There is nothing more beautiful than a well designed and perfectly executed lie. Maybe you perceive me as someone who is only about blood and gore. Maybe you believe that I only live for the kill. Once again, you would be wrong. Killing is only one of the art forms for which I have a great appreciation.
It has been my objective throughout this process to enlighten each of you with my experience and wisdom. I can’t help but wonder if anyone will actually understand the gifts I have given freely.
The nuggets I offer, no matter your life’s path, will enrich you beyond your wildest imagination. You need not be a priest to have pure thoughts. You need not be of wealth to offer riches. Even the condemned can offer wise council.
The governor wasn’t just going to sit back and wait for some hick cop from Santa Cruz to determine the fate of his daughter. Jack Alexander wanted to know as much as he could about the man in charge of this investigation. It was bad enough to have to listen to someone who was less than respectful. But when it came to his daughter, nobody was going to push him aside from finding her and the monster who had taken her away.
The governor had a special group working all night long to get the information he wanted, and when they met early the next day, the group gave him everything available on Detective Benjamin Simeon. Now he knew where they had met before. Now he understood why the detective had been so cool toward him. But most importantly, now he understood why the detective was the one guy that he needed to get off the case, if for no other reason than believing this man would do something to get his daughter killed. And the governor believed that Ben had enough motivation to do so intentionally.
“So what do we know about the case he’s worked on so far?” the governor barked.
“Actually, the man has done a good job of leading the team of local, state and federal personnel,” said the chief of police. “Everything he has done so far is by the book, and according to the FBI shrink, he’s been superior in his methods of keeping information coming in and following the rules as they have been set by Mr. Smith.”
“Are you trying to tell me that this local cop is doing everything that can be done?” the governor demanded impetuously. “Are you telling me that he can do better than our own state police force and the FBI? That’s ludicrous. He doesn’t have the experience. I want him off the case right now. Do you understand me?”
The governor had gotten to the point of screaming. The chief of police thought he was being irrational and didn’t seem capable of making the wisest choices.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Governor,” the chief started, “I can’t do that. I can’t remove the man.”
“Don’t tell me you can’t or won’t do what I tell you!” the governor yelled. “I have given you an order and that is exactly what I expect you to do!”
“No sir!” the chief said sharply. “That’s what the FBI did, and as far as I can tell, that is why your daughter is missing right now. I will not further jeopardize your daughter’s life or someone else’s, not even if it costs me my job. Forgive me for being so blunt, sir, but we are dealing with a fucking maniac who has no concern for your position and is smart enough to get away with what he’s doing. I’m not going to do something to piss him off. And neither are you. Fire me if you want, but till you do, I’ll keep this man on the case. Maybe later we can do something to get rid of him, but for now we have to play by the same rules that Simeon’s playing by. I don’t like it any more than you do.” The chief paused for a moment. “Right now it’s our best and possibly only hope of getting your daughter back alive.”
The governor started pacing the floor from his desk to the large bay window, to the fireplace, then back to his desk. He was dying inside. The man had been through war in Vietnam. He had stood in front of some of the most powerful people in this country. He had successfully run for the highest political position in the state when most thought he hadn’t had a chance of winning. Now, for the first time he could remember, he was scared—for himself, but mostly for Frances. He didn’t want to lose her. The chief’s words had sunk in, and the reality was right in front of him. His past was indeed catching up with him. He didn’t know how, but somehow he knew that he’d caused all this. The governor looked up at the chief, nodded his head in agreement, sat down behind his desk, and wept.
Ricky White woke almost an hour before his mother woke from the blow she’d taken. He hadn’t heard the intruder. He hadn’t known what had happened to his mommy. All he knew was that she’d been sleeping, and there was a box of something on the table that hadn’t been there last night. Maybe it was candy or doughnuts—he didn’t know. What he did know was that mommy was asleep, and he was going to sneak a peek.
Unfortunately, when he opened the box and pulled out the contents, the only things inside were papers, some weird-looking gloves, and other junk.
Ricky didn’t mind getting caught eating candy or some other kind of treat, but he didn’t want to get yelled at for getting into something that wasn’t anything good. He carefully put the contents back into the box and closed the lid. Then he went over to the television and turned on Nickelodeon to watch cartoons.
Jennie’s head felt just the way it was supposed to feel when someone smashes their fist into it: it hurt like hell. She was scared for Ricky’s life. There was nothing she could do to protect him from this man who had so easily found her. She had tried hiding, but all she had managed to do was piss him off. He was invincible, and he could find her anywhere. She also thought he could read her mind, that he knew she wanted to get away from him. She couldn’t risk disobeying him. To do so would be certain death. At least she had a chance if she did as she was told. That was all she could do for now.
