Chapter 19 Covering Familiar Ground.
Their destination was a small road off Poe Road in Medina County which itself was off Route 71, a two hour drive from Columbus. The child’s maternal grandmother lived near a country club called Fox Meadow which had opened a few years back.
But the austere surroundings of the country club were a long way from the surrounding scattered rural holdings. The boy was staying with her, a sprightly woman of sixty three who lived alone with her two German Shepards in a ramshackle single story house built in the early ’20s as part of a small farm holding. The land was long sold on except for a token vegetable patch at the back and a picket fence lined front garden with a porch. With a coat of paint and some minor fence repairs, it could have been idyllic sitting out here in the late morning sun, sipping on homemade ice tea.
Instead however, Lewis and Ware found themselves sitting here explaining to the woman who they were, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid suggesting her beloved grandson might have been abducted by a psychopathic monster. Phrases like “routine enquiries” and “opening new leads” only worked some of the time in situations like this. Anyone with their eyes and ears open would have guessed there was more to a Columbus PD detective and an FBI Agent coming all the way up here to get more information on their missing loved one. Maude Helier was no genius but she wasn’t stupid either.
“You boys come a hella’ way out your way to see about Mike. I told the Medina folk all this already. He was at that camp in town the last couple weeks. He out here for the summer on account of his momma been busy workin and he be at home alone otherwise” She looked at the detectives expectantly, as if waiting for an explanation as to why they had such a special interest.
Lewis started the ball rolling. “What did the Medina Police say to you Ma’am? Why did they think someone might take Mike?”. Lewis caught a wry smile from her as she answered.
“They said maybe for money. But I know this world and everyone round here knows I ain’t got no money. I thought maybe once of those sex rings like I saw in the news years back”.
Lewis and Ware glanced at one another. Their theory on little Mike’s disappearence was arguably no better or no worse a prospect, but right now was not the time to validate that theory for the woman.
“Did Mike mention any new older friends in camp or anyone at all from camp?” Ware asked.
The old woman gave a dismissive wave with her hand. “He was always on about some Mark, his trainer or something but nobody else. He kinda rowed his own boat out here, did his own thing. I kept him fed and clean and he did odd jobs what a boy his age can do but we didn’t sit down and talk for hours”.
Both men knew they weren’t getting much further here. “The bus drops him at the top of the road about a mile or so up, right Ms Helier?” Ware asked. “Who owns that old abandoned small shack halfway down?”
She paused to think a few seconds before answering. “You probably mean the old pump house. That was there in the 50’s, used for pumping irrigation water for the land holders. But it ain’t used in a long time now”.
Ware got up slowly from the porch seat. “Well thank you for your time and the ice tea Ma’am. We won’t bother you again”.
The woman looked back at them both, a sudden sadness descending over her face. “Oh maybe not you. Others be around though. A lost child is a story always bein’ told”.
As they pulled away, Lewis saw her standing there alone in her porch in his rear view mirror. “What did she mean by that?” Lewis asked in a puzzled tone. Ware was looking out the window at the thick almost jungle like growth that lined either side of the road.
“People forget other people all the time in their lives. People you once knew, people that moved on, people that died.” Ware paused and Lewis heard the faintest waver in his voice when he continued.
“But when a kid leaves, disappears out of your life, the people who knew that kid, they never forget them.” Lewis was about to reply when it struck him. Ware’s kid had died at 4 or 5 from leukemia, he remembered that now. He drove on in silence.
A minute later, Ware suddenly told Lewis to pull over. On their left, mostly hidden by overgrowth, a mid sized wooden structure lay in ruins, its roof half fallen in. To it’s side was a small clearing in the overgrowth, enough to park a vehicle. Lewis had completely missed it driving down the road to the grandmothers. They got out of the car as the dust of the road started to settle.
“I’ve got a feeling about this place. The boy was last seen getting off the bus. There’s nowhere else on this road that our guy could have pulled in without being seen.” Ware exclaimed.
Ware was right thought Lewis. The road was lined on either side all the way to the main road with thick bush and a steep, now completely dry, water gulley, making parking a vehicle impossible anywhere else. There were no other turns, no hard shoulder.
They walked over to the hut. Ware got down on his haunches, almost kneeling, staring intently at the dirt clearing to the side. “There are definitely tracks here from recently. What’s the chances the local PD have shots of these?”.
Lewis wasn’t optimistic. “Let’s assume they don’t.” Lewis stepped gingerly inside the ruined structure, brushing aside overhanging bushes. The smell of rotting vegetation was strong, and the old rusted steel pump lay crumbling in the center. The floor was just dirt now, with one or two rotted wooden floorboards left, and the back of the floor of the structure was open into a manmade gulley which was presumably where the pumped water entered and exited into irrigation channels. The gloom was such that you couldn’t really see the back wall, but out of the corner of his eye to his right that Lewis spotted something reddish on the side wall.
He went back out and got the torch he had in the trunk of his car. Ware followed him back into the gloom. Lewis switched on the torch who’s beam illuminated the dust in the air, particles lazily floating down in a fine mist. He directed it at what he thought he’d seen on the wall. There, painted crudely in red paint, with the edges having run like drips of blood, was a Jewish Star.
“That looks pretty fresh to me” Ware walked over to give it closer inspection.
“That’s a Jewish Star isn’t it” Lewis offered. “But what the fuck it’s doing here? ”.
Ware stepped back and moved to the entrance before replying “I’d bet my mother’s life that whoever took that kid might know the answer to that”.
Ware was anxious to contact the local PD in Medina town as soon as possible to see if they had completed a forensic sweep of the abandoned pumping station as well as check the list they had generated for persons of interest. Lewis had put a call in to the Sheriff’s office the night before arranging a lunchtime meet for today. Medina was a small city 30 miles southwest of Cleveland, with a nice mix of picturesque parks and colonial type buildings as well as an increasingly more modern type of build. Due to its proximity to Cleveland, it had become increasingly popular for families and workers commuting to Cleveland daily. It had a pretty average crime rate for middle America, the Sheriff’s department had increased in size in the ’80s as more and more Cleveland families resettled there. It now boasted its own small detective division; this wasn’t some tinpot operation. That much was obvious walking in the door of the PD, a sizeable open plan office with holding cells and two small offices situated to the rear of the building.
