Good. My student has decided to join me after all. I know that he will reject many of the things I have done. He has to…for now. But I will make him just like me. He, too, will kill the innocent. He, too, will come to understand that what I am doing is for man’s greater good. He will fight for me because we are the same.
The power of life and death is hanging in the balance, and Detective Simeon will have to choose, and he will do so of his own volition.
I have given his woman the right to live and exchanged her life for another’s. He will see that I have done this for him. He will know that even God can’t do that. God is arbitrary in His mercy. I am unambiguous in mine. He will see the difference. He will respect the power I have and embrace the mercy I have granted.
Ben’s head was about to explode, and he was going to lose his mind if he didn’t get his act together. He was being torn between his job, his love, and an uneasy feeling that this situation was not going to get any easier. If anything, he was just now at the beginning of the storm, and that scared the shit out of him.
He had to take an assessment of the situation, and he had to clear his thoughts. Ben called Corey Fox and told him to meet him at the San Jose Police Department Headquarters, their new headquarters for the moment, so it now seemed. Corey was already there when Ben arrived with Captain Black, Jennie White, and her son.
Ben escorted the woman and her son to one of the interrogation rooms and offered them something while he took care of a few things. She declined the offer, turning her attention to her son. She would be okay for now, Ben thought, and left the room with two local officers standing guard at the door.
“Captain,” Ben said to his superior, “could you do me a favor and call the hospital and find out how Sue’s doing? I need to go over a few things with Corey and just want to make sure she’s alright.”
“Sure,” the captain said. “I need to make a couple of calls myself. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” The captain turned, stared a moment at Corey, then walked down the hall.
“What the hell was that about?” Corey asked Ben. “He seemed really pissed about something.”
“I’ll tell you later,” Ben said, avoiding the question. “I need for you to do some checking for me.”
A man of many words, Ben thought. That was one of the many qualities Ben appreciated about Corey. He didn’t use many words, but the words he did use spoke volumes. Of course, there were times when the man was something of a prankster. However, when there was a job to tend to, he was all business.
“You have to keep this just between you and me,” Ben said. “This is some pretty sensitive shit, and I’m probably going on a wild goose chase. But something’s sticking in my craw, and I need to get some answers before I do anything about it.”
“So tell me already.” Corey wasn’t used to Ben being so elaborate with explanations.
“First,” Ben said, “I’m going to have to leave soon, and I need you to stay here and keep an eye on what happens.”
“Ben,” Corey said exasperatedly, “the girl is going to be fine. She’s in a fucking police station for God’s sake!”
Ben hesitated a moment, looking at the floor. He then looked straight into Corey’s eyes. “It’s not the girl I want you to keep an eye on.” He hesitated again. “I want you to keep an eye on Captain Black. Something’s not right with him, and I need to find out what it is.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Corey’s voice was becoming insistent. “Hell, buddy, there’s something wrong with all of us.”
“Damn it, Corey.” Ben glared back at his friend. “Just do as I ask, will you? There’s something going on, and I need your help. Will you do this for me or not?”
Corey was the first to blink. “Sure. You know I will. What else do you need? I told you I’d do anything, and I meant it.”
“Do you still have those friends of yours in Washington? You know, the ones that can find out things nobody else seems to be able to find out.”
Ben looked hard at Corey, and Corey felt desperation seeping from the man. Corey nodded. He wasn’t going to pretend he understood what Ben was asking, but if Ben needed these people, then it was coming from desperation.
“Call them,” Ben said. “Call them and have them find out everything they can about the captain for the last ten years. I need to find out if there was anything that happened to him or any member of his family during that time that would have a major negative impact. Go out to third cousins if you have to, but find out if there’s anything.”
“Okay,” Corey said. “Anything else?”
“Yeah,” Ben said, deflated. “I want you to find out where he was and as much information as you can regarding his whereabouts and activities as they relate to the Mr. Smith killings and the victims’ disappearances.”
Corey hesitated, letting this request sink in. When it did, his eyes opened wider and his jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe where this was heading.
“Are you sure about this, Ben?” he finally asked. “Do you know what you’re asking? God damn it, Ben.” He looked fiercely at the guy who had long been his friend. Now he couldn’t help but wonder if the man was truly losing his mind. “Even if you’re wrong, you could fuck up this man’s life forever.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” Ben spat at Corey. “Do you honestly think I would ask this if I didn’t have good reason? Jesus, Corey! I like this man. I’ve gone fishing and eaten dinner at his place. Do you really think this is something I want?” Corey had brought all of the doubts Ben had, to the surface. “God damn it!” Ben shouted as he swung his fist at the nearest wall. It hit with a resounding crack. He put his back to the wall and felt his knees weaken as he slumped to the floor. He pressed his hands to his face and felt the weight of this case and its responsibilities on his shoulders. He wanted to cry, to scream, to lash out at whoever or whatever was close by. Anything, anyone would do. He didn’t care. He just wanted to run away from this thing and leave it all behind.
Corey knelt down beside him. He knew that he couldn’t possibly understand what the man was going through. “Hey buddy. You alright?”
