Around the globe, if a traitor is discovered, the traitor is terminated. I consider my life and my work to be my own world, my country. Should a traitor compromise my life, that traitor would be destroyed without hesitation.
Those I encourage to work with me become a part of my little country. I ask nothing of them that I would not do myself. From them I expect loyalty, devotion, and, above all, trustworthiness.
It does not matter their reasons. Loyalty is mandated. Failure has but one consequence: death.
Jennie White had been stirring restlessly in her attempt to sleep. She knew what was going on in the news. She also knew that she was a part of one of the most Machiavellian crimes ever. She was scared. Not so much for herself as she was for Ricky. She couldn’t let anything happen to her baby. What could she do? She was tired, yet sleep was not coming to her.
It was nearly 3:00 a.m. when she finally dozed off into a deep sleep.
She didn’t know how long she had been asleep when the hand covered her mouth and pressed the back of her head firm against the pillow. Her first instinct was to grab at the hand that held her, to fight with all her might. Then she felt the cold steel of the knife as it was placed against her throat. She froze, then let go of the hand on her mouth. There was nothing she could do but pray that she would live through the night.
“Listen carefully to my voice, Jennie,” the man said in a loud, hissing whisper. “You have two choices right now. One is to live, the other to die. Do you have a personal preference about this subject, Jennie?” His sadistic voice made her skin rise in goose bumps. “Of course you do. Moreover, I would bet that you have a strong opinion about the life of Ricky, don’t you?I was just looking in on him, Jennie.” He said her name as if his voice were sharp enough to cut her like the knife itself. “I know that you read and watch television. You know by now what you are a part of, Jennie. So I have to make a decision, right here and right now. I have to decide if I am going to let you live tonight or if I am going to take this knife and drag its razor edge across your throat. Of course, if I do that to you, I will also have to do that to Ricky as well. You know that it will be easy to replace you, don’t you? You need to know that I have several others that are already waiting, just like you, Jennie. They’re waiting to do my bidding so that they can pay their debt to me and get on with their lives. The problem I have right now is that you are doing a very good job for me so far. But I know your thoughts. I know that you want to go to the police and tell them everything you think you know. But you can’t, Jennie.”
He slowly lowered the tip of the blade from her neck to her ample breasts. With the slightest effort, the blade slid under her nightshirt and cut the material open, as if it were cutting through warm butter. With the tip of the blade, he opened the shirt, exposing her left nipple. The blade, pressed against her breast and with no motion other than her breathing, cut her just below the areola. At first she felt nothing but the pressure. Then, when the warm, ruby fluid started oozing down her side, the burning sensation began to build.
The scream she wanted to cry was muted by her sense of self-preservation. The blood trickled down her side, pooling on the sheet. The pain was harsh, yet didn’t come close to the fear she felt for what she believed was to come.
“I know you, Jennie,” the man said. “I know what you want, and I am willing to give it to you. I am willing to set you free from me forever. What you need to understand is that I take no pride in ending, nor do I have a desire to end, your life at this moment. I am watching you, Jennie. I know where you go. I know what you do. I know with whom you speak and what you say. Should you desire to speak to someone that you think can protect you, I suggest you think very hard on that decision before you make it. You can trust my words, Jennie. You can trust the good and the bad I speak. Take care that you heed my words. I don’t want anything to happen to keep you and Ricky from growing old and living a full life.”
The knife flipped open the other side of her blouse, exposing her right nipple. The man placed the cold steel against her nipple, and she shook in anticipation of the next searing cut. She prayed that she would live. She prayed that Ricky would survive the night.
Instead of pain, Jennie White felt him place a rag over her face. In moments, everything had gone black.
When Donald Black left his office, Ben invited Cheryl to come in and take a seat. When she sat and crossed her leg, the slit of her skirt opened, exposing her firm, beautifully proportioned leg all the way to mid-thigh. Ben couldn’t help take notice and tried desperately not to show the attention he was giving to the sight before him. I’ve been out of circulation way too long, he thought to himself before regaining his composure. Adjusting himself in his seat, he looked into her eyes and, as professionally as he could muster, said, “I’m assuming that you need to speak to me privately.”
Ben was pretty sure he had gotten the hint, but he wasn’t one to make assumptions, and the easiest way to get to an issue was the direct approach.
“Yes, I do,” she said without hesitation. “I have something that I want you to give some thought about. And if I’m right, we’re going to have some real problems on our hands. And I do mean more than we already know about.”
She’s a mind reader too, Ben thought.
“First let me preface this by saying that, for now at least, this matter is pure speculation. Second, what we discuss can go no further than between you and me. That means you can’t even discuss this with your captain or anyone else. Can I have your word on this?”
Cheryl knew before even asking that Ben Simeon was a man of honor. She knew that his word was stronger than any contract drafted by an attorney. She also knew that what she was about to discuss with him would be very difficult to swallow. If she handled it wrong, she just might lose him as an ally.
“You should know, Cheryl, that I don’t make blind promises. I won’t compromise what I believe to be right to cover someone else’s ass. However, I’ll say this. If you understand where I’m coming from and don’t put me in a position to compromise this investigation, then you have my word.” Ben wasn’t quite comfortable with what he was committing to.