Sheriff Purtens came to greet them immediately with what appeared to be the kids file under his arm. “Delighted to meet you boys in person on this” he opened with. He was probably in his late ’50s thought Lewis, with a complexion that had seen a little too much sun over a lifetime.
“I’ve got some coffee or ice tea and some homemade bacon rolls in my office waiting for you”. They made their way into his office and sat down.
Lewis noted the obligatory picture of Clinton hanging on the wall as well as the usual service awards and one family portrait.
“I’m guessing you didn’t get much from Ms Helier off Poe Road. She’s a nice lady but she only took the boy in summer. Not that the boy’s mother was a fountain of information herself. They live in a trailer park near that concrete plant as you come into Cleveland on Route 71. We’ve been up there and taken statements from the mother and two sisters.” The Sheriff seemed keen to help out.
“We’ve done pretty much all we can do I think. We’ve talked to teachers, those folks at the camp he was at, friends, friends of friends, just about anyone who knew the boy. We’ve got 3 on the sex offenders list here who were pulled in last week. You’re welcome to talk to them all again though. The only blip on the radar is one of the sex offenders. He was a little vague on where he was that day the boy was last seen. He did a 10 year stretch in Michigan fifteen years back. Little girls was his thing but I guess anything is possible right?”.
Lewis replied first. “Well Sheriff Purtens, that seems pretty extensive. We might maybe take a peek at the witness statements later if that’s ok”
The mention of a summer camp in all of this was the clearest connection behind all this other than the obvious demographic profiling. Two of ’98’s victims had been at summer camps the summer they disappeared, although they had been abducted well after the camps had finished for them.
“Do you recall who organizes those summer camps around here maybe. Is it County funded?” Lewis knew it was probably nothing but still a potential lead is a potential lead.
Purtens looked quickly in the file before replying “Don’t honestly recall but they run all June and half of July if you want to head down today. No mention in here, just the folks talked to down there, Team Leaders and the like. They’re run in Fred Greenwood Park, 10 minutes walk from here.”
Ware seemed anxious to jump in and Lewis knew what about. “Sheriff, did your people life any prints or tracks from that abandoned pump house on the road to the grandmothers?”.
Purtens looked surprised.
Ware explained the location of the abandoned shack and what they had seen painted on the wall on the inside. Purtens seemed intrigued.
“We can get Cleveland Forensics on that by the afternoon no problem Agent Ware. But my people may have been all over that already in terms of prints so we’ll have to run exclusion sets with our search teams. We combed that area already and the fields beyond it. But it would sure help by way of explanation what you boys are thinking here. It’s not every day we see FBI turn up on our doorstep for one missing kid”.
Ware and Lewis exchanged glances before Lewis answered. “Sheriff, this isn’t official and right now I’ll deny telling you this if someone from Columbus PD or the media rings you on this. Do you recall anything about a case the media called the X Files killer in late ’98?”
The moniker the media had given clearly meant something to the sheriff as his face lit up on it been mentioned.
“I remember it well. That’s the guy killing black boys and cutting them up. Buried them thinking they’d attract aliens or something crazy like that. Case went dead last year, rumours about your ex Commissioner Kearny being the guy but they couldn’t prove it”.
Lewis allowed himself a little wry smile. Spietz had managed successfully to pull the wool over some people’s eyes.
“Well the thing is, we think that the killer is still out there. The missing boy fits the demographic, and there are other similarities too like the summer camp connection. Special Agent Ware here is a profiler and he helped on that case. He’s on his own time at the moment but we both have a bad feeling on this”
Lewis looked across to Ware who had been staring at his own notes for the last few minutes, and who’s face now held an expression halfway between horror and shock. “Ed, you wanna jump in here?” Lewis asked.
Ware looked up, a little shook looking before answering. “The killer buried the boys remains in a triangular pattern. In fact he dropped three adult bodies across the state in the early 90’s in a triangular pattern as well. Each body was the point of a equilateral triangle. We found this painted on the wall of the shack”.
He pushed his notebook across the desk to the sheriff with a replica drawing. “Two equilateral triangles forming a Jewish Star. If I’m right, that’s six bodies Sheriff. Six boys this summer. We think Mike might be the first we know of”.
It was nearly 1pm before Ware and Lewis left the sheriff’s office. The summer camp was about a ten minute walk through Medina to Fred Greenwood Park. The day was mercifully beginning to cloud over a little so they only had the humidity to battle on the way. They knew they were nearby when they could hear the shouts of kids and the splashing of water. As they rounded the corner on Bristol Lane, the park came into view. A temporary series of tents and had been set up as well as three distinct half size fields for soccer, lacrosse and basic athletics. Adjacent to all that was a permanent outdoor pool facility and restrooms which most of the kids seemed to be around currently. The park had a small main permanent office at it’s entrance which is where they first headed. The park officer directed them to a group of what looked like college kids in Camp Uniform sitting around having lunch. The oldest in the group was a Hugo Greesman and the boss at this camp.
“We have about 50-60 kids every two weeks on average here, for the month of July, aged 7 to 12. It’s mostly a mixture of local kids with some from further away. The funding is part private, part State funded. I work for CoolPlay which is the private part that runs the whole thing. We work throughout the state on the same basic model with some minor differences from county to county in terms of age profiles and services offered.” Greesman sounded like he had given this summary before very recently to Purtens guys. He continued.
“Basically the kids here will either be part of some type of state juvenile offender program or at risk social situation streamed through their school, or just rarely just privately signed up for the two weeks. Obviously the state pays for the former, the rest the kids families pay themselves. We do all activity group based sports and team building exercises. One team leader per 10 kids, all have to be state certified and cleared to work with kids”.
