It isn’t every day the world changes for the better. You want to do me harm. You believe that all I do is evil. It’s not true. Many lives that lie in my wake have been enriched because they’ve known and survived evil in its purest form. They live long lives and learn to stride forward and become good and honorable citizens. They, like no others, understand what it’s like to become me.
Killing is not the most difficult task. Anyone can take a life. The difficulty is learning to live knowing you were the one. Your actions destroyed every tomorrow that soul had to look forward to. You’ve been taught that killing is wrong, but like most rules, what you’ve learned is incomplete. You need to understand for yourself that a rule has no value if not learned in its entirety.
Ben left the hospital and headed back to the police station. When he arrived, he was met by dozens of reporters and media personnel. Somehow there had been a leak about the witness, and they wanted to know everything. They didn’t care about the drizzling rain or the darkness of the evening. They had a huge story, and every one of them wanted something the others didn’t have.
Ben had dealt with the media before. Never, he thought, had they ever been more aggressive and demanding. It was a virtual circus, and he didn’t want any part of it. But decided not to get into a confrontation and stopped to say a few words to them.
“First, let me make this very clear.” He waited for the crowd to quiet. “I’m going to give you a few minutes and give you a short version of what we know. When I’m finished, I won’t be answering any questions. It’s not my desire to hide anything from you. I’ll be making a full report at KRIC-TV in about an hour. At that time I’ll respond to some of your questions, but this is how it’s gonna be done. Each of you will submit one question in writing. Those questions will then be reviewed and included in my report, so long as they don’t compromise the integrity of this investigation.
“Now,” he continued, “here’s what we have at the moment. Mr. Smith helped us identify and locate a missing girl. She is alive and currently in surgery for injuries. I will discuss her situation in more detail when I know the extent of her injuries and the prognosis. Second, we have been able to identify and locate a possible witness. The identity of the witness will not be disclosed for obvious reasons. It is still premature to ascertain the scope of the information we’ll be able to obtain from this person or whether the information will lead us to an arrest of the perpetrator. Finally—and no less important—a San Jose police officer was killed this evening, and a Santa Cruz police officer was hospitalized in the same incident. That happened while they were on a stakeout of the witness. At this time, we’ve not been able to confirm whether the violence against these officers was related to their duties of surveillance or if it was a random act. The injured officer from Santa Cruz has regained consciousness and is being interviewed as we speak. Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do. Remember, one question per reporter, delivered to the station within the next hour. Thank you.”
Ben turned and headed into the station house.
“Nice job.” Captain Black had seemingly come from nowhere.
Ben turned quickly, startled by the voice and the unexpectedness of seeing the man like this. “What do you mean?” he asked, confused about where the captain was coming from.
“The interview you just had,” the captain said. “You managed to take care of their present needs by giving them something to report, simultaneously putting the burden on somebody else. Like I said, nice job.”
“Thanks.” Ben started walking toward the interview room where Jennie White was waiting.
The captain followed him. “How’s Sue doing? Is she alright?”
“She’s fine. Thanks for asking.”
“I had a feeling she’d be okay,” Black said confidently. “She’s pretty resilient.”
The captain smiled at Ben, who returned it weakly. Ben could not shake the thoughts of the last couple of hours and what he was now beginning to believe about this man standing next to him. Was the captain making a statement like that because it was a “cop thing” to always wish the best for his fellow officers, or was it based of inside information? Ben didn’t know, but wasn’t going to let his guard down long enough for someone to hurt him either.
Captain Black continued following along, fully intending to accompany Ben into the room to talk with Jennie White. When he got there, Ben asked the captain to wait outside for a little while. He wanted some time alone with her and thought it might be a better approach if she didn’t feel intimidated by another officer. The captain was put off by the request, but within a moment decided that it was still in the best interest of the situation to go along with whatever Ben wanted.
When Ben entered, Jennie was holding her son, who had fallen asleep, on her lap.
“I was beginning to wonder if you were going to get back to me today,” Jennie said flatly.
“I apologize, Ms. White. I’m sure you’re aware that things are a little hectic right now.” Ben wanted to throw her off a little with the next question. “Jennie, did you know that a cop was killed in front of your apartment this evening?”
She kept quiet.
“Did you know that he was killed by Mr. Smith?” Ben didn’t want her to get too comfortable, and he wanted to make sure that she knew who her friends were. It was time for her to talk, so he waited.
“How do you know it was him?” she asked, somewhat panicked by how close Mr. Smith had once again been to her and her son.
