Chapter 13: An Unplanned Hiatus
The informal get together Ware had proposed was taking place close to Ohio State University in a bar mostly frequented by older students and post grads. It was a typical sports bar with fifteen different large screen TVs showing baseball, college football and NBA games and probably one at least with a 24 hour weather channel going. The bar menu would be chicken wings or nachos, some sort vegetarian option and free bread sticks and hummus. The kind of place in other words that Lewis hated. The beer was piss and the place would be crammed and noisy by 9pm.
When he got there by 8:30, he wasn’t disappointed. He could make out Marcella and Johnson at the far end of the bar right beside the open area for the pool table at a table designed for standing at only. Ware was the bar ordering and was trying to make eye contact with the bar man serving that side of the bar. The noise of the TVs was drowned out by the boisterous crowd, already in full party mode. There were also a bunch of football jocks wearing Ohio State jerseys singing songs and making a general nuisance of themselves obstructing partially the way to the restrooms.
McEvoy was standing beside Marcella looking at someone out of Lewis’s line of sight. He was wearing a plain white t-shirt which was probably one size too small for him at least. He was also a little bleary eyed looking. Lewis could see a few empty shot glasses as well as a three beer bottles on the table in front of McEvoy.
Lewis made his way to Ware at the bar.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT” Ware mostly shouted to him. It was more effective reading lips in here thought Lewis.
He pointed at the draught tap for the local brew. He helped Ware bring the round of drinks to their table and gave Marcie a peck on the cheek. He figured a simple wave and smile would do for Johnson and McEvoy, who he now realized was quite drunk.
Ware tapped him on his shoulder to get his attention. “I hope I wasn’t too forward today in the car Tom. Just don’t make any rush decisions maybe. Marcella tells me you’d be a big loss to the department. She says you’d convince me I’d committed a crime if you wanted too”.
Lewis smiled and gave him a thumbs up sign. “I did notice at least four traffic violations on the way down. And some unexplained muddy footprints in the trunk”. Ware smiled back. “It’s been a pleasure working with you guys.”
There was an awkward pause. “They’ve found nothing in the river yet in Cincinnati. They won’t find anything either”. Lewis sensed Ware was still a bit sore from this morning’s scene.
“You know he killed her right?” Lewis said to Ware. The FBI agent looked back at him slightly puzzled. Lewis felt he better clarify. He leant in to Ware’s right ear so as not to have to half shout what he was going to say next.
“You’re angry more at yourself than the killer. You think he would never have done this unless he thought we were watching. But you’re wrong. He couldn’t be sure we were. He was doing this no matter what because he knew we’d eventually link it even if we weren’t watching the meeting. So he strangled her. He cut off her hands. He put that message in her mouth. Not you. Don’t beat yourself up”.
Ware looked back at Lewis intently, with a slow small smile emerging on his face, before replying. “Marcella was right about you. You can read people Tom. That’s a rare gift in this business”.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a mid sized fair haired student type talking to McEvoy. He had exited the restrooms and stopped to say something to McEvoy on his way back to the other side of the bar. It was the change in McEvoy’s eyes that Lewis noticed first when he thought back on it later. They seemed to go from bleary disinterest to a black fury in milliseconds. McEvoy grabbed a beer bottle from the table and swung it rapidly like a roundhouse boxer punch into the side of the students head. Beer seemed to spray everywhere. The student crumbled to the floor, with McEvoy quickly on top of him. In the space of seconds, McEvoy had grabbed a large decorative ceramic ashtray on the table and began pounding the students face with it, repeatedly smashing down violently. Marcella had fallen off balance, pushed by the falling student, and it seemed like time had slowed to an almost complete stop forever, as everyone looked on in equal parts dazed and horrified. Blood sprayed from the students face, spattering Johnson’s cream colored pants and Marcella, who’s was struggling to get back on her feet.
Ware was the first to react, grabbing McEvoy’s raised arm with the ashtray and twisting it behind him leveraging him through a painful maneuver to simultaneously push McEvoy off the victim. Lewis regained his senses and kicked the ashtray from McEvoy’s hands. He looked again at McEvoy, lying semi recumbent in the floor of the bar. His face was smeared with blood and his eyes were narrow dark slits. He was panting heavily from his exertions. The crowd noise near them had dissipated enough that you could once again hear the basketball commentary again from the tv. Johnson was on her cellphone already.
“Jesus fucking Christ Jim, what have you done” Lewis said in a low voice.
Ware was checking the student on the ground, who wasn’t moving. “He’s still breathing Sam, call it in”
They stood outside the bar with a cold northeasterly wind blowing right down the street. They had all given their statements to the uniformed PD and watched the ambulance take away the victim. Ware had promised to follow him to Grant General Hospital. McEvoy was in cuffs in a cruiser. Marcella was still visibly shook.