Jennie saw the package on the table. She didn’t know exactly what she would have to do with this one, but she knew that she would have to follow the instructions to the letter. That was her only hope.
In the darkness that surrounded her, Frances Alexander woke to the silence of the tomb in which she’d been placed. There was virtually no light in the room. She didn’t know if she was really awake or in an awful dream from which she could not wake. Her head ached from something, and the pain was real enough. This had to be genuine.
The governor’s daughter tried to get up from the bed or table—or whatever it was she was lying on—but the effort was too much. She slowly rolled to her side and managed to get her feet over the edge, forcing herself to a sitting position. Her feet didn’t touch the floor when she did this, and it frightened her to think that her bed might be suspended high above the floor. She couldn’t imagine how far it might be to the floor, and she wasn’t about to trust a jump.
Her head was clearing some now, and she knew that she really was awake. It wasn’t a dream, and that scared her even more. She remembered the man that had talked to her. She remembered his words now and knew she wasn’t going to be rescued anytime soon. She had to be strong. She had to somehow hold on for two weeks—those were the rules—but she didn’t believe that he would actually let her live, even if she made it the full two weeks. She had seen his face. She knew what he looked like, sounded like, other descriptive details of the man who had placed her here. Somewhere deep down inside she knew that he would kill her. But if she were going to die, she thought, it wouldn’t be by her own hand. She would face her killer once more. Somehow she knew she would have one more chance to survive. She would have to hang her hopes on that. She had to use that hope to make it through.
Corey Fox was concerned why the governor would call him to his office. He didn’t know the man, had never met the man. From what Corey knew of the governor, he didn’t like the man either. Yet, for some reason, there he was sitting outside the governor’s office, waiting like he used to wait outside the principal’s office in school. He didn’t think he had done anything wrong. Yet there he was waiting for a punishment that was sure to follow. He didn’t have to wait very long.
“He’ll see you now, sir.” The secretary walked over to Corey and pointed toward the governor’s office. She waited for him to rise and follow her lead. Corey hadn’t really noticed before this moment, but when he stood to walk with the girl, he saw that she was an Amazon, standing nearly four inches taller than him. She was extremely attractive, but this beautiful ebony girl was a fantasy on two legs. He could imagine her on magazine covers or on television. He could also imagine her in somewhat more erotic positions. Being governor sure has its privileges, Corey thought.
They walked past two doors on the left and one on the right when she stopped and turned toward him. Corey nearly ran face-first into two stunning breasts. Stopping in time, he cursed his quick reflexes. He looked up at her. She looked down and smiled.
“The governor’s been under a tremendous amount of stress. Please try not to say anything that will be more upsetting.” She opened the door to the governor’s office and ushered Corey inside. “Please have a seat here, and the governor will be with you in just a moment.”
She did not wait for a response, just turned and walked out. She didn’t even look back; Corey knew because he watched her ass as she—and it—disappeared.
Thirty seconds later, the governor walked in from another door. The bathroom, Corey thought. He smiled. Even though he was paraphrasing, he realized it was true what the philosopher had said: “They do wipe their ass the same way I do.”
“Good morning, officer,” the governor said. “ I need to ask you a few questions, and I need your complete honesty with the answers.”
Corey had stood when the man entered the room. He had even extended his hand to shake the governor’s. But the governor didn’t seem to notice and just sat behind his desk. I guess he’s distraught about his daughter, Corey thought. I’ll cut him a little slack.
“I’ll do whatever I can to help you, sir,” Corey responded.
“Good.” The man paused for just a moment. “Look, officer, I’m not going to beat around the bush here. I’m sure you know what’s happened to my daughter.”
Apparently the governor didn’t know that Corey had been asked to pick up the team last night. I’ll just keep that to myself, he thought.
Without waiting for a response, the governor continued. “It’s been brought to my attention that you know Detective Simeon. Is that correct?”
“Yes sir.” Corey thought about elaborating, but decided to wait and see where this conversation was going.
“You two were in the military together, is that correct?” The question was benign, but the governor’s voice gave a hint of something else.
“What do you know about him?” The governor wanted to get to the heart of things, and he wasn’t going to wait for subtleties to get there.
“We were stationed together for a couple of years until he got out several years ago. From what I understand, he went home and joined the Santa Cruz Police Department and has been there ever since. Can I ask what this is all about, Mr. Governor?” Corey didn’t like the way the questions were coming, and he certainly didn’t like the way this could easily turn into a session that could compromise his friend.
Without answering the question, the governor changed the subject. “I know that you’ve only been with the department a couple of years. I also know that you have interests that lie somewhere other than where you’re presently working. I can help you get there a lot sooner than going through the normal channels. Are you interested?”
