Do not think psychopaths are without emotion. They feel pain, lust, and even hatred. Those are feelings, aren’t they? The issue is more about process. How do they process the feelings they emote?
Pain, for you, may process as something to avoid. For psychotics, it may be that which they search. For them, it may be the only way they know they are alive.
Lust for you, in most cases, is a desire for sexual relief. For them, it drives them toward a conquest. Of course, the conquest may be of a sexual nature. More often, its nature is to invoke control. Either way, the lust they feel spurs them with a tunnel vision and without concerns.
Hatred is the worst of their emotions. For you, hatred is dictated by social morals. You may desire to kill or maim those you hate, but fear deprives you of your actions. For them, fear does not play the same role. If they seek a death, death will transpire. The differences are subtle. The results are vast.
The package and envelope addressed to Ben were dusted for prints. This time a print was lifted from the outside of the package. None involved could actually believe that Mr. Smith could make such a gross error. There was a sense of euphoria that what Ben had done the day before would actually pay off. It was almost too much to ask, yet there it was, plain as day. One beautiful print was staring back at them, and the group felt this had to be a good omen.
As instructed by the “Open me first” label attached to the outside of the letter, they read the following:
Dear Detective Simeon,
I have to admit that I don’t know at this juncture whether I should applaud your actions or condemn them. Your allowing the disgruntled Mrs. Appleby to come say her piece was either a stroke of genius or pure stupidity. I have to admit that, at least in part, it had some of the desired effect. You needed to cover your positions and not lose face with the public and managed to do so by having that poor, grieving woman say that which you were not permitted to say. I am sure that, based on my own interpretation of her efforts, you were successful. To that extent, I commend you.
Unfortunately, as in all great games of the mind, one must often lose a valuable ally or important piece in order to gain the momentum of the chase. And so it is in our little game, Detective Simeon. In order for you to enjoy the ground you have gained, one of your team members can no longer play the game. He has been lost to you and taken by me. I hope for the sake of Special Agent Smythe that your strategic advancement was worth his loss. You are the reason he can no longer play with us, detective. You are the reason that I have given you the special gift you now hold in front of you. Please, take the time now to open your gift and see what it is that I have decided to share with you.
Please take your time, detective. I’ll wait.
Ben placed the letter on the table as he was instructed and lifted the package in front of him. It was covered in white wrapping paper that could probably be found in thousands of stores. The tape, which held the paper together, could also be bought anywhere. Ben read his name on the package again before deciding to see what the crazed man had offered as a “gift.” He wasn’t expecting a bomb—no nitrates had been detected—but whatever it was would certainly be unpleasant.
Once the tape was cut, Ben slowly opened the lid and examined the tissue paper inside. He was expecting blood to be everywhere; that wasn’t the case. He lifted the contents and unrolled the tissue. Enclosed was a single middle finger that would later be confirmed as belonging to Special Agent Richard Smythe. Ben held the finger for everyone to see, palming it under the paper in which it was encased. He was careful not to touch it, both for police and personal reasons.
There was no blood anywhere. It had been cleaned as if intended to reduce the shock value, which didn’t seem consistent with Mr. Smith’s MO. Yet, Ben had concluded that everything this guy did was for a reason. The message wasn’t intended to shock; it was saying something else entirely. Ben could just feel that something was missing in the message. Maybe he was trying too hard.
Nobody in the room said a word. Ben went back to the letter.
Welcome back, everybody.
As if reading Ben’s mind, Mr. Smith had written,
Detective Simeon, please don’t read too much into the message you think might be offered with the gift. I reduced the message to your level, so that you would not have to be taxed too much to understand its implication.
I implore you to take heed of what must be understood here. No one is beyond my reach. You are instructed to follow my instructions to the letter. You are not permitted to add or subtract from the message I give you. To do so will only cause more of the same results you have just witnessed. And I am sure, detective, that you do not want any more deaths on your conscience than you already have to cope with. Someday soon, all of this will be over and you will go back to your dreary existence. I want you to be able to sleep at nights. It is not my intention for you to end up like the others. However, do not believe for a moment that I cannot take this to a much higher level for you all. There is purpose behind my efforts, and I will not have you or any of your friends take from me that which is mine.
So let’s get on with the game.
The next name on your list is Samantha Jones. Once again I have to admit that the Jones part was in truth an alias. Her real name was Samantha Stewart. I used the name Jones because that was the one she used as a prostitute and a drug pusher. Her “day job” was that of a nurse; I have been told she was actually good at her profession. She was loved and admired by all of her peers at the hospital where she was employed. It only proves the ignorance of those who fail to look past the obvious.
Samantha was a very bad girl who broke my heart. She angered me, insulted me, and in one single act of arrogance destroyed everything that was important to me. It was she who initiated all that you are now dealing with today. Therefore, it was she that I caused the greatest pain. And she will be my greatest example to the public that a life of deceit, corruption, and utter disregard for the human spirit will not be tolerated. Those who choose to continue these actions will be dealt with in a similar fashion.
You will say this, and you will say it with the greatest effort you can muster, so that the world knows that a life like hers will no longer be tolerated.
I hanged her, Detective Simeon, not by the neck, but by the wrists. I peeled her skin inch by inch. I wanted her exposed to a pain that included days of suffering. Inch by inch I removed the epidermis while she screamed. I wanted to hear that scream, detective. I wanted her to feel the pain she inflicted on others everyday. I wanted her to feel the horror of her life. And I wanted her to see what it was like to have a beautiful young body dissolve right in front of her eyes, so when she was conscious, she had the opportunity to see my work in the mirrors I strategically placed all around her.