“Because he left a message for me.” Ben knew she might take that literally, but he needed to get to her quickly and thought that a little embellishment would help move things along. “Why do you think he was there, Jennie? Do you think he was there to give you another package to deliver? Or do you think he was there for another reason, and we just happened to get there first? What do you think?”
“How should I know?” she said, fear showing through. “It’s not like he confides in me, you know.” She paused another moment. “Look, I didn’t have any choice here. I didn’t even know what I was delivering.” She lowered her head. “At least I didn’t at first. I was going to go to the police, but it was like he was reading my mind. Before I had the chance, he came into my home and threatened to kill me and my son. He said he was going to force me to watch my son die before killing me. He cut me, for God’s sake!”
She pulled open her blouse and showed Ben the cut on her nipple.
“When did he do that?” Ben asked calmly, belying the sense of repulsion he felt.
“A couple of days after the second package was delivered.” she replied.
“I’m sorry that this has happened to you,” Ben said sincerely. “I really am…for both you and your son. But no matter how sorry I am, you’re involved, and I don’t believe he was there tonight to get you to deliver another package.” Ben paused. “And I don’t think you believe that either. Do you?”
Jennie didn’t say anything. She looked at Ben for a moment, then lowered her head, shaking no. The reality of the situation was sinking in, and she was sinking right along with it. She now knew that Mr. Smith had come to kill her and her son. She still believed that he would—would at least try. She also knew that what Ben had said earlier was the truth. With him, they at least had a chance. Not much of a chance, she thought. But alone, both Ricky and she would die. She was now more scared than ever.
“Jennie,” Ben said softly, “I know how scared you are, but—“
“How the hell could you possibly know what I’m going through?” she yelled. “Do you have a maniac out there trying to kill you?”
Ben didn’t let her keep going. He wasn’t about to let her get away from him, physically or emotionally.
“Yes!” he yelled back at her. “As a matter of fact, I do. It just so happens that we both have the same maniac out there after us. That officer that was killed tonight? He was there to protect you! He died in order to keep you alive. The other officer with him—the one in the hospital—just happens to be the woman I’m in love with. That’s what took me so long getting back here. I was at the hospital looking in on her. I do know how you feel. We both got lucky tonight. We both managed to stay alive. And by the grace of God, I’m going to stay that way. Now I can either do that with your help or without it. So which is it going to be? Can you stop him alone? Because if you can’t, then by God I’m the best chance you and Ricky have got.”
Ben stood up, looking her straight in the eyes. “It’s your call, lady. You can either work with me, or you can get the hell out!” Ben wanted to see if she would answer then headed for the door. Before getting there, he turned to her. “Look, I’m scared too. But if you do decide to leave, I’ll still do what I can for you and Ricky. I just don’t know if it’ll be good enough. Take care.”
Ben left the room. It was a bold move that could backfire on him, but he needed her one hundred percent cooperation. Anything less than that, she’ll end up leaving out a critical piece of information. He couldn’t just have her riding the fence. This was an-all-or nothing bet, and he hoped she wasn’t too good at poker.
Jennie White watched the angry cop leave the room and didn’t know what to do. Deep down, she knew what would be the right choice. She knew that helping the man would help her and help Ricky. But she also knew that the monster that had come into her life was godlike in what he could do. She wasn’t sure if this nice cop had it in him to keep them all alive. For the first time in as long as she could remember, she prayed. She wasn’t sure if God was real or if He even cared. She just didn’t want to leave any stone unturned.
Ben walked down the corridor and ran into Corey Fox.
“How’s it going in there, partner?” Corey asked. He wanted to know what was happening on Ben’s front, but he also had his own issues.
“I don’t know, Corey. So far she’s in denial. I just told her that if she doesn’t cooperate she could leave.”
“You did what?” Corey was dumbfounded.
“You heard me. She’s our best hope, and I’ve got to get her on our side. I’ll know soon what she decided.” Ben paused. “What’ve you found out so far?”
“Nothing. Nothing good anyway. You’re not going to like what I have to tell you, Ben. You’re not going to like it at all.”
“What is it?” Ben didn’t know where Corey was going, but he had certainly gotten Ben’s attention.
Corey was about to speak when one of the officers assigned to watch Jennie White came up to him.
“Detective,” he said, “Ms. White would like to speak to you again. She said it was important. What should I tell her?”
“Tell her I’ll be right there.” Ben turned to Corey. “Don’t you move.” Ben went to see Jennie, then turned back and looked at Corey. “Not one inch.”