With any great plan, regardless of the motivation or social mores, the key in its design is to be flexible, even fluid. Like a river flowing, the path of each drop of water varies, yet its destination is always constant.
They perceive that I’m angry. They think they can predict what I will do when they attempt to change my plans. They believe in their own whimsical notions. What fools they are. Have they learned nothing thus far? They will want to replace Detective Simeon. They should know by now that they cannot. Unfortunately, once again, they must be taught. They must learn that the control they have enjoyed for all these years has been theirs only because others have allowed it. I will not be so generous. Their foolishness is in thinking that I had not expected this reaction. I wonder how they have accomplished so much considering their folly? Does luck have anything to do with their successes? I do not believe they are totally without brains. I can only speculate that those who failed before me were such inferior cretins that success would be imminent even for those only slightly more intelligent.
It is time to move to the second phase. The real reason will now unfold before their eyes. They will believe it to be retribution. How trite. Smoke and mirrors is all they’ve seen, and yet they believe in the magic. It’s all they’ve known. How can they expect to win? Only my detective has proven the ability to think outside the confines of the box. They will attempt to show their power by forcing my pawn off the board. In doing so, once again they will expose themselves in such a way that they will find themselves powerless.
I do love this game.
As Ben and Sue entered the police station, several grim-faced members of his team greeted them. Ben knew that something was happening; yet they said nothing. He had learned over the years to read a person’s facial expressions. Those he was looking at were not happy, and Ben guessed it had something to do with what he was about to hear from Captain Black and Cheryl Johnson, who were sitting in his office.
“Sit down, Ben,” the captain said. “Sue, you wait outside.”
“What’s going on?” Ben asked, moving to the only remaining chair in the tiny office. “Did something happen?”
“Ben,” Cheryl whispered, “I just got off the phone about thirty minutes ago with the director in Washington, and he has instructed me to take over the Smith case. As of right now, you are no longer a part of this investigation. He thinks that your approach is too passive and has proven unproductive. Therefore, I have no choice but to ask you not to interfere in any way with future aspects of the case.”
Ben sat in silence for a moment attempting to process the bomb that had just been tossed in his lap. It’s funny, he thought, I didn’t want the damn thing from the beginning. Yet now that I’m being removed, I don’t like it one damn bit.
“Captain?” Ben looked directly at him.
“Cheryl and I have been discussing this since she got off the phone, Ben,” the captain said. “I have no control over this. I can tell you and will tell everybody else that I think it’s a huge mistake and it’s going to come back and bite ’em in the ass. But as of now, they’re in charge. Go home and get some rest. I’ll do what I can here. If anything comes up, I’ll let you know.”
“If it’s any consolation, Ben,” Cheryl said, “I don’t agree with the director any more than the captain does, but my hands are tied. I have to follow orders. I just want you to know that I truly appreciate your help in all of this and your understanding.”
“You don’t get it, do you, Cheryl?” Ben asked, almost smiling when he said it.
“I never was in charge of this case, any more than you’ll be.” Ben turned and left them sitting there staring at him. As he walked away, shaking his head, Ben thought, No wonder Mr. Smith is doing this. The way this whole thing is going, they’ll never find out who he is. Upon further reflection he thought, I’ll be back. They don’t know it yet, but I’ll be back. He smiled with the confidence of someone who knew a secret nobody else seemed to recognize.
The drive to Sacramento took close to three hours. Mr. Smith thought of it as one of the most boring drives possible. There was little in the way of scenery, unless you were into seeing a bunch of windmills as you crossed over a mountain range. He wasn’t all that interested in the views from his windshield. To him, the most beautiful sight was entering the city and knowing that the next person he would be talking to would take him one step closer to completing his mission. The man who called himself Mr. Smith believed that killing was an art form in itself. Few could do it, and fewer yet could do it right. He was a master craftsman at his art. The thought of it placed a smile on his face and made him swell with pride.