“He would have killed him Tom” was all she kept saying to him.
Lewis didn’t for a second doubt that either. He would get in the cruiser and go downtown to McEvoy’s booking at Columbus PD to make sure McEvoy got counsel for the morning. Depending on what happened the guy he attacked, he could face a serious uphill struggle getting any kind of reasonable bail. He signalled to the uniformed he was ready to go and slid in the back seat beside McEvoy. The victims blood spatter was still on his face.
“Jesus Jim. What happened” He didn’t know what else to say.
McEvoy was looking dead ahead at the driver seat.
“Will anything I say be held against me?” McEvoy muttered.
“C’mon man, you nearly killed him. I don’t even know if he is dead. Don’t give me a fucking hard time. I’m going to try and help you here. And let me tell you, no one else is batting for you right now. Johnson has already evidenced you as trying to kill him”.
McEvoy shifted uncomfortably in the seat. “This really necessary?” McEvoy was referring to the cuffs.
“Yes it fucking is, Jim. What part of you nearly killed him did you not hear”.
He was amazed at McEvoys apparent nonchalant attitude given the savage beating he had just dished out. McEvoy sat back awkwardly in the seat and stared out the window.
“He called me a faggot. That’s all- ok? Wanted to suck dick ” McEvoy mumbled back.
He looked across at Lewis. “My keys to my apartment are in my jacket pocket. Take them. In my living room there is a small safe with some papers and $10,000 in cash. Use it for bail”. McEvoy looked over at Lewis. His eyes were narrowed to slits again, hard to read.
“You’re the only person I know here Tom. Just help me get out so I can tidy up things before....”. He trailed off.
Lewis knew what he meant. Bail might be set, but the chances of even a small amount of prison time were high here. Even if McEvoy had four good friends in the bar that night willing to testify it was provoked, there was a room full of other people who’d seen McEvoy repeatedly strike the guy on the ground savagely, again and again. This wasn’t some arrest no one else witnessed that they could throw shade around. This was a social occasion and the FBI were involved, even if only socially, so any kind of a cover up was off the cards. And McEvoy didn’t have four good friends in the bar that night. Looking at his blood spattered face as they pulled into Columbus PD, Lewis wasn’t even sure he had one.
The atmosphere in the task force room was decidedly muted the following morning, and it wasn’t because everyone was hungover. Rumor circulated initially that the victim in the bar had died but Ware put paid to that when he arrived. The victim was in fact a twenty three year old post grad in chemistry at Ohio State and was still alive, but critically ill on a life support machine. The doctors were optimistic he’d survive, he was in an induced coma to allow brain swelling to reduce. How much chemistry he’d be able to recall was another matter. Reading between the lines, Lewis knew this was not the worst news but still very bad for McEvoy. It was entirely possible that the DA would consider an attempted murder charge on the basis of the extent of the injuries and whatever Marcella and Johnson might have given in witness statements.
He couldn’t bring himself to say much more than he saw Ware pulling McEvoy off him. He felt really torn doing this, but there was something utterly pathetic in McEvoy traveling in the police cruiser last night, a man in perpetual crisis, no one else in the world that could help him. There was no doubt in Lewis’s mind now, McEvoy had never really gotten over the rape and murder of his own daughter. You could argue he had poor coping skills to start with, that he was always a little odd. But Sadie being murdered and the shock of finding out himself first hand behind the dumpster that day had broken him. He had no one in this world bar an ex wife who he never spoke to. There was never any mention of siblings or parents. When he thought about it, he realized he knew very little about McEvoy. And as McEvoy almost pleaded with him last night, Lewis was his only friend right now.
Ware was discussing the spread of shootings of what the media had dubbed the .38 killer with Rodriguez and Wilkins. They had the map of Columbus up on the board. Ware was convinced that somehow the killer had learnt of their increased surveillance of the west part of the city and switched to the east. One way to confirm was to limit operational information release to the public but Ware had zero confidence in Spietz achieving this. Another was to let Spietz make the PR announcements to the media in even more detail, and at deployment, completely change the plans at the last moment without even Spietz being aware, thus potentially putting the killer off balance. Of course this plan of action was enormously risky, because if the killer struck in an area that the media had been told was being placed under surveillance instead where they actually were, the optics of that would be disastrous. There seemed almost nothing connecting the victims other than them being in a relatively isolated place at the wrong time. Even age was not a huge factor - victims were aged 19 through 37, and up until his sixth, all male. The last victim happened to be a transsexual, physically built like a man, so it was possible that the killer made an incorrect assumption.
