No man is an island. Everyone needs the help of others if he wants to make an impact. A moral man might use the term friends. I, however, find friendship to be overrated. Friendship entails trust and, frankly, who would trust a killer?
No, my need for mankind is more pure. I need for some to do my deeds. Some will serve the purpose of exposure. Many are here to praise and bow to me, so I may be elevated to lordship. For a few, the honor I bestow is of the greatest import. They are here to die.
They serve to teach me what one transcends when they pass from this plain to the next. Their death exposes all to me just before they breathe their last breath.
No man is an island. For me, life is a river of blood. I stand on its banks and fish for knowledge.
Jennie White had barely opened the door of her cheap second-story apartment when the phone started to ring. The plain walls of the 10-year-old, light blue paint and the old stained shag carpet depressed her every time she entered the place. But, rushing, she almost tripped over her 3-year old son’s toys as she hurried to answer it.
“Hello?” she said.
Jennie was trying desperately to get her life together after spending three months in jail for drug use. Actually, she thought she was lucky that three months was all the time she got after driving drunk, being high on cocaine, and wrecking an unregistered and uninsured vehicle. She was now on parole and knew that she had almost lost custody of Ricky. She prayed that one of the job interviewers was calling. She needed work in order to afford the ratty, ugly apartment she was now renting. She knew it was a terrible place to raise her son, but it beat the alternatives. The landlord was not a patient man. But she thought if she could land something good, the old fart would give her the time she needed to get caught up on the rent she owed, and maybe she could even get a few nice things for her son. No longer did she put herself first. Ricky was everything, and she would give her life to protect and provide for him.
“Hello, Jennie,” the voice on the other end said. “How are you and Ricky doing today?”
When she recognized the voice, she almost dropped the phone. Her mind raced. This can’t be happening now. Not after all this time. It has been months. Nonetheless, she remembered the last time that she had heard from him as if it were yesterday. She had never been so scared, and the memory made her freeze. That and those pictures he had sent her. Then there was the agreement they had made: he would not take her child if she would do him a favor. She didn’t know what the favor would be. She hadn’t known who this person was, but it was certain that if she failed him, she would lose her son forever. He had the power. Jennie had no doubt he had the power to destroy her life and everything she had ever dreamed.
“Have I caught you at a bad time, Jennie?”
“Uh, no sir,” Jennie finally managed to squeak. Her legs felt like rubber, and she moved to the kitchen table and slowly sat down.
“Good. So answer my question, Jennie. How are you and Ricky doing today?” His voice oozed guile, and terror washed down her spine when he spoke her son’s name. There was a shushing sound as he spoke. It sounded so evil, like a snake’s hiss crossed with the sigh from a man’s last breath.
“We’re doing okay,” Jennie forced herself to say. “Why are you calling me now? I’m not doing anything bad no more. I’ve changed my ways. I’m looking for a job. Please can’t you just leave us alone?” Jennie was pleading now, begging to be set free.
“Now, now, Jennie. You know I can’t do that. You owe me for what I did for you. I saved you and your son from having to part ways. I made sure that the information that could have taken him from you never reached the police. You owe me. And now it’s time for you to pay your debt.” He paused for a moment. “Unless you have changed your mind and want me to forward the little pieces of information we talked about before.”
“No!” she almost screamed. “I can’t lose Ricky. Please don’t do that to us. I’ll do whatever you want. Please don’t take my baby from me.” Tears began to flow down her cheeks. She bent over the table, hugging her own belly, trying not to totally lose control. “What do you want me to do?” she finally asked, fearing the worst. She believed that whatever it was would surely be a criminal act, ultimately causing the same damage that she was now trying to avoid.
“Go to your hall closet and look inside,” the man said. “You will find an envelope on the floor. Do not open it until I tell you to do so. Now go get it.”
“You were in my house?” Jennie asked, mostly in anger, partly out of the fear and the violation she now felt. “How the hell did you get into my house?”
“Of course I was in your home,” the man continued. “I am in your home often. I watch you sleep at night. I pull the covers up over Ricky. I even brush the hair off your face sometimes. You have started becoming a good girl, Jennie. I especially like the fact that you have started sleeping in pajamas instead of in the nude. I realize it isn’t a grand beginning, but it is something. Besides, Ricky shouldn’t be exposed to that sort of behavior. Don’t you agree? Now Jennie, go to the closet and get the envelope. And Jennie? Don’t ever raise your voice to me again. I own your cute little ass for as long as I need it. I do not need to hurt you to cause you extreme pain. After all, we both want Ricky to grow up with his loving mother, don’t we?”
She put down the phone and walked to the closet. She reluctantly opened the door. On the floor, as promised, was a large Manila envelope. She picked it up and went back to the phone. “I have it.”
“Good,” he said. “Now open the envelope carefully and pour out the contents. Inside you will find another envelope and a pair of gloves. Put on the gloves before you touch the other envelope. This is for your protection.”
She did as instructed. “Okay, now what?”
“Open the envelope and pull out another envelope,” he continued. “There’s also a thousand dollars in cash. Do you have it?”
Jennie was confused by what was happening. She didn’t understand what he was going to do, but her mind was numb, and she didn’t have the energy to argue.
“Yes,” she said. “I have it now. What do you want me to do with it?”
“I want you to take this envelope and deliver it to the station manager at KRIC-TV downtown. Here is the trick. You can deliver the envelope yourself, or you can pay someone else to deliver it for you. I would suggest the latter, of course. You just can’t be sure who might be watching. I gave you the gloves because I don’t want you to get into any trouble. Fingerprints on the envelope may lead the police to you. I am sure you would just as soon avoid talking to them, correct? However, if someone else’s prints were on the envelope that would be of no concern to either of us, now would it?”