When he arrived at the appointed time and location, Mr. Smith saw that the home he came to inspect was actually quite attractive. It was a two-story colonial with white pillars supporting the over-hanging porch roof. The attached three-car garage was perfect for affluent folks who had trouble making up their minds about which car to drive on a given day. That was certainly good for what he needed. The community surrounding the property was that of old wealth and well maintained. Of course, the property was not something he would want for his own modest needs and desires, but it would certainly be suitable for someone younger and getting ready to raise a family. It was also the type of place most suitable for aspiring politicians.
As Mr. Smith pulled up, an attractive woman in her early thirties opened the front double doors of the home and waved to him in expectation. That must be Ms. Chaseman, he thought to himself. She seems anxious to start our meeting. Good. So am I. Mr. Smith looked at his watch and realized that the next meeting was only 45 minutes away; timing was of the essence. Yet this little get-together would take less than 15 minutes and give him plenty of time to prepare for the next phase.
The formal introductions were made quickly since they had, at least from her perspective, already only spoken on the phone. But Mr. Smith would have known the woman in a crowded room. After introductions, Ms. Chaseman showed him the lower rooms first, but because of his request agreed to move to the top and work down from there. She started with the smaller bedrooms, then the closets in the hall, before opening the door to the large master bedroom.
Even to Mr. Smith, the room was gorgeous. From the parquet hardwood floor to the high ceiling to the built in bookshelves and oversized fireplace, the room was a masterpiece. The architect that had designed the room should have been proud of his work.
Ms. Chaseman could sense that this was the room to make the best impression and wanted Mr. Smith to take in all of its beauty. She went to the large windows leading to the balcony and looked out to see the large birch tree glimmering, sunlight reflecting off its greenish-silver leaves. She then went opened the walk-in closet doors. She knew too well that if this man were married or wanting to be married, a large closet would make any woman in his life happy. What she hadn’t noticed was a very quiet Mr. Smith coming up behind her, holding a long, slender knife in his right hand.
The woman jumped as she felt a handclasp across her mouth. She felt something press against her neck, but didn’t actually feel the steel as it sank into the soft flesh of her neck, severing her carotid artery. The blade was narrow and the idea was to puncture more than slice. Mr. Smith didn’t want there to be a lot of blood; He merely wanted the woman dead. That, he knew, would be enough for what he had in mind.
All Ms. Chaseman could tell, as the panic started welling inside her, was that something very wrong was taking place, and she wanted to get away from this person as quickly as she could. His grip, however, was too strong, and her strength was beginning to deteriorate. Her legs felt like rubber; everything was growing dark. All she knew, all she really cared about was that she loved her children and hoped that they would remember how much she loved them. Then everything went black, and the lovely Ms. Chaseman was no more.
There was a stage to set, and Mr. Smith needed to do it quickly. Setting the body, and making all of the other obligatory preparations took less than ten minutes. Even the small drops of blood that had managed to escape were confined to an area easily cleaned off the wooden floor.
One important aspect of a perfect kill is to make it appropriate for the situation. For Ms. Chaseman’s demise, the purpose was shock and awe. This particular kill was not one in which Mr. Smith delighted, it was merely one of necessity. It was necessary because it gave him the access essential to accomplishing the true mission of the trip to the capitol city. And speaking of purpose, it was just now driving up to the front of the house.
Frances Alexander, a 29-year-old attorney, had graduated from Stanford University near the top of her class and passed the bar exam on her first attempt. She was not what most would consider beautiful. Truth be told, most would consider her a little homely. She was short and stout. Her hair was cropped in a style more consistent with what a man might sport.
Frances’s current specialization was in estate and tax law, but she yearned to move into the political arena, following the footsteps of her father, Governor Jonathan “Jack” Alexander. Frances had moved back to Sacramento three years ago after doing an internship in the San Francisco area. Now she was looking to purchase a home, which was why she was meeting with a realtor today. The home, as it was described, was a rare value, priced about twenty percent less than what would be considered market value. She was told that because of her father’s position, she might be able to take advantage of the generosity of one of her father’s campaign contributors.