Lewis stopped him there. “Who’s responsible for making sure Team Leaders have the required paperwork?”. Hugo seemed to have all his answers lined up.
“Oh central office do all that in Columbus, I can get you a number for someone who deals with it”.
Ware was looking over Hugo’s shoulder in the distance at a van parked about 600 yards away, with someone eating his lunch from the open doors at the back of the van. “Who’s that” Ware nodded in the general direction of the van. Hugo turned around to see who Ware was referring to.
“Oh that’s Fernandez, he’s one of the set up guys. I think there’s about maybe 3 or 4 of them working out of Columbus for the company. They basically are in charge of the temporary infrastructure stuff like the tents, sports equipment, that kind of stuff. They set up and take down, or replace anything there is an issue with. He’s here to change out one of the temporary restrooms. Some places that run camps will have their own fixed infrastructure we can use, some won’t. You can see this place doesn’t.” Ware and Lewis looked at one another. Fernandez hadn’t appeared on the sheriffs list of persons interviewed. “Did he set up this one or is he here just for today” Ware asked.
Hugo paused for a second or two before replying. “Err, I’m not sure to be honest. I can ask if you want”. “No need Hugo. We can do that. What about them, the set up guys. Are they background checked or licensed or whatever too?” Lewis was getting interested now.
“Again, I’m not sure. I could lie and say yes but honestly I’m not sure”.
Ware looked at Hugo eye to eye. “I’m pretty sure you know it’s never wise to lie to the FBI, right?”. Hugo’s face went red.
“Yes sir absolutely. Just a figure of speech, that’s all I meant.”
Lewis couldn’t resist. “Hugo, you and your guys. You don’t smoke marijuana do you?”. Hugo’s face went beetroot red now as he looked down to the floor briefly first. “Absolutely not sir.”.
Ware, surprisingly jumped in now. Lewis always assumed Ware was a total straight edge, not one for fooling around. “So you’re going to go vouch for these five college kids right here right now on this Hugo?” Ware asked.
Hugo at this point looked like he might explode. “Err, I mean, I don’t know about them but I’d be surprised sir”.
Ware looked to Lewis and raised his right eye brow with an expression of doubt and smiled. “Ok Hugo. We’ll go talk to Fernandez now. We might be back”.
They walked over, leaving Hugo to mentally pick up the pieces. “You’re a bad bad man Ed” Lewis laughed as they approached Fernandez. Ware chuckled in reply. The company logo was plastered all over the van which was packed with a variety of sports equipment like pieces of a lacrosse net, tools and lying on its side, a portaloo. Fernandez had watched them keenly as they approached. Lewis could sense he wasn’t comfortable as they introduced themselves.
“We’re just doing some routine checks on a missing child from camp here. Can we get maybe your full name, an ID or something first?” Lewis asked. He figured Fernandez would have to go around to the front to get his license and registration, giving them a brief chance to have a look in the back of the van a bit. Fernandez obliged.
Fernandez returned with his license. He was in fact Miguel Fernandez Roice, 36, living in Columbus, originally from Juarez,. and on further questioning, had worked with the company since ’97. His answers were all almost monosyllabic.
“Were you the one who set this camp up for CoolPlay in June?” Ware asked. Fernandez shook his head. “Do you know maybe which one of your colleagues did?”
Again Fernandez shook his head. Lewis noticed Fernandez was in fact trembling ever so slightly. Ware took down his details and the van license plates. They began their walk back to the car.
“What did you think of our Mexican connection there?” Ware asked.
“I think maybe he was scared shitless of us” Lewis replied. “Scared about us asking certain immigration related questions or maybe looking into something. But not about kids disappearing”.
Ware nodded in agreement. “He’s hiding something but it’s not dead kids. I don’t give a shit about his immigration status but we still need to visit headquarters in Columbus and get some names.”
Lewis walked on in silence. The problem he had was how he could justify time on this in the absence of a body dropped in Columbus. And that wasn’t happening. And he was pretty sure Ware faced the same problems . They both were on the same wavelength, they both had an undeniable feeling that a monster was stalking children in Ohio State again. But hunches wouldn’t be enough to convince Butz. They reached the car before Lewis spoke again.
“I don’t know about your situation Ed, but all this will be a tough sell for me back home. I’ve got a clearance rate heading south of 55% right now. My new boss won’t buy missing kids in another jurisdiction and my old boss definitely won’t be receptive”.
Ware hesitated before getting into the passenger seat. “I might have the same issue. The only thing that might change that is another missing kid with a similar painting or message and that’s pretty grim. All I can do is office based work and use Medina PD as a proxy. That’s the best we can do Tom. Sheriff Purtens seems on it so far. Let’s just keep a real close eye on the NCIC, and cover what we got today. We double check backgrounds on Purtens people of interest and we root around this CoolPlay company connection . By my calculations, 3 of the last 4 victims were at camps. I’m flying out tonight to Quantico so I’m going to have to leave that on you. It’s headquarterd in Columbus so you should be able to work around it.”
Ware rolled down the window - the heat in the car was oppressive. Lewis pulled out of the car lot deep in his own thoughts; he might have to quietly rope Marcella back into all of this; the McEvoy situation needed addressing as well and he didn’t want to leave that fester.
He would ring the number McEvoy had left, some sort of diner where he worked. Something was niggling at Lewis all the time in the back of his mind. Something about what that Psychology post grad student said to him after the research interview in Lima. He had been genuinely creeped out by McEvoy and then there was the homophobia comment the student had made. Now there was a dead male prostitute lying somewhere and McEvoy was coming up on the radar from people who didn’t even know this aspect of him. If the Cincinnati Murder Squad knew what Lewis did, they’d be all over him like a rash. Maybe it was time to start over with McEvoy, and this time, view him through an entirely different prism.
The diner number McEvoy gave him was in fact a pay phone within the actual diner, a greasy spoon working man’s kind of place called Little Joey’s. The first time he called it, it rang out, the second time someone picked up and hung up straight away, clearly whoever it was on the other end was expecting another call.
