The quiet hum of the conference room’s portable electrical fan is inaudible over Lombardo’s powerful voice.
“Let me get this straight,” he says, directing his attention to Slade and McCloud. “Of the twenty-four thousand six hundred prisoners released in the past year and a half in this state, not a single one of them is a lefthanded, five-foot-ten-inch, two hundred and twenty pound, white male. How is that possible?”
McCloud leans forward, notebook in hand. “Well, of that twenty-four thousand six hundred, only three percent are Class A or B felons. Of those, the number incarcerated after the date of the last killing—”
The door swings open, Royce enters ahead of his partner.
Lombardo shoots him a hopeful glance. “Any luck tying Cordell Anthony to the victim or the crime scene?”
Royce’s chin sinks to his chest. “Tech finished their search of her photo library and social media sites. They got nothing.”
Following behind him, Masterson speaks, “The VA just sent over a copy of his latest psychological evaluation. Says, eight months ago, a nine-year-old girl strapped with a suicide vest walked into one of the army’s mobile clinics in Kabul, Afghanistan. The blast’s concussion left the doctor with a brain injury, which explains how he wound up addicted to the oxycodone. It also means he suffers occasional mental lapses in which he’s often been found wandering the streets with no idea how he got there. We followed up. It appears he was at a nearby treatment center the night of the victim’s murder. Nurses say he must have wandered off while they were attending another patient.”
“Did they say when?”
“Around eight thirty, but they say he was so heavily medicated, there’s no chance he could have pulled off such a complex murder, let alone hoisted a woman’s dead body onto those rafters.”
Lombardo chews on the inner part of his cheek. “They were certain about that?”
Masterson nods his head.
“All right, cut him loose.”
McCloud asks, “Is it possible the blind witness’s description is wrong? That all we really know is that the killer is a lefthanded male?”
“At this point, anything is possible. Listen,” Lombardo says, “I’m tired and I know most of you have been up since last night, so how’s about we call it a night, go home, get some sleep, and come at it tomorrow with a fresh set of eyes?”
Chairs screech across the tile floor as the men rise from the table, grabbing their coats and papers as they head for the door.
“Max, you going or staying?” Lombardo asks.
“I think I’ll stay for a bit,” Furor says, adding, “I’ve got one last report to file.”
“Your prerogative.” Then to the others. “Let’s reconvene back in this room at oh-eight-hundred tomorrow.”
Voiced approvals circulate the room as the men begin filing out.
Furor waits for the room to clear out before attacking the case files they’d ordered brought up from storage yesterday. For the next several hours, he shuffles through a seemingly endless number of medical reports, crime scene photographs, forensic assessments, and behavioral analyses. As time goes on, files start stacking up wherever there’s space between all the pictures and papers spread out across the table. It’s late by the time Furor’s eyes start to dry up. Leaning back, he rubs them with his palms.
“Fresh eyes,” he says, recalling Lombardo’s directive.
Arching forward, he lays his head on the desk atop his folded arms. He’s so tired, he could fall asleep right there. To ensure he doesn’t, he pushes up from the table. Collecting the scattered papers together, he does his best to match the files with their appropriate boxes. As he packs the last of the files away and lifts the box, the earlier three-page printout from the One-Eyed Kings Society, which was stuck to the bottom, falls to the ground. Crouching down to pick it up, he gathers the three pieces of paper together, orders them by page number, and is about to place them in a box when he happens to glance across the row from where the award recipients are listed to the column entitled remittance, which reflects the number of keys purchased in each order. In one row, the remittance column reflects the purchase of four keys, but the number of award recipients is only three. Glancing through the rest of list, he finds four other occasions in which the purchase order reflects one more key than recipient, making for five unaccounted keys.
Nearly a full minute passes as Furor pilots a series of irrational explanations for the discrepancy of where, or more accurately to whom, those keys might have gone. But nothing sticks.
Taking out his phone, he pulls up the text he’d received earlier that day from Gus van Sant, the clerk at the One-Eyed Kings Society, whom he’d asked to forward on the address of Roy Cavanaugh. Using the number, he calls him. It’s almost eleven o’clock. After two unanswered rings, he’s about to hang up and try back first thing tomorrow morning when the line picks up and a throat-cracked voice answers.
“Mr. van Sant. This is detective Furor. We met this afternoon, regarding the serial murders.”
“It’s a little late, detective.”
“And I apologize for that,” Furor says. “It’s just that I’m looking at the printout you gave me today and in the remittance column there are five instances in which the number of keys purchased don’t match the number of members awarded.”