There are times when you know someone is rotten to the core. Corey had quickly come to the conclusion that the man was a weasel. He wanted nothing to do with him. Whatever it was the governor was after, Corey didn’t want a damn thing to do with it.
“Sir, I appreciate your offer to help my rise in the department. But I can’t agree to anything without knowing what it is that I’ll be asked to do. If I can do something for you or anyone else who needs help, I certainly don’t need to be offered enticements. What is it you need me to do?” Corey wasn’t about to get himself in a scandalous affair with the governor’s assistance, especially with his career on the line.
“Okay, Mr. Fox. I want you to observe the actions of Detective Simeon and report back to me on a regular basis. I’m concerned he may have motives that might be counterproductive to the safety of my daughter. Will you help me?” His voice had turned soft, almost pleading.
Corey now understood what the governor wanted. He wanted him to spy on his friend. Corey’s first impulse was outrage. He didn’t care how it had been sugarcoated; the governor was asking him to betray his friend. The audacity of this arrogant sonofabitch, Corey thought. If he thought for a moment that he could bribe him to turn his back on his friend, he was nuttier than a fruitcake. After he thought about the offer for a few moments, Corey realized two things. First, the governor was hurting because of the tragedy with his daughter. That he could understand. Second, he was going to use every aspect of his power to get what he wanted. Corey recognized that the best way for him to protect his friend was to act the part of the insider for the governor and funnel back to him the information he requested. At least that way he could make sure that Ben was protected from the arrogant snake sitting across from him.
“So, if I’m to understand your request,” Corey started, “and staying with your theme of not beating around the bush, you want me to be a spy for you around Detective Simeon. Is that correct?” Corey wanted to see if the bluntness of the approach would cause to the governor to change his approach. The governor’s response floored him.
“Yes. I want you to find out anything you can that would give me a reason to get him out of law enforcement. The man is a menace to what we are trying to do to protect our citizens. I want you to help me prove that so he can be taken off this case. Right now, we have no choice but to keep him around. As long as he’s a police officer, this sonofabitch has control over the investigation of my daughter’s disappearance. If we can find out something that we can use to remove him, then we can get someone in there to solve this thing and get my daughter back safely.”
“I see.” This was not the way he thought it would go. Even giving the man a chance to back down and try a more subtle approach to the whole thing, he’d chosen to go after his friend. Corey had expected the governor to soft-pedal a bit, knowing of their friendship. Instead, the man was as cruel and self-absorbed as he had originally thought. The governor didn’t care about anyone that didn’t enhance his own self-interests. Now, Corey realized, the stakes were higher. Now he knew that the man would destroy his friend at any cost.
“Corey,” the governor said, shocking him with his informality, “will you help me? I need to know if I can depend on you for your support. I need to get my daughter back.”
“At what cost, sir?” Corey said indignantly. “You want me to help save the life of your daughter. I understand that. But at the price of another man’s life?”
“I don’t give a flying fuck about that!” the governor screamed. “My daughter is worth the lives of ten Ben Simeons.”
“Then why me? You know that Ben is my friend. I’m not used to betraying those I care about.” Corey was starting to raise his voice as well, but it wouldn’t be a good strategy if he wanted to salvage his own interests.
“Because you can get close to him, that’s why,” the governor replied. At least he’s a consistent asshole, Corey thought.
“Frankly, sir, I don’t like the idea of what you’re asking, though I understand you don’t care about my feelings. But if my friend’s doing nothing wrong, he’ll find your daughter. On the other hand, if he really is screwing up, then your daughter’s life is more important than my friendship with Ben. Okay. I’ll do it under two conditions. I’ll get you anything I can as long as I can do it my way, without any interference from you or anyone on your staff.”
“What’s the other condition?” the governor asked.
“We change the mission from looking for the scalp of Detective Simeon to one looking for a way to get your daughter back alive. If getting him off the case is indeed the best solution, so be it. But if more can be accomplished with him there, then we use that approach. I won’t destroy a man for no reason. Can we agree to that?”
“Of course I can do that.” Of course the governor didn’t mean a word of it. He just wanted the information, and if that’s what it took to get this self-righteous prick to go along with him then that’s just the way it had to be. You don’t know it yet, Officer Fox, the governor thought, but your career isn’t going to last much longer than Detective Simeon’s.
The governor stood to dismiss the officer and shake his hand.
“I’ll make sure your invitation to the team is accepted,” the governor said. “You better get packed and head down the road. My secretary will give you all the information necessary to keep in touch with me. Good luck to you, son.”
That was one of the most insincere lines of bullshit that Corey could remember. But at least he was on his way to the place his friend needed him most, the place where he knew he could do the most good.