Because of the possible backlash that it could cause the governor, Frances Alexander had discussed the matter with both her father and the family attorney. Neither had noted any particular problems with the transaction so long as they would have the ability to look the contracts over carefully before she signed anything. At any rate, she had agreed to meet with the realtor to at least see if it might be something she wanted. Her bodyguard, Sam Nelson, accompanied her and had been told by the governor to keep a close eye on his “baby girl.”
Jack Alexander appeared to be the heir apparent to the crown jewel. He was the front-runner in the up-coming presidential election. His demeanor was tough, commanding any crowd with a strong, deep voice. There was little opposition coming from the other party, which seemed to be a typical situation for the man. Any real opposing contenders seemed to flounder or quit outright when Jack Alexander ran for something.
Mr. Smith greeted Frances Alexander and her bodyguard at the door in a manner similar to the one given him less than an hour before. He knew now time was on his side and that he could take as long as necessary to capture his prize for the day.
As they walked through the beautiful house, Mr. Smith showed them many of the wonderful aspects of—as he described—the home of her dreams. He told her that this home would change her life forever. Of course, the two onlookers took the statement to mean something entirely different from what he intended.
After asking and answering a plethora of questions, Mr. Smith suggested they ascend to the second floor. He explained that he had a surprise waiting for them, that the best was yet to come. He smiled at the two, and though he knew that the time to act was soon, Mr. Smith actually caught himself enjoying the subtleties and playing word games with his next victims, so much so that he realized that he was taking longer than expected. He could have delayed this moment even longer, but doing so increased the risks taken with each passing moment.
He moved them directly to the master bedroom. The only concern he had about the two as they walked from room to room was how Sam Nelson was indeed protecting the young woman by staying, at all times, between the governor’s daughter and Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith had anticipated this maneuver, a classic stance for a bodyguard. Always stay between the target and any known or potential threats. The only potential threat was the one presented by the zealous realtor, Nelson would have recognized. No matter how small of a threat it may have been, Nelson would protect this girl.
Of course, when it happened, the bodyguard would not be able to stop it. And that is exactly how it happened. Mr. Smith saw that the bedroom pleased the woman. She was pleased with all aspects of the house, but when Frances Alexander saw the bedroom’s beauty, she was ready to buy the home on the spot. Mr. Smith placed his hand into his pocket, suggesting that Ms. Alexander take a look at the spacious walk-in closet.
The woman was only too happy to oblige. But when she opened the closet door, the sight was more than she could accept. Ms. Chaseman was hanging in the closet. For effect, Mr. Smith had spread her arms wide and supported them by the hooks supplied by the closet’s hardware. He had made sure that her eyes were open and staring directly at Frances Alexander now.
Her scream was better than anything he had ever heard in movies, the killer thought. Besides, those are only pretend. This one, he knew, was very real.
Sam Nelson’s attention turned to what caused the scream. He grabbed the girl and pulled her from the closet, turning his back on Mr. Smith as he saw Ms. Chaseman hanging there. He had no idea that this one action would be a fatal one.
Mr. Smith moved in close to the professional bodyguard, slipping the long, slender blade from his pocket. With the movements of a cat, Mr. Smith grabbed the man by his hair and pulled back hard, simultaneously sliding the sharp instrument over his neck. Even before Sam Nelson could know what was happening, he felt the cold steel press over his throat. Moments later, he felt the warm life fluid pouring from his body.
All of this was actually being blocked from Frances Alexander’s view. At first she thought Mr. Smith—her supposed realtor—was moving in to help with the woman hanging in the closet. When she saw her bodyguard falling to the floor, she thought he had had a heart attack and ran to his side. She didn’t see the blood oozing from the man’s throat right away. When she finally saw it, she jumped back and screamed again. It was at that moment that she knew she was going to die. She didn’t know why or how, but she knew it. She wanted to run, but her legs wouldn’t budge. She wanted to scream, but her mouth wouldn’t open. She was finally able to take her gaze from her dying bodyguard, turning to the eyes and smiling face of Mr. Smith. His eyes and mannerisms were somehow different now. They were no longer that of a salesperson. They were the eyes of death.