Lewis was about to give up and try just door stepping McEvoy there, when in his third attempt, he got a server who knew McEvoy. He got what he needed to know- McEvoy was on day shift there today all day until 6:30pm in the kitchen. By the time he pulled up in front of Little Joey’s at around 5:30pm, he had worked out his approach. He’d tell McEvoy he was in town on other business and ease gently into the actual business at hand. McEvoy would be surprised to see him hopefully, assuming the server didn’t mention someone had called the pay phone asking for him; Lewis hadn’t said who he was.
Being at work wouldn’t be ideal for any kind of interview due to interruptions; he would need to convince McEvoy to maybe go for a coffee somewhere else or ideally just go back to his place. Lewis reckoned he’d be in a much better position to gauge McEvoy if he had some idea of his overall situation. Was he drinking again, was it weed he bought from that dealer or something much harder? Would McEvoy be keen to avoid Lewis nosing around his living space? Lewis decided to just watch the comings and goings of Little Joeys customers for the next twenty minutes or so before going in.
The area itself was definitely a seedier part of Cincinnati, the kind of place tourists only found themselves in accidentally. It was two blocks down from the bar that the Cincinnati detective had mentioned on the phone, another fine establishment by the looks of it, Lewis noted as he had passed by. Some of the bar custom was making its way up to Little Joeys, one or two were definitely working girls. He was parked in the far right end of the lot outside the diner with the car facing out to the street, his rear view on the side tradesman entrance to the diner in case McEvoy knocked off early. McEvoy’s old dirty dark green Ford Explorer was parked a little ways down the alley of the side entrance, about no more than 20 yards from Lewis. A small fat guy in a dirty suit went in the side entrance, having hopped out of an even dirtier off white Oldsmobile vintage car in front of McEvoy’s Explorer.
What he saw next both puzzled and distressed Lewis more than a little. McEvoy exited moments later, still with his filthy kitchen apron and gloves on. He failed to make Lewis’s car. He paused outside the door, took off his gloves and walked over to his Explorer to adjust the driver side mirror from the outside. He bent down to see his face in the reflection, straightened his hair, and proceeded to make bizarre facial contortions, cycling through smiling and faux crying and laughter. He did this for just half a minute or so before heading back inside. Lewis wasn’t sure what he had just witnessed, or what it could mean, but it unnerved him a little.
Lewis sat at the counter and ordered an orange juice and asked if McEvoy was back in the kitchen. Moments later he appeared out from around the counter smiling.
“Hey Tom, good to see you. You didn’t need to come down, I left a message to ring here”. The smile seemed disarmingly genuine thought Lewis.
“I was in town on other business so I figured I’d swing by instead. Wondered what I could do for you?” Lewis kept the tone as breezy as he could.
McEvoy sat down beside him, the smell of his greasy peanut oil stained apron was faint but unmistakable. “It’s nothing, just a few questions I had about the Stargazer stuff you gave me. I’ve been going over some ideas and there are some minor things you could clear up”. McEvoy was flipping a quarter from one hand to the other, staring at the counter.
Lewis wasn’t sure he wanted to tell McEvoy about recent developments in Medina. He had already regretted a little giving him what he had. McEvoy was a civilian now, ultimately his continued involvement could only lead to no good.
“That case is dead as dodo right now” Lewis replied. “But sure, if I can help I will”.
McEvoy stopped flipping the coins and rubbed his forehead as if having a severe headache. “I can’t for the life of me remember what it was now exactly. No booze has being playing havoc with me when I can get it so easily”.
Lewis got the impression McEvoy was definitely fighting some inner demon but he wasn’t convinced it was booze.
“Maybe you got it taken down somewhere, a notebook or something” Lewis asked.
“Yeah, sure back at my place” McEvoy seemed to refocus, quickly. “I’ll be able to swing outta here early, we can go get it and go for some Chinese food at a place I know not far.”
It was time now for Lewis to fake a smile. “Great plan, we’ll take your Explorer, you still got that right?”.
McEvoy half smiled back before replying. “Now now Tom, a Detective like you would already have made my car in the parking lot”.
The smell of air freshener in the Explorer was made an infinity worse by the fact it had been baking all day in the sun. They travelled to McEvoy’s place in silence, nothing unusual for them during their time as partners. Lewis noticed the car had been recently cleaned completely, surfaces had some smears where the cloth had been dirty, but overall the car was spotless.
The apartments were in fact motel rooms with a small bathroom as usual at the back. They were arranged in two rows 6 side by side, with a/c units all facing out onto the unsurfaced dusty car lot. McEvoy’s was the last on the block facing the road beside the garbage alley containers. On first entrance it was not nearly as messy as when Lewis had first ever entered McEvoy’s Columbus apartment. The heat however, was stifling, a wall of asphyxiating gloom. McEvoy muttered as he went in search of his notes in the far end of the room, giving Lewis a brief opportunity to look around. No bottles of vodka or bourbon; generally speaking unremarkable. McEvoy returned with a A4 notebook and thrust it into his hands excitedly.
“I’m just going to freshen up in the bathroom, last few pages with entries are where I’m going with this sick fuck’s job and how he gets to the victims”.
Lewis was a million miles away mentally suddenly now, having seen it lying casually in the bedside drawer which was partially open. His heart was suddenly pounding. He was certain there was a gun in there. Clearly McEvoy wasn’t too worried about a sudden visit from his parole officer. Lewis took the notepad from McEvoy unconsciously and let him go into the bathroom before speaking again, louder now to overcome the noise of the shower and the closed bathroom door.
“There is one small thing else now that I’m here for, Jim. Cincinnati PD got in contact with me. See, they have a missing male prostitute at the moment, last seen very near where you work.” Lewis was almost shouting now above the shower.
“Thing is, they are pretty sure he’d dead, they have some of the victim’s shirt with his own blood on it.”
McEvoy had turned off the shower now, the faucet from the sink instead gurgling instead. Lewis knew he was paying attention now.
