There are no heroes but yourself to save you from the misery life has to offer. You can be the hero of your own world and the lives of those around you. You aren’t strong enough, you say? You don’t know what to do to make your world better? You do.
Here’s the key: take the first step. That’s it. Take the first step. Maybe you don’t know the answer, but do you know the questions? Then the first step is to ask the questions. Rephrase the questions so you ask the right ones. Once you know the questions, ask yourself what you need to get the answers. Yes! That’s more questions. But now you are looking to solutions. With solutions come steps you can take to move forward. That’s all there is to it. Success is somewhere inside those very questions you asked.
As far as safety from the likes of me, there are no answers. I am the one problem you can never solve. I live in your shadows. I find you when and where you sleep. If you can live your life well, you may never need to see me cross your path.
There was a complete frenzy when word leaked that Ben had captured the infamous Mr. Smith and killed him. At least that was the way it was playing out. Everyone, including the police, believed that the man responsible for the deaths of all those innocent people was indeed dead.
Ben’s phone rang.
“Hello, Ben,” the governor said. “I’m calling to thank you for saving my daughter’s life. She told me what you did, that if it hadn’t been for you she would be dead right now.”
“That’s nice of you to say, Mr. Governor. But I would have done it for anyone. Please don’t take offense. I just wanted to do my job and help however I could. I’m glad for you both.” Ben almost choked on the words, but he did want the girl safe. About that he was being sincere.
“You’re too modest, Ben. Look, I know that I did you wrong all those years ago, and I’m sorry about that. It was business, and I hope there aren’t any hard feelings. In the meantime, if there’s anything I can ever do for you, just let me know.”
The governor hung up, leaving Ben amazed at just how callous someone could become.
The next day Ben and an entire forensics team started going through the captain’s home. At first there seemed to be nothing that would tie the man to the crimes, nothing other than speculation and innuendo.
He had been a neat man. Everything seemed to be in its right place and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Black’s wife was in shock and offering no help regarding their suspicions. It was purely by chance that they came across a safe embedded in the floor of the basement. First, it had appeared strange that a home in this area of California actually had a basement. It was found when a trap door was discovered under a throw rug in the hallway leading to the kitchen.
It wasn’t a full basement—more like a large, climate-controlled wine cellar. The one-room cellar didn’t go under the entire length of the house, covering less than half, Ben speculated.
As they looked around, Ben noticed scrapes on the floor next to a rather large container and with help moved the container to reveal the safe.
It took nearly two hours for them to burn it open. When they did, it contained contents Ben refused to accept. The first thing he found was a plastic bag containing what he would later discover was cocaine. It was the bag Jennie White had told him about. Just thinking about her horror made him queasy.
Also in the safe was detailed information about the other murder victims and their locations, as well as an ornament or trophy from each. Ben had no choice now but to believe that the captain, his friend, was indeed the one responsible for all of those deaths. Ben didn’t want to believe it possible, but the overwhelming evidence was insurmountable, and he had to accept that fact.
Over the next week, Ben maintained his command of the case, locating the victims’ families and bringing them the closure they deserved. It wasn’t much consolation to his soul, and his spirits fell further and further into depression. But it was something, and it helped that he could be a part of bringing this horrible account to a close for each of them.
Sue Garrison was released from the hospital the day after the captain was killed without any lasting symptoms from her ordeal. She tried her best to make Ben’s life something to be happy about. She loved him and wanted him to love her.
Ben did love her, and he thought maybe someday they would be able to make a go of it together. He thought he would like that. He thought it would be good to have someone to love again, maybe even have a family with.
Jennie White was exonerated of any wrongdoing in the matter due to mitigating circumstances. She had been acting under extreme duress, and the threats to her life and Ricky’s were enough for the governor to keep his word to Corey about letting her off. She was happy about getting back her hope for the good life, and Ben was happy for them both. Soon she would be doing interviews with celebrated talk show hosts; her financial worries would be over. There was even talk about a book deal and a movie.
Corey had decided to take “a little time off” to help Ben close the case and find the missing victims. He told Ben it would be therapeutic to spend a little time with the friend who had saved his ass more than once.
Laurie Brady was still recovering from her ordeal. Her hand could be fitted with a prosthetic device that would allow her to function at an almost normal capacity, but Cheryl told Ben that Laurie would be the one that would have the most difficulty recovering psychologically. Cheryl explained that in Laurie’s mind, she was already dead and might have a difficult time finding her purpose. To her, life was already over. Finding a reason to live would be a long, arduous undertaking, but Cheryl believed that, in time, she would make it through okay.
Ben began to realize that it really was over. All the pieces of the puzzle seemed to fall into place. Everything except two parts…
The first part had to do with Frances Alexander. It was a fact that Captain Black had been familiar with each of the victims or at least one of the family members. It was also true that each was somehow connected to the deaths of his sister and niece. It was also true that Captain Black had been in the vicinity of each victim at or near the time each went missing. It was all true…except in the case of the governor’s daughter. There were no connections between the captain and the governor or his family. Captain Black had never met them or been around them, there seemed to be no evidence supporting his ability to be in the area where she was kidnapped at the time the incident occurred. There was, of course, overwhelming evidence of his buying the place in the mountains where the girl had been found. And though that was good enough for everybody else, the inconsistency still haunted Ben.
The second issue had to do with the missing FBI agent, Richard Smythe. That case was even more confusing than the governor’s daughter. It was true that Smythe’s finger had been sent to Ben as a present, and the blood found in the agent’s car had indeed belonged to Smythe. But since that first day, virtually nothing had even been discovered regarding the agent or his whereabouts. There were no notes and no records of the incident found at Captain Black’s house and no evidence linking the two together. He was just…missing. It was as if the man had disappeared from the Earth. Other than that, Ben believed it was just going to have to be a linked case. Maybe someday they would discover what had really happened to the man.
The reporters were starting to thin out. They had made Ben a hero and had high expectations for his future. He seemed to be on the governor’s list as one of his more significant people and would probably be asked to serve in some capacity with the Secret Service if the governor were indeed elected President. And that seemed very likely to happen. Jack Alexander’s ratings in the polls were the highest ever for any non-incumbent, and he was leading by more than 25 percentage points. It looked like Ben would be heading to Washington. Ben cringed at the thought.
It’s over, Ben thought to himself. Just let it go and move on. In spite of the thought of going to Washington, there are good things in life. Enjoy them while it lasts.