Alternatively, as Johnson pointed out, the demographics of people walking alone at night on the streets was overwhelmingly male anyway; they could be making false assumptions based on the gender of victims. Johnson felt that the .38 killer was possibly an example of a killer driven mostly by the excitement of the moment, an almost sexual experience for him or her. The choice of victims was less about the individual and more about how the act could be achieved without being caught. Sometimes the method of murder would change as the killer sought increasingly to prolong this quasi sexual excitement. A shooting modus operandi might evolve into strangling or even prolonged torture. The likelihood and speed of this occurring depended on the killers circumstances largely; it took a lot more dedication and time to plan abductions and torture than to ride up alongside someone and shoot them in the face. Linked to all this was impulsivity and the addiction of killing, something that all serial killers had in common. For some it was triggered by something specific but always in the background, for others it was like drug withdrawal, only an act of violence could satiate that need. They would kill and the need was satiated, only to slowly build up again.
Johnson reckoned their two killers were distinctly different in these respects. The need to murder for their Stargazer was present and like all aspects of his work, controlled and released in spurts. But the extent of injuries on the victims clearly showed a frenzied nature pointing to a near dissociative state whilst doing it which some psychologists likened to a pre-orgasmic state. For the .38 killer, the gap between kills was much shorter, a matter of days, and that gap had been getting shorter. His addiction was more acute, less controlled and hopefully, he would make a major mistake very soon. She shared the same pessimism about Stargazer as Ware; he appeared to exhibit a worrying triad in a serial killer: self control, forensic awareness and a slow burning hunger to kill that would always need satiating.
Ware called the room to attention and explained a new roster for patrolling Columbus for the weekend which he was planning on getting approval from Spietz for. They would cover eastern and western districts but be more thinly spread out, even more so tonight with McEvoy out of the picture. Or at least that what was what Ware would be telling Spietz prior to this morning’s press conference. What he told him and what he actually planned was three unmarked cars doing sweeps of the northwestern district as a long shot. Lewis was a little reluctant to mention his thoughts on the street lighting that he’d had the night he nearly shot McEvoy. He wasn’t good at that kind of pattern recognition usually; it was more McEvoy or Marcella’s thing. But it was worth just a mention even if it came to nothing or he looked a bit foolish. They badly needed a break, a lead of some sort. These cases, Lewis realized, were not the kind that he was most suited too. There wasn’t a suspect in an interview room that he could manipulate, a suspect that he could catch out in a lie, a suspect he could offer help in return for a guilty plea. These cases made him feel like a spare wheel, to be brought in only when they had someone. He could fart around this room pouring over maps and case files and forensics, but he was not really contributing.
“Have you noticed how poorly lit the areas are that the shootings have occurred in?” Lewis said to the room. “Is it possible that this guy chooses these specifically and knows these areas like the back of his hand? Maybe a taxi driver, or someone who works public utilities maybe?”
Ware was nodding in agreement. “We could look at employees records for local cab companies; could be someone there with a record or an axe to grind. Thanks Tom.” Lewis felt a little lift, like a small child getting a spelling right for their first grade teacher. He wandered over to Ware.
“I’ve got a bit of an errand to run for McEvoy. He needs me to sort out some finance for any potential bail. His hearing is Monday.”
Ware eyed him almost suspiciously.
“You know he could well end up doing a decent stretch here right?” Ware replied. “He’s looking at a 1-2 years here even with parole if that guy is left permanently injured”.
Lewis paused. He knew even Ware had limited sympathy for McEvoy.
“Look, McEvoy has lost a lot in the last 6 months. And he hadn’t much to start with. He knows he is looking at prison time. He just wants to put his affairs in order. He has no one else to turn to.”
Ware glanced around the room. “Fair enough. Not much going on here in fairness. Head out. Ring my cell around 7pm to find out where you are going to be patrolling later.”
McEvoy’s ground floor rented apartment was a twenty minute drive from the police department in the northeast part of Columbus near Hyde Park. Rents were reasonable as long as you didn’t want a view of the actual park. As he pulled into the parking lot, he noticed McEvoy’s Ford Explorer parked outside . It looked like it hadn’t been washed in years with the number plate barely visible at the rear from an accumulation of dirt and dust. Dark smudge marks that looked like oil all around the passenger top of the side window as well as a good going dent on the front bumper completed the uncared for look. Lewis wondered whether the apartment was in as good a shape. He tried one of two keys and was lucky first time to get into the main building foyer.