“They got you pegged in the area the victim was last seen and around the same time, around 3 am when you knocked off from the diner, that’s on CCTV. They just want an account of your whereabouts for, say the next 8 hours before your next shift.”
McEvoy remained completely silent.
“They thought maybe if I checked with you it would be a bit more discreet for you”. Lewis had quietly moved to the bedside drawer and pulled it fully open. It was a Colt. Most likely an older .38. He pushed the drawer back to its original position and made his way to the other bedside locker on the opposite side. Nothing in it.
“You know the way these things go. They want just the truth. They have other CCTV coverage as well from around the diner”
Lewis had to dangle something now in front of McEvoy.
“Nothing they want to get you on. Just this missing prostitute thing to clear up and outride you. They have you maybe buying some weed but that’s not their interest. You’re on their radar, I’m the button that switches your blip off?”
McEvoy opened the door of the bathroom quickly, his form silhouetted against the light and steam coming out. Lewis was caught completely off guard, bending over, looking under the bed.
“Drop something there Tom? Or is this just one of those friendly type searches too? McEvoy’s tone was deadly serious.
Lewis discreetly unclipped the holster on his sidearm; time seemed to slow; suddenly the temperature in the room had plummeted. He gave McEvoy maybe three seconds to lunge to the .38 in the bedside locker. He was definitely confident he’d pull off at least two center mass in that kind of scenario.
“I went straight home Tom. Maybe 3:10 , 3:15 am, I guess I pulled out of the car park and headed home in my truck.”
Lewis was upright now, he felt the crisis moment had maybe passed. “Straight home?” Lewis tried to keep his reply as neutral as possible, as if he just wanted to hear what McEvoy wanted him to hear.
“Straight home Tom. Got up maybe 10am the next day.” McEvoy kept his tone sharp.
Lewis knew he was lying, the Cincinnati boys had him headed east in the opposite direction on CCTV. Why would he lie? What was he hiding? One other thing struck Lewis. McEvoy was slick at lying, good at it. No deviation of gaze, unconscious tic, change in tone of voice. Nope, McEvoy delivered a lie as if it was gospel truth and he was St Peter delivering it.
He slowly backed along the wall, inching towards the door.
“So maybe, just run down there, Detective Ritchie Marks, Cincinnati Murder Division, and self present to sign a statement”. Lewis felt now the number one priority was to get out into a public space, dragging McEvoy back out of the room too.
McEvoy put on a shirt, put his hands up in the manner of a surrender. “Marked man now I guess. Pinged cause of the Parole right? I’m now a person of interest in a murder. How the mighty have fallen eh?” McEvoy’s smile was now most certainly forced.
“Let’s get you back to your car Tom” McEvoy wasn’t so much asking as ordering.
Lewis backed out into the parking to the front of the complex. They climbed into McEvoy’s Explorer. The sun was behind them in the west, low in the sky, almost blinding as it reflected off the dash of the Explorer. Lewis had started the day with the tiniest pieces of doubt vaguely floating around his mind about McEvoy. Now those pieces had coalesced and the resulting co-incidence in his thought process and what he had found in McEvoy’s bedside drawer, raised it’s ugly but undeniable head. The forensics report in the gun uses in those six bodies dropped with their so called face shooter, was a .38. The car seen was a dark SUV type vehicle, maybe a Cherokee or a Ford Explorer. And he stopped killing right around the time McEvoy went to prison. The forensics had mentioned either a Colt .38 or a .38 Special as the best ballistics match. Lewis couldn’t deny the series of coincidences. It was just too much.
Of course there might be a reasonable reason why McEvoy had a.38. But Lewis wasn’t ready to test that theory just yet. Either way it was a parole violation. He needed to look at a few other aspects behind McEvoy first, things that might be driving him, things beyond Sadie’s death. They pulled up next to Lewis’s old Altima. “Still driving that shit heap” McEvoy joked. He seemed to have cooled off a little and not just from the shower either.
“Maybe we’ll catch up another time Tom” McEvoy’s smile evaporated quickly as he stared over to Lewis in the passenger seat. Lewis caught the stare full on. His eyes had a deadness to them, black without emotion. Something he’d never seen in McEvoy before, he saw sitting in the Explorer at that moment. Something malevolent, something ceaselessly uncaring but brutal. And also something that could have been there a very long time.
Lewis was in his car and on the road in a matter of seconds. He hadn’t even said goodbye to McEvoy. He was a good 30 miles on the road back when he remembered the A4 notepad. He’d left it on the bedside in McEvoy’s. What ever theory McEvoy had now about Stargazer, it wasn’t Lewis’s priority though. Now he had to make a case for or against his former partner being someone that stalked society quietly and with murderous intent. Someone who was killing right under Lewis’s nose.
A small perceptible sensation of anger went through Lewis. The rational part of him knew it was easier to just hand on his suspicions to Cincinnati Murder Squad. But it was niggling at him. That course of action had risks. What if McEvoy lies to them, makes like Lewis has it in for him. Says that he had said he had gone east to a 7/11 or some shit and has a receipt with something from it, no big conspiracy. Then the guys drop it lacking any compelling forensic evidence. The Explorer was forensically wiped, that much was obvious. McEvoy was already potentially covering his tracks. If he thinks they are coming at him, McEvoy will know it was because of what went on today. He’ll see them a mile off, ditch the gun quickly, maybe even just disappear. Lewis knew this was all too easy in modern day mobile urban America, and that McEvoy had great instincts. It was what made him a better than average murder cop. He knew exactly what was needed for a warrant and he’d smell a rat quickly at first approach by the Cincinnati guys.