“What do you want me to do with the money?”
“Why, Jennie, it’s for you. I know all about your little financial situation. Use what you need to get some kid to drop off the envelope. Whatever is left over, you keep for yourself. I know that you are doing the best you can, Jennie. I want both of you to have a good life. And if you do exactly what I say, soon you won’t have any more problems to worry about.”
At first Jennie thought it would be a huge relief to be worry-free. She believed that if she could catch a break, she and Ricky could make a go of it. Then it dawned on her: this maniac would never let her go. Being dead would take away her problems also. A chill ran down her spine and goose bumps broke out over her body.
“Is there anything else?” she asked reluctantly. She was hoping that he would just go away. She knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
“Just one more thing,” he said. “I want you to deliver that envelope at 12:45 this afternoon. I know you were planning on being out today looking for work anyway. Just make it another one of your stops. This isn’t brain surgery, Jennie, so don’t mess this up. Timing is very important for everyone. Any mistakes will be very costly for the two of you.”
The phone went dead. Jennie sat in the chair with her head in her hands. She started sobbing.
“Please, God,” she prayed. “Please make this go away.”
She didn’t expect any answers. God had never listened to her before, why should He answer now?
John Abernathy was just returning from lunch with his anchorwoman, Lisa Adams, when he found an envelope on his desk. It had been a good lunch. They had finally managed to piece together a series of shows that they had been working on for the last two months. Lisa was one of the best new faces in the market, and these programs would put her into the number one slot. He had been trying to accomplish that for the last six years, since he took over the station.
John Abernathy was a diligent man. He was a patient man as well. At least that was how everyone thought of him. Yet inside, Abernathy was tied in knots. He knew that the station owners would not be patient forever. He also knew that if this project didn’t work out, he would be standing in the unemployment line.
Abernathy felt confident about his pitch for this series. He believed his bosses would be supportive, and in turn, the ratings would take care of themselves. All he needed was to make sure that when the presentation was made he remembered not to over sell the idea.
“Just be poised and strong,” he mused to himself.
When he checked with his receptionist he was told that he had no messages, but was reminded that he had a two o’clock appointment he needed to be revise and review beforehand. He thanked her, then sat back for a moment and closed his eyes, trying to relax and just let the flow of the meeting wash over him. A smile turned up his lips. Lisa Adams is the key, he thought. Now we’re on our way.
Having taken all the time he believed he could afford, Abernathy sat forward and looked at the envelope, wondering who might have sent it. Opening it, he started reading. Without realizing it, sweat started to bead on his face.
I’m sorry. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of using that heading on this letter. Do you ever get teased about that?
However, let’s not digress and get to the point. Earlier today a letter was delivered to Detective Benjamin Simeon of the Santa Cruz Police Department regarding the deaths of nine individuals the police are totally clueless about.
As we speak, detective Simeon is verifying the information I sent and will, I am sure, discover that I am expressing the truth. In doing so, even with my request to the contrary, the police will try to keep this information from the public. As such, I’ve determined it necessary to make sure this information will be made public so the world will finally come to understand the incompetence of our great protectors.
Mr. Abernathy, I know where your station stands in the ratings. I know that you have worked very hard to improve those standings, so I am going to give you the first chance to get ahead of the competition. You are only being asked one thing: to do what you and your station are in the business of doing. I ask only that you report the news as I bring it to you. I will not ask you to compromise your integrity.
Starting tomorrow night on your six o’clock news program, Detective Simeon will be asked to report daily of what is being given to him. He is being required to lead this case. I am asking that you avail to him the necessary time each evening to report the updated information I send him during your broadcasts.
To start, I will give you the intelligence he currently possesses.
A young girl by the name of Amanda Douglas from the San Francisco area went missing about two years ago. At present, she is still considered a missing person because she (or should I say her body) has never been discovered. I brought this matter to the attention of Detective Simeon this morning and know that he is presently returning to Santa Cruz to determine what to do now that he knows the artifact I gave him belonged to her.
Mr. Abernathy, let me assure you that Amanda Douglas is dead. Should the police cooperate, it is my intention to give them the information necessary to recover her body. All they need do is report the facts given about each of the nine people at regularly scheduled times.
In order for you to show your willingness to agree with my request, I will expect you to put together a small biographical piece on the six o’clock news tonight regarding Ms. Douglas. You must note that the police have new information that will assist them in the recovery of her body. And should the police cooperate, the bodies of eight other missing souls will be revealed over the next thirty days. State also that failure to comply on their part will result in never being able to find those missing persons and that the brunt of the responsibility rests on their shoulders.
I know that you have much to do and many questions to ask of Detective Simeon before the news hour arrives. So I will leave you with this. The police as well as the FBI will be investigating the deaths of which you are now aware. They will try to control you and what you may bring to the public. However, you are not completely governed by their desires for exposing the truth.
In time, I will get back to you. For now, I wish you good fortune in the upcoming Nielson ratings.
Twenty-two years in the television industry and John Abernathy had never heard of such an insane attempt by someone trying to manipulate both the police and the press. The letter stunned his senses. He read it again and yet a third time.
Finally, he picked up the phone and said to his secretary, “Get Lisa in here right now, and call my attorney Scott Hampton and tell him to get over here right away, and then get a hold of Detective Ben Simeon of the Santa Cruz Police Department! Hurry!” He was so flustered he didn’t even realize that he was screaming into the phone.