McEvoy lived in No 2, which was in the back of the building, looking out on a small inner courtyard. He turned the lock of the front door and headed in. The smell hit him first, a sweet sickly smell of fruit fermenting somewhere. The apartment was stuffy as if the heat had been left on. The hallway light was on but as he went through to the kitchenette and the accompanying small living area, the blinds were drawn and lights off, resulting in a gloomy airless feel. Unwashed dishes lay piled up in the sink, and the kitchen table and living room were littered with discarded fast food containers of all types from Chinese take away to burger boxes. The tangy smell of rotting fruit was even more intense, and it’s source was indeed a bowel of oranges, no longer just orange, but almost completely covered in patchs of green and white green mould. Jesus, even he as a confirmed bachelor wouldn’t be able to live like this.
He moved through the living room, stepping over half eaten cartons of noodles and a number of blue A4 pads, to the bedroom and en-suite bathroom. Both were in complete darkness and the heat was overwhelming. There must be at least one radiator left on somewhere he thought. He turned on the main bedroom light to uncover another complete mess. Clothes lay strewn everywhere as well as empty and half empty bottles of bourbon and vodka. Pushing open the bathroom door revealed the bathroom mirror was smashed in pieces with shards of mirror everywhere, on the counter tops and floor. Lewis decided at this point he was going to make a tactical retreat. He felt a little uneasy wandering around, as if he was stepping into a private chaotic world which he had no business in. He located the safe in the living room, used the code McEvoy had given him, and took out the cash. He was tempted to look at the three or so pieces of paper in there also, but couldn’t shake the feeling someone was looking at him or that he was somehow bizarrely trampling over a crime scene. He left the apartment in a hurry, task completed.
Monday mornings always roll around too quickly but this particular one seemed especially undesirable to Lewis. His indigestion had kept him up half the night and the usual first cigarette of the day hadn’t gotten rid of the low level headache he had. Three consecutive nights patrolling the north east and north west of Columbus had yielded nothing in their .38 killer case, but then again, no one had been shot by him either over the weekend. McEvoy’s bail hearing was on this morning downtown today at the District Court. The DA was pushing at minimum an aggravated assault charge, a 4th degree felony charge, and rumor had it from Spietz that bail would be allowed or at least not objected to if set on the usual conditions and $12,000. Spietz was less than optimistic about McEvoy’s chances at Columbus PD. Word from on high was that he would be removed as per Code Chapter 2903 of the code of conduct for Ohio police forces. The PD Union wasn’t even contesting this, and quite possibly because McEvoy didn’t want them to.
Lewis had the cell phone of McEvoy’s lawyer and was to meet him downtown if he could make it to make arrangements for bail. Marcella had something that was bothering her she wanted to discuss, she wouldn’t go into it over the phone.
When he got back to the office, Marcella was at her desk, typing out some evidence sheets on a stabbing she’d caught before being dragged into this Stargazer mess. She saw him and picked up a note pad and dragged him into an interrogation room and closed out the door. Whatever was bothering her wasn’t for everyone’s ears.
“Look at this”. She handed him the notebook.
He opened it and tried to make sense of the first few pages. There seemed to be a lot of what he could best describe as doodles and random pieces of text. Triangles and squares with some of Stargazer’s victim names at each point in a triangle were a common theme. In places the word chain and baseball were highlighted or underlined. And then on the third page a passage of writing was scribbled as if written hurriedly and the same passage was written another three times.
“I’ll hang that heart black and dull as a foggy night. They really see me for what I am. They know their desire is my desire. There (sic) eyes shoot bright red rays but I’ll shall duck and shoot and dive and they will be pleased and corrupted all at once. They see me and I see them but their face explodes and now they see nothing and their red eyes are dead eyes”
There were a few more isolated phrases related to Stargazer victims, mostly odd punctuated phrases like
“He sizes them somehow” or “he watches them first”
He recognized it as McEvoy’s handiwork from the scrawl.
“Where did you get this?” He felt almost guilty as if he were reading some one’s diary.
“He left this one on his desk. But Tom, I checked with Spietz and we looked in his locker. There were three more like it. Just as weird, and that passage was in all of them.”
“Maybe he has some process where he’s trying to get into the head of the killer?”
Marcella looked at him and took the notepad off him, flicking through the pages. She looked deeply unsettled.
“I dunno. I get the Stargazer references but the other bit. The passage that repeats? You don’t think that’s different?. It seems so visceral or something. Like something a psychopath would come out with. It almost seems too real, and it has nothing to do with the Stargazer and more to do with the .38 killings”
“Maybe he’s trying to project into that guys head as well. You know McEvoy. He had a habit of trying to make cases by trying to put himself in the killers shoes”. He knew this was true of McEvoy. Although he had to admit, he’d never quite seen this level of weirdness in the years he’d worked with him.
“Maybe. I dunno. Just sits funny with me.” She didn’t sound convinced. Marcella opened the door to the interrogation room. “ I’m not gonna lie Tom. I’m glad he’s gone.”