“Okay.” She took her time, so that her words would be spoken just right. “Earlier today, when we spoke about the profile of Mr. Smith, I alluded in my thoughts that I was leaning toward the possibility that this person may have had some exposure to law enforcement.” Cheryl stopped for a moment to let Ben’s mind reflect on the earlier discussion. “And even though we got little resistance to the concept, no one was overly enthusiastic about pursuing that avenue as viable just yet.”
Ben interrupted her. “I understand that we’re not crazy about the possibility of an ex-cop being some sort of fanatic monster going about killing a lot of people, but I think everyone agreed that following up on the possibility was a good thing.” He wasn’t really sure where she was going with the conversation.
“I agree. They all said that they would do their parts to isolate any possibilities, including the one where Mr. Smith could be an ex-cop. However, if a person doesn’t want to believe in the possibility of something, doesn’t it seem reasonable to consider that whoever is doing the research may not be as thorough as necessary? My concern is to make sure that when we go through the process of narrowing down suspects that you consider having someone double-check the results.”
“Wait just a damn minute.” Ben lifted his voice from the calm level they had been speaking in. “What exactly are you saying here? And damn it, stop beating around the bush. If you think that someone on this task force is incompetent, spit it out. There’s way too much at stake here for shoddy work. I have to be able to trust the people I work with.”
Ben’s neck was starting to get red. She wasn’t being straight with him. He needed some answers.
“Please,” Cheryl said, “hear me out, and don’t get upset. You’re right. There’s too much at stake, and I know that you’re not in an enviable position.” She hesitated.
“I’m not so sure that we are covering all the bases if we limit our earlier discussion to just those identified during the meeting.” She was still skirting the real issue, and she knew that Ben could sense it. Instead of making things worse, she said, “I think you need to look into the possibility that Mr. Smith could be an active cop.”
There, she thought. It’s out in the open. If Detective Simeon was anything like she hoped, he would give this the scrutiny it deserved. If not, she may have done more harm than good.
“Why?” It was all Ben could muster. He couldn’t grasp the idea that someone, active on a police force could turn out to be a serial killer.
“Look, Ben.” What was really on her mind was out. She knew Ben deserved as much information as she could honestly give him. Unfortunately, she wasn’t all that sure about this herself. “I know that when a killer goes on a rampage that he or she is almost always motivated by emotions. I believe Mr. Smith is as well. The difference is that Mr. Smith’s actions are too precise to be just anyone. This person has too many of our methods down cold. He has taken every detail into consideration well before the act is committed. He has thought out what we would do even before we know what we would do. He knows too much. And frankly, my concern isn’t so much what he has said or done to this point. My concerns are more about what has been left out, what hasn’t been said!” She caught herself getting emotional. This was something that she was unaccustomed to feeling, yet she somehow needed Ben to understand.
“If this person is a cop,” Ben said, “then that would put an entirely different slant on our approach to this investigation.” He didn’t like what he was hearing one bit. He also knew that his time for this discussion was limited. “Look, I don’t know if I can buy into your theory just yet. Maybe my mind is too fried to absorb what you’re saying. Maybe I just don’t want to believe it’s actually possible, let alone true. Maybe it’s because I have to dig up a couple of heads down in Monterey County and the thought of that is just a little more than I can deal with right now. But, for now at least, I am going to take the information and just try to let it sink in. I won’t say that I agree with you on this, Cheryl. I’m not saying that I don’t either. What I am saying is that, for now, I can’t even begin to grasp the depth or the implications of what you have just laid out to me. So if you don’t mind, I am going to get in my car and head south. Tomorrow, or I guess more accurately, later today, after we get back, and maybe a few hours’ rest, then we’ll talk about it some more. In the meantime, as I already told you, I won’t talk about this with anyone. I don’t want you sharing this theory with anyone else either. Is that okay with you?”
Ben was just beginning to realize how tired he was. Now was certainly not the time, and he wasn’t up to a discussion where he would be putting a cop’s life, career and family on the line. No, he thought, later will be better.
“Yes,” Cheryl said, “that will be fine with me. In the meantime, I will be going back over what I have to see if I can clear my thoughts on all of this for you.”
“A couple of questions before I go?”
“First, if—and I know it’s a big if right now—if you’re sure that there may be an active cop involved, why are you discussing it with me?” Ben thought it was a perfectly legitimate question. “After all,” continuing his reasoning, “wouldn’t I be one of the suspects?”
She pondered the question and gave it the respect it deserved. “There is a point in every case where a person needs to know who he or she can depend on. If you want my honesty, then I have to say that I have considered you a possible suspect as I have everyone else. As a matter of fact, you would probably be a greater suspect than any of the others because of your position with this case. However, I consider myself to be an excellent judge of character. I know things at the gut level that I have to depend on more than just the evidence presented. My gut tells me that you are one of the truly good guys of law enforcement. And I always listen to my gut. What else?”
“Actually, I think I’ll hold off on any other questions for now. I’ll give it some thought, Cheryl. But do me a favor and make sure of this before pushing it too far. I don’t want you getting hurt any more than I want to get clobbered with it myself. I have to go.”
Ben and Cheryl left his office heading in different directions. She had to somehow find a way to get into Mr. Smith’s head. Ben had to go find a couple of his own.