For five days I made her suffer. For five glorious days I heard those screams. I can hear them still. They are the symphony by which I am able to sleep.
Her body is close to where you are presently located, so please take advantage of my generosity.
I have saved her for you in a special way. Her body is intact, except for two things. First, her skin, once removed, was fed to the pigs—no cop pun intended. The second is her heart. I figured since she destroyed mine, it was only fitting that I take hers. I keep it close to me still, even after all this time.
Her location is enclosed as before. Her body has been frozen. I wanted you to see and to show the public what will be in store for them if they do not get their lives in order.
Show them, Detective Simeon. Show the world what it will be like. Make them see that to cause death will be reason to die as they have lived. Show them that their actions will no longer be tolerated. And, detective, I do actually mean for you to show her on the news. Her body must be displayed for the public to see. You may warn the children not to watch, but when the world sees her, I want her death described in detail.
As for the FBI, they will try to take this case from you, detective. One of theirs is gone, and it will be impossible for you to keep them out. That is not acceptable and will be cause for further action. That, of course, will be my concern. It is up to you to convince them that I am a serious player, though my efforts may be sufficient to illustrate that. Until we next meet.
p.s. The fingerprint you found on the package was that of Special Agent Smythe. I was just having a little fun at your expense.
“Is it just me?” Ben asked. “Or is Mr. Smith watching us closer than we may have originally thought?” asked Ben.
“Go on,” Cheryl said. “What do you mean?”
“It just seems obvious to me that he knows more about what we’re doing than he’s letting on. What I mean is, how did he know that Smythe was even a part of this task force? I didn’t tell anyone. It hasn’t been reported anywhere. So how did he know unless he’s watching us?”
“I agree,” Agent Conley said. “It seems that we have a leak. Someone is tipping Mr. Smith about who we are, maybe even more. We need to find the leak, and I mean right now.”
“Now hold on just a goddamn minute,” Captain Black retorted. “If you’re saying I have a bad apple in my station, you’re all full of shit. My people are loyal, dedicated people. Each and every one of them want this asshole found and brought to justice.”
“Then how the hell did he find out?” Conley snapped. “There isn’t any other way.”
Cheryl spoke up. “Actually, Walter, there are other ways. Lots of them. I don’t know how he’s getting the information, but it doesn’t have to have come from these people here.”
“So you’re saying that just because he says so, we should eliminate them as suspects?”
“Not at all. What I’m saying is that we cannot limit ourselves to just that avenue. This man Smith is smart. Whether now or in the near future, he has to believe that we will come to this conclusion. Whatever his sources may be, we have to find ’em and eliminate ’em. He’s not going to have just one method of gathering information about who we are and what we’re doing. Let’s keep a clear head and not let him jeopardize our objectivity. He’s still running this show, and if we want to find him, and if we don’t want to end up like Smythe, then we have to make sure that each step we take is as calculated as his.”
“It seems to me, people,” Black started, “that we have more to do right now than to just go on a witch hunt. We have a body to find. We have a statement to make this evening that will be absolutely gruesome and I don’t have a clue as to how we’re going to pull that one off. We have an agent missing—one it would be reasonable to assume is dead—that we need to find. We have a killer out there somewhere who is getting his jollies off by skinning a young girl to death. And last, but certainly not least, we have a public out there that is going to hang us by our nuts if we don’t find the bastard. Now which one of those is supposed to take a back seat while you go out looking for somebody who’s giving away our little secret of not knowing a goddamn thing about this case that hasn’t been told to the world already? Kids, we need to focus on what’s important.”
Everybody in the room was getting anxious as the captain spoke. They knew he was right. They also knew that they really didn’t have anything to go on. They were completely stumped. Nobody likes being made the fool, and Mr. Smith was making a fool of them all.
“First of all,” Ben said, “we have to get the girl, and we have to find her next of kin. Once we have the body, maybe forensics can find something for us to go on. As for Special Agent Smythe, you’re right. He’s probably dead. But we need to consider him missing and approach it as if he’s still alive. I hate saying it, but this guy seems to have a penchant for torture. Smythe may still be alive, and we need to approach it like that. Also, it seems to me that the FBI will want to handle that internally. As for the public, they’ll just have to wait like the rest of us. They aren’t any more upset by this guy than we are. If they want a head on the chopping block, they can have mine. It seems like my head has taken up residency there anyway.”
“What about the feds taking over the case as Cheryl indicated?” Willie Mason asked? “We could be running around for nothing. And I, for one, don’t like the idea of working my ass off only to give everything over to someone else, especially them.”
“Two things,” Ben replied. “First, the feds haven’t taken over this case just yet. No offense, Walter. So until they do, it’s up to us to keep doing our job as we have been. Second, I don’t think the feds will take over. I say that because Mr. Smith won’t let it happen. He said as much in the letter. Oh, they may try, and I know he said I’m supposed to keep it from happening, but he’s already thought about it, and I think he’ll interfere with their attempt. For now let’s just do our jobs as we have been.”
Everybody was listening to Ben’s words as if they came from on high. It didn’t dawn on him until just then that everybody was looking to him for answers. They hadn’t placed him in a leadership role, and he didn’t know when the transformation had taken place. For the first time since this case started, Ben actually believed that he was in charge. Not because Mr. Smith had put him there, but because his peers had. He felt strong and confident. He wondered just how long that was going to last.