There’s a moment’s delay as if van Sant were waiting for Max to come to some greater conclusion or at the very least to present him with a question.
“Correct,” van Sant says. “Occasionally, a case will be solved with the help of a non-member, could be an active member of law enforcement or John Q. Public, himself. As an honorary gesture, such individuals are given de facto membership status and presented with the commemorative key along with the other members of the society.”
The skin between Max’s eyebrows bunch together, “And do you have a list of these people’s names?”
“Unfortunately, because they’re not considered actual members, we don’t keep a record of them. Not for any practical reason, probably just an initial clerical oversight that became standard practice.”
“I don’t suppose you recall any of their names, do you?” Furor asks.
A laugh. “I’ve been lucky to stave off Alzheimer’s as long as I have, but there’s no way I’m going to recall five names I’ve probably only heard spoken once over a half-decade ago.”
Furor releases a heavy sigh.
“You could always check the Gazette,” van Sant says. “Every time we hold one of these key master ceremonies they run a feature article about it in the Metro section.”
“Always?” Furor asks.
“As far as I know.”
Furor hangs up the phone, pulls a chair up to the laptop. A search of the Gazette’s online archives comes back with an HTTP 404 - File or Directory Not Found error message. Either the system is down or the archives have been removed.
Max grabs his keys and jacket, snaps off the light as the door slams behind him.
The university library stays open all night. At the reference desk, he asks if they still carry copies of old newspapers. The woman behind the counter tells him they only hold onto the originals for one year. Afterwards, they’re sent to recycling. However, before that copies are made on microfiche. He gives her the five dates he’s looking for and watches as she disappears into a file storage room. Moments later she returns carrying the requested microfiche in sleeves which are covered in a thin layer of dust. He checks to make sure the dates on the slides line up with those on his list. They do. He’s then shown to a secluded room with a reader machine where he’s left alone to sort through the dated material. After switching the machine on, he places the first slide on the carrier. A newspaper image lights up the screen. After adjusting the focus, he uses the mobile tray to locate the date of the first article.
The process of examining the microfiche is tedious as the tray slides easily out of place, but he’s able to find the first article dated October 10th, 2002. The headline reads: ’Cold Case Club Celebrates Conviction’. A color photo features three men, each holding up one of those ceremonial keys. In the caption, he finds three names, two match those on his list of members, the third is that of Charles Dunlap, the victim’s friend.
Furor calls dispatch from his cellphone, identifies himself as a police officer and waits as the woman verifies his badge number.
“Yes, detective, how can I help you?”
“I’ve got a list of names here that I’m going to need you to run.”
“You want a list of prior arrests?”
“Priors, age, height, address, medical history, anything you can tell me.”
“Ready when you are,” she says.
“The first name I have is Charles Dunlap.”
In what seems like less time than it would take for her to type in the name she tells him there are fourteen Charles Dunlaps in the system. To narrow it down, he asks her to eliminate anyone currently under the age of forty. This leaves six names. Next, he asks her to forward the men’s driver’s license photos to his phone.
One-by-one, he swipes through the driver’s license photos until he identifies one of them as the Charles Dunlap from the newspaper. His driver’s license lists him at six-feet-tall, slightly more than the five-foot-ten-inch statement given by the blind witness, but well within the appropriate range. Relaying the information to the dispatch operator, he waits for her to run her search. There’s a pause of about fifteen seconds, during which time he loads the second slide. He’s just located the second article when her voice comes back on the line.
“It says here Charles Dunlap died two years ago in a single car accident. Toxicology reports revealed his blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit. His record includes six misdemeanor DUI arrests.”
“He’s not the guy,” Max says. “Let’s move on to the next one.”
On the next slide, dated May 23rd, 2010, a similar headline, praising the One-Eyed Kings for helping bring another killer to justice, offers the name and photo of Ezra Lee, a black man. This too, he discards.
The next two slides feature women and are also easily discounted.
As he loads the final slide on the carrier, his initial hope of returning tomorrow with five new suspects had all but been dashed. But as the slide comes to rest on the photo of the fifth article, his eyes narrow, shoulders hunch. Just to be sure he’s not mistaken, he scans the caption. There, beneath the photo of a man roughly five-foot-ten-inches tall, weighing somewhere around two-hundred-and-twenty-pounds, holding the ceremonial key from the One-Eyed Kings Society in his left hand, read the words, Police Captain Peter Dobbs.