Ben didn’t move. Then he slowly moved his hands down and looked up at Corey. For reasons he couldn’t explain, he started to laugh. It started almost as grunts and a smile; then as Corey looked at his friend dumbfounded and tilted his head to the side in confusion, Ben’s laughter exploded into something that sounded like a cross between hysterical and sinister. Ben placed his hand on Corey’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, my friend.” Corey was about to tell him that it was okay when Ben followed up with, “But that’s probably the stupidest question I’ve ever heard asked by a police officer.”
Corey wasn’t quite sure how to react to the outburst, but was glad Ben was coming around…even if he was the butt of the joke.
Ben stood up with Corey following his lead.
“Look,” Ben said. “I know what I’m asking. I don’t like it any more than you do. If you don’t want to do it, I’ll understand. I’ll just find it out some other way. Hell, maybe I should. I just thought that your people could do it with more discretion than the sources I have available.”
“That’s alright,” Corey said. “I’ll do it. They owe me a favor anyway. But this really does have to stay between the two of us.”
“Thanks. I really do hope I’m wrong.”
“I know. I know.”
They walked back to the interrogation room. Captain Black was just walking out. Ben felt a panic that something bad had happened. He rushed forward.
“What the hell are you doing?”
The captain seemed flustered by the question. “What the hell do you mean? I just went in to ask the girl if there was anything I could do for her.”
“You shouldn’t be in there without me,” Ben snapped at him.
“She’s a fucking witness, Ben! I can do whatever the hell I want with a witness, you got that?” He pressed his finger into Ben’s chest.
“Not with this one, you can’t!” Ben slapped the captain’s hand away, then turned to enter the room. Before closing the door, Ben looked at Corey. “Get that information for me. You understand?”
Corey looked at Ben, then at the captain, and back to Ben. “You got it. I’ll get back to you in a couple of hours and let you know what I find.”
Ben closed the door.
The captain looked blank and confused.
Ben made the short trip to the hospital. Cheryl Johnson was sitting quietly with Robert and Laura Brady when Ben approached. They all looked up at the same time. The Brady’s stood, and Cheryl made the introductions.
“Mr. And Mrs. Brady, this is Detective Ben Simeon. You met him briefly a couple of hours ago as he ran through your home. He’s the man responsible for finding your daughter.”
Mr. Brady shook Ben’s hand with both of his so hard that Ben thought he was going to tug his arm from his shoulder. Mrs. Brady almost pushed her husband away to put her arms around Ben’s neck, thanking him over and over again. When she finally let go, Ben told them that he was grateful he could help and thankful that she was going to be all right.
“She’s still in surgery, Ben,” Cheryl told him. “The hand is gone, and they’re trying to stabilize her from blood loss. Physically, she’ll recover.” She pulled Ben away from earshot of the parents. “Psychologically, she’s going to need a lot of time to get over this nightmare.”
“Is she going to be able to work with us?” Ben asked. “We need to talk to her and find out as much as we can.”
“She’ll be able to talk, Ben, but we’re going to have to take it real easy on her. She’s gone through a tremendous ordeal. If we aren’t careful, she could very easily shut down on us. If that happens, we may never be able to bring her back.”
“I understand. Let me know when she gets out of surgery and awake. I need to go check on Sue.” Ben started to leave then turned back to Cheryl. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m okay. Thanks for asking.”
Ben left. Cheryl closed her eyes and just stood there for a moment. She didn’t hear Mrs. Brady put her arm around her shoulder, but was grateful for the comfort.
“He’s a pretty terrific guy isn’t he?” the woman said.
Cheryl nodded and looked down the corridor where Ben had just disappeared.
The men in his office earlier once again surrounded the governor. He wasn’t a patient man, but when it came to his daughter, any patience he might have had totally disappeared.
“So where the hell is this phone call we’re all waiting for?” The governor glared at the state police chief.
“Mr. Governor,” the chief said, “Officer Fox has to use discretion when he calls us. He knows his job, and he’s good at it. He’ll call. Soon.”
The call wasn’t soon. When every second seemed like an hour, the concept of time seemed to be a kind of torture inspired by Satan himself.
After another 45 minutes grinded, the call did come.
“Let me talk to him,” the governor said, holding out his hand.
The chief reluctantly handed the phone over.
“Mr. Fox, this is Governor Alexander. Give your report. I want to know what’s going on.”
Corey wasn’t at all surprised that the governor was taking over the show back home. Nor was he surprised that the man seemed to be out of control. He decided to give him as much good news as possible and avoid any of the bad. He told him that the girl they’d was in surgery. He told him about the officer who’d been killed and the one drugged. He told him about the witnesses that they now had in custody and the woman’s possible involvement. And though he wasn’t asked to do so, he told the governor that he might need a blanket pardon for the woman because of her involvement.
The governor listened and agreed to do whatever he needed to find his daughter.
Corey had decided not to tell the governor about Ben’s request. He’d also decided that Ben was better suited than anyone to find the elusive Mr. Smith. From Corey’s perspective, that was even more important than the governor’s daughter.
“Mr. Governor, Detective Simeon will find her for you.”
Corey said it to make the governor feel better, but the governor took it as Corey changing his loyalties. He decided that Corey was more interested in helping his friend than finding his little girl.
After hanging up, the governor looked at the men in the room, stated his misgivings, and decided it was time to act independently of the investigation.
The men wanted to convince him otherwise, but they had all been around him long enough to know that doing so would be fruitless.