The best and only chance was Lewis himself coming at him again, and the best way was through a Columbus PD issued warrant. The bosses would jump at the chance of clearing six cold cases. The gun was the key. He had to get him in possession with it. And the best way might be to just doorstep McEvoy at his own place. But he’d have to get more circumstantial evidence first to augment his case for a search and arrest warrant. Make sure times were right and alibis were not possible, and crucially get some background. Contact his ex wife, she was the only other living person now who’d ever lived with him. He’d have at best two days to turn this thing around. The longer he left it, the bigger the risk he ran that Cincinnati PD would carry on anyway. Lewis made his mind up. He would ring the guys in Cincinnati, say he planned to talk to McEvoy this thursday evening coming, but instead serve McEvoy and arrest him there and then with a warrant. He needed to make a lot happen in the next 48 hours.
He looked out the window as the kettle boiled and whistled and plumes of steam swirled into the air. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo was playing on the cable channel on the 48’inch tv in the living room. The music seemed wildly inappropriate for the serenity of his kitchen. The dramatic music flooded into the small kitchen adjoining the open plan living room.
He had been in Cincinnati all week. That had been a great account to land for the business this spring, Cincinnati City Public Amenities. They had at least four public pools in the city which required a bit of maintenance, and in one case, a small pump exchange. It was there he saw them. He’d been down in Cincinnati for eight days until yesterday. Two brothers, twins but not identical. Maybe 10, maybe 9. They lived six blocks over in one of the old remaining towers that housed a few old pensioners now who refused to move out to the projects. Their mother was a hopeless crack addict and the father was only living there a couple nights a week, he had a whole other family actually in the projects. It was the boy’s oldest brother, a local drug dealer that took care of the boys by the looks of it. David had observed him giving cash to the twins at the bottom of the tower block at least three times.
They had a routine of sorts. At the height of summer now, the boys would always go to the pool on weekdays at 15:30 ish. They’d be returning by 5 and going the same predictable route that they went through always, right through the now abandoned old Meat packing facility which was now just a rundown abandoned lot. Somewhere off the main street and always quiet. They would be on bikes and always went through the narrow exit at the Northeast of the site. He simply had to block that off and hem them in with his van in that narrow alley with little space left for them to maneuver in. He would have to be quick and decisive and would need to be able to clean himself after it was finished. At least one will struggle when he saw what happens the other. He’d do one more reconnaissance trip tomorrow to Cincinnati. Then Thursday afternoon he would complete it.
Time was pressing on now, this summer was going by quickly and its resources with it. He had hinted at his next site where he took Michael, if anyone ever saw it. But he would place something very special in the middle of his version of the Jewish Star. The innocence of youth was always a power, it’s vitality an endless source of energy. It’s why he used them. But now he would focus less on the vitality of youth and instead focus on that other aspect of youth that it derived its energy from, its purity. Not completing one orbit of the sun would be a reasonable start. How he could find one would be a huge challenge, it would most likely involve taking an adult woman too. Nature finds a way though thought David, as he smiled out the window.
Wednesday 5th July
Cincinnati Public Bathing Amenity (South East Division)
He was losing control again. It was a big surprise it had come back so soon, resurfaced from the deepest recesses of his mind, like a B movie swamp monster. McEvoy had thought perhaps the physicality and entire process of his last kill would assuage the need in him for longer. But now it was hurtling down the tracks at him again. His ability to focus on anything was beginning to slip again. This was why he had to try pursue this idea in his head. It was the only thing he had left, something he could grasp. He had come to the pool today because he knew now. The Stargazer. He saw them swim. Saw them all and somehow twisted them into his fantasy. He worked as something to do with pools. Maybe a lifeguard. Some sort of supervisor or maintenance guy. He saw them, he stalked them. But he remembered them all. He would know their first names. He might have even spoken to some. And he would take from them and always have a memory of them. A baseball cap, a front bike light, a Volkswagen badge necklace, something to hold dear.
McEvoy dried himself off in the early afternoon sun, watching the local neighborhood kids throw one another in. The lifeguards all wore the usual yellow and red combos. It was hard to watch some of the manboys, it made him feel unwell and yet his dreams were all about them. He dried his torso and felt himself harden. He looked straight to the sky to blind himself out of this cycle of thought. It was simultaneously arousing him and making him physically sick.
Then he saw it parked through the chain link fence as he dropped his gaze to shield his eyes.
A pick up truck with a door that had a water drop decal. The rest of the truck was blocked from his view but that water drop decal, he knew he had seen it before. In Trenton talking to that old lady about Darnell. The neighbour’s house. A tall guy, Mr Goody Two shoes neighbour, the one who helped out after storms. Lived in a big isolated house with an adjoining barn.
McEvoy dressed quickly and made his way out onto the street. The truck was parked around the corner on the northwestern aspect. He took out a pen from his pocket that he habitually had at all times now, like some sort of wand to wave off evil spirits. He took out his other item from his bag, his Stargazer notepad. Hopefully his final one. He jotted down the registration and company name “Rawluc’s Ohio State Pool Maintenance” as well as what appeared to be two office numbers.
He had to do more than make the vehicle though. He had to see it, feel it. He was certain he would confirm what he thought he might have seen through the chain link fence. McEvoy walked down the street to the pick up, passing slowly by on the drivers side. The sun was beginning to bounce off the front windscreen as it turned into the west. And there it was, as he thought he had glimpsed it. Dangling from the rearview mirror was a chain sparkling in the sun, the Volkswagen symbol bouncing rays off as if to blind those who looked too long at it.
He stuck out like a sore thumb of course. He wouldn’t think he was sticking out, that was of course the remit of some white men, that they had a supreme right of belonging. The only white Caucasian male over thirty was going to stand out. This pool’s demographic was the urban jungle of tenements and a dash of the projects, all black urban poor. Not many white men swam around here. David recognized him too from somewhere though, it puzzled him for a minute until he recalled where. The Columbus PD task force announcement media coverage around him. This was one of the detectives on it, not FBI, you could tell from the almost disheveled appearance. He had been fired after an assault charge and had maybe gone to prison?. David remembered vaguely reading about this in his news clippings.
He had made to go out quickly and then made his way to David’s truck. David could see from the slightly elevated position he was at beside the water hydrant point he was attending, that the ex cop had taken down the registration in a blue A4 notepad , then walked past his truck.
