and drove around to see if anything would trigger a new line of thought.”

I could tell by the way Bruno wasn’t saying anything that he wasn’t buying it at all.

Finally, he said, “Great non-answer there. I can see you have been practicing. If you don’t want to tell me, then I don’t want to know. Just be careful and smart. Let me call you back.” He hung up.

My thoughts went back to the situation at hand. I was sitting in the parking lot of Sarah Jacobs’ apartment complex watching her front balcony waiting for something to happen. The odds that my client was going to show up at hid deceased fiancée’s condo were very miniscule. Sarah herself was sitting on a cold slab in the city morgue downtown so any movement in her place was also very unlikely. So, what was I doing here anyway?

Not wanting to prove the definition of insanity and expecting a different result from the same actions, I got out of my car to walk around. Maybe I would talk to the neighbors, go ask the front office some questions if they were open or something else may present itself.

I walked over to her place and up the stairs to her balcony. There were a couple of papers on the ground near the door that contained all of the weekly ads from local grocery stores and retail businesses. As I went to knock on the front door to cover all of my bases, I saw a yellow crime scene sticker across the door jamb above the deadbolt lock. Obviously, the police had been here since her murder. There must have been something in the apartment the detectives wanted to keep any additional people from going in and changing. It could just be a precaution as well. Better to be safe than sorry. I didn’t bother knocking as there was no need.

Walking down her steps and straight across, I headed up the flight of stairs that led to her talkative neighbor. I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to hearing her blather on about some unrelated topic, but it was a necessary evil. As I reached the top of her stairs, I noticed what appeared to be the same old Chevy parked in the back part of the lot. It was a small but unmistakable view through a break in the trees. The car was backed into the spot and there were two people sitting in the front. I was being followed. Score one for my dad and the seemingly unimportant life lesson he instilled in me that turned out to be crucial.

I managed to keep my wits about me and pretended I received a phone call. Using the imaginary call as cover, I walked around the balcony for a minute risking a few glances at the car and made my way down the stairs. Throwing caution to the wind when I hit the bottom of the stairs, I took off at a full run in the direction of the Chevy and its two occupants. Immediately after coming into view, the car took off fast, practically fishtailing it out of the spot.

The Chevy was moving fast out of the lot and headed towards the front of the apartments and the only exit. The shrieks of tires and gunning of the Chevy’s engine could be heard everywhere. I was sprinting as fast as I possibly could. As a result, I couldn’t get a good view of the people in the car. My only chance was to beat the car to the complex exit. I cut through the buildings, running on sidewalks and across the green space between the buildings. Sprinting fast had never been a strong point of mine. Slow and steady long distance running had been my strength. Chasing a moving car you believed was following you was extremely good motivation. I was holding my own even though I had on the worst shoes possible for such an activity.

Sprinting out between two buildings on to the exit road, I looked to my left hoping to catch a glimpse of the Chevy car in order to catch the license plate. This was a major mistake on my part. At the last moment, I realized my running had beaten the car to the front and it was racing down the road directly at me. I dove into the landscaping barely missing the front bumper, feeling the wind generated by the car as it passed. The Chevy made a hard right out of the complex fishtailing as it went around the corner.

My heart was racing after the sprinting and near-miss, fueled by an adrenaline rush. I laid in the mulch and flowers for a minute trying to catch my breath and calm down. As I was getting up for a slow walk back to my car, Bruno called.

“Alex, It’s all in your head. I confirmed with the twins and the chief. No one is following you. Why are you breathing so hard?”

“Because I nearly got run over by the fucking car that is not following me,” I snapped back at Bruno. I then spent the next few minutes explaining to him what happened coming clean about where I was and what I was doing.

“So someone is following you,” Bruno said somewhat guilty. “It’s a given now but it’s not the police. You already gave me a brief description of the car. Did you happen to get a plate number?”

“Only a partial. No plate on the front. Ohio standard plates on the back. The first letter is a V. Second letter is a C, O, Q, D or something similar. I was a little preoccupied trying not to be roadkill to get any additional letters or numbers.”

“Let me check into it and get back to you. Be careful, Alex. There is obviously some serious shit going on. No idea what it is but someone looks like they are out for you. Later.” He hung up on me again before I could respond.

I got back in Jane’s car and sat for a minute before driving off to Kelsey’s for the night. There was nothing else to be gained at Sarah Jacob’s apartment. I needed a good night’s sleep and the best way would be to have Kelsey in my arms.

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