David had to drop everything and track him on foot to a run down apartment complex that was once a motel. This development represented an immediate threat which he could not leave fester. Last on the right. This was a most unwelcome complication. This meant he could not use the twins firstly. That was too risky now. And of course he would have to deal with this complication himself thoroughly. He and whatever or whoever he held dear would have to be destroyed very soon in that apartment room.
So far his Wednesday morning was proving quite fruitful. Lewis’s first best guess at locating McEvoy’s wife was correct. McEvoy needed a next of kin and contact number on his personnel file at Columbus PD and it couldn’t have been Sadie’s at his time of joining because she was a minor.
Mandy DeBiers nee McEvoy. Residing in Zanesville Ohio. She had come with McEvoy from San Diego, their daughter Sadie only 5 or 6 at the time but divorced him soon after. She got custody but left Columbus to presumably get away from him. Lewis could only remember meeting her once early on in his own partnership with her husband when she turned up early at a Columbus PD summer barbecue family thing. She was complaining bitterly that McEvoy hadn’t been where he was supposed to be to hand back Sadie. He was in Vice at the time, Lewis didn’t know him but remembered the scene she made. Someone had mentioned McEvoy and his wife being on very bad terms in casual office gossip and he’d thought no more of her until McEvoy was going off the rails.
He had called the number, it was a nail salon she worked in. He got out of the receptionist that she was due in for an afternoon shift, giving him the chance to talk to her. That left the morning for him to go over the murders and how they related to the time period the PD was patrolling intensely for him. This could end all this for him quickly. Just one shooting with McEvoy on patrol would make all this very unlikely. He pulled the 6 files on the shootings and looked at the estimated times of death, comparing them to his and McEvoy’s patrol duties, he and McEvoy had always been on the same nights. Four were before the patrols started, two were after. None were on nights McEvoy was working. And of course McEvoy knew exactly where they were patrolling if he had his radio turned on. Lewis had one more job before heading to Zanesville; he had better check out that CoolPlay headquarters and get a list of names for Ware.
Crossing the bridge into Zanesville, Lewis was struck by its banality. The kind of place that boasted maybe a Major League Baseball player or maybe some actress from the ’40’s or a famous general even, that kind of town in rural America which always proclaimed these things on a tacky billboard on the way in.
Stay for the memories of past glories as opposed to anything else. There would be a couple of stores with some kind of novelty aspect, selling trinkets and incense or a nail salon which was way too exotic for the locals. The most exciting thing to happen all year was a new choir teacher passing through and working at the local high school.
Every few years there’d be a murder at or around the inevitable trailer park just outside town, another domestic saga coming to a murderous end. The rich folk that used the town would be to the fore on the usual committees, all living in large properties dotted around the town. It was this McEvoy’s wife had run to after separating him. A relative sleepy backwater compared to Columbus, a total change of pace. Mandy DeBiers had clearly being seeking refuge, but from what or who? Lewis pulled over beside the nail salon where she now worked.
In winter no doubt the bright color scheme of the salon would appear warm and welcoming, but now, at the height of summer, it just looked a bit washed out. Mandy was coming on at 2pm for her shift at the salon, and in his rear view he guessed he’d already made her. Her hair was dyed almost white blond and had the look of hair that had been chemically abused for a couple of decades. She was painfully thin looking and wearing cheap looking pink sports wear that looked a couple of sizes too big. Her bag also looked huge hanging of her spindly arms and she was fumbling in it as the cigarette in her mouth dangled from lips plastered in a deep rouge lipstick. The last decade hadn’t been kind to her skin as no amount of concealer could mask the blotches and crows feet around her eyes. She didn’t notice him as she went by, distracted by whatever it was she was looking for. Lewis waited for her to enter the salon before following her in.
“Mandy ? Mandy DiBiers?” he asked as he entered behind her. There were no customers in the salon, just him, Mandy and a rather disinterested looking teenage girl at the till reading a magazine. She spun around to look at Lewis and smiled in a flirty pouty way when she saw him. “Who’s asking” she replied in a mischievous tone.
“Detective Tom Lewis, Columbus PD, Ms DiBiers.” He flashed his badge; her face went from mildly interested to crestfallen disdain almost immediately.
“You’re not here to brighten my day up” she replied, throwing her bag down onto the seating area couch. Lewis noted a small bottle of vodka was peeking out from the top of it.
“Jim finally work up the courage and shoot himself?” she continued. “I don’t know why you’d bother looking me up otherwise”.
Lewis looked around- the girl had stopped reading her magazine now and was clearly engaged in whatever this was all about. “Have you got somewhere a bit more private we could talk here, maybe an office or something?” Lewis asked.
What he wanted to get into could be a bit personal. Mandy nodded to an exit covered by a heavy red beaded string curtain. “There’s a small coffee room in there”.
They sat down in the small cramped area which had a small table, two chairs, and a counter top with a kettle, an ashtray and the bare essentials to make a coffee.
Mandy took a cup and poured herself straight vodka into a cup. “You want some? Or a coffee or something?”
She lit a cigarette and sat down. Lewis checked his watch -2:10. He couldn’t dilly dally if he wanted to pitch his case to Butz by 5 o’clock but could not rush her either.
“I’m good for everything thanks. Listen, this is about Jim, but he’s not dead, it’s just ..”
She interrupted him. “He get into trouble again?”.
Lewis was surprised- she knew he’d gone to prison then. Maybe she got formal notification from Ohio Department of Corrections. Now he had to pitch his big lie.
“No no, it’s a personal thing. See I’m his sponsor for the Alcoholics Anonymous program, and I’m afraid he’s teetering on relapsing. I’m trying to get him to seek some professional help but he just won’t talk. I’m trying to get him to open up”.
Mandy threw her head back in laughter. Lewis wasn’t sure whether she had seen through his lie and was laughing in amusement at his feeble subterfuge attempt, or whether it was the idea of McEvoy opening up.
“You’ll need an axe to open him up. Man of mystery, Detective McEvoy. Stuck married to him for 7 years and I think he talked more to the neighbors than he did me.” Mandy snapped back.
Lewis sensed an opening. “You married as high school sweet hearts right? In San Diego. And then moved here?” He was sketchy on details but knew that.
“We married outta high school cause I got pregnant. We were never sweethearts, I barely knew him in high school. One sweaty fumble after Prom and next thing I’m pregnant. His mother forced us to get married. She was practically a fuckin’ nun. Sadie came a long and we just kinda went through 6 or so years.” She drew deeply on her cigarette and looked into her now empty cup before pouring herself another hefty measure.
“I was a fuckin’ mess back then” She paused and looked up at Lewis. He could get a sense of desperation in the look.
“I know what you’re thinking. Drinking doubles and it’s not even past three in the afternoon. Looks like thirty six going on fifty six, hairs gonna’ fall out any minute now. Hardly a beacon of strength right now” She paused and drew heavily on the cigarette again, the smoke seemingly disappearing forever, only to come out in tiny eddies from around her nostrils.
“But back then, I was trouble. Hittin’ bars all hours of the day. McEvoy’s mother helped with Sadie, I just let her take over. I was drinking and smoking crack, taking uppers then downers, out all night.” She drank from the cup again and poured another.
“I mightn’t be home for a couple of days at a time. Fucking other guys, sleeping around. And I didn’t care either. Didn’t care who knew. It was a small town outside San Diego, everyone knew our business.”
Lewis was unsure if he needed to reply. She seemed to be in an almost confessional state, as if somehow, he was the first to hear all this.
“He never touched me of course. Not a finger”. She laughed again to herself, quietly this time.
“That was the problem. We never talked and we never fucked. He didn’t touch me after I got pregnant. At first I thought it was me, you know, put on a few pounds, some new stretch marks, not high school fresh any more.”
Lewis shifted uncomfortably in the small chair. He felt like he was trespassing for some reason, breaking and entering into McEvoy’s life.
“Then you know, I heard the rumours. Like I said, it was a small town”. She poured another drink and lit another cigarette.
“He was having an affair?” he offered, more to kickstart her again into a response.
She laughed again to herself, amused at the idea.
“I wished he was. That would have been something. Nah, it was his uncle. Jim’s father left them when he was 12 or so and the uncle was around more and more. He fell down the family home basement when he was maybe 13 or 14”. She poured another drink.
“Everyone knew the uncle. Used to work the naval docks. Like I said it was small town stuff, he had been arrested years before flashing his privates to a bunch of school goers. People thought he was maybe a pedo, liked them young. Had a booze problem.”
She paused, looking at the cup again, flashing an awkward smile. “Even worse than me.” She took a drink.
“Anyway, he died. And people, you know, put two and two together, got 5. Small quiet kid, pedo uncle found dead at the bottom of steps. Course, I never really thought on it at first, but then I figured maybe it was why he couldn’t fuck me you know? Like, he had been maybe abused? But nah, it wasn’t that”
She glanced at Lewis looking more for him to confirm her theory than anything else.
“Anyway, one morning I woke up in some creeps car, and I couldn’t remember how I got there. I kinda freaked out, realized this was how it was going to end for me if I kept going. He had passed his cop exams and was talking about a big move to Ohio, a fresh start for Sadie and maybe us. I think he thought I’d just say go without me. But I surprised him and we got to Columbus.” Mandy lowered her tone almost conspiratorially as if now she was really now being serious.
“I tried, I really did, for the first year. I cleaned up, I played housewife, I tried talking to him. But he just seemed to ignore me like I wasn’t there. And he wouldn’t touch me still. I knew if I stayed I’d start messing around again, I knew Sadie was only 5 or so, and while he didn’t beat on her or nothing, he wasn’t really there for her if you know what I mean?”.
Lewis knew all right, the McEvoy he had always known was best and most kindly described as distant. She put out her cigarette.
“So I left him and ran away here. He didn’t even contest the divorce or custody, just asked that I don’t move out of state and that he’d keep his distance. And he kept his word and I kept mine. He sent money, was never mean on that”
Lewis felt like he’d missed something. He felt he had to direct her a bit. “You said it wasn’t that, like you knew it wasn’t because of his uncle that he didn’t touch you?. What was it then? “.
Mandy looked at him in surprise. “You still don’t know? He still living like that?”
“Like what?” Lewis was genuinely clueless what he was missing.
“I can’t believe you never got that vibe off him. He’s a fag. He’s gayer than Christmas.” She snorted and laughed at the same time.
“I found some pictures once, you know, dick on dick stuff. And he bought these clothes sometimes and hid them from me, but I found them. Leathers, tight t-shirts, little rainbow buttons, that kind of stuff. He changed when he came to Columbus. Probably thought it was ok because he wasn’t home anymore. When I figured it out I knew nothing would change if I stayed with him. Maybe I had figured it out years before but just denied it. I don’t know.” She trailed off, looking into the plastic cup.
Lewis felt his chest tightening, and took out his nitrate spray. Repressed homosexual, homophobic, broken home, abused as a child. Ware would love this.
“Was he ever violent to you. Or maybe did you ever see him violent towards anyone at all?” Lewis was just curious now how long this might have been coming. He had witnessed the fury McEvoy had unleashed that night in the bar in November of ’98. His propensity for violence was not in doubt.
“He never laid a hand on me. I mean sometimes, he’d you know, look at you, and you’d think maybe he’d kill me there and then. It was like he was holding on to something, you know. Like if he let go, there was a chance he’d lose his grip on his shitty world forever. I dunno.” She was swirling the vodka around in the cup.
“That’s what I worried about when Sadie started. She turned 16 and all she could think of was moving in with him. She had this idea he was some sort of hero cop you know? She built him up cause she never really knew him. I couldn’t stop her leaving. I thought he’d lose it with her there. Lose his control. I knew it wouldn’t end well. Just not like it did” She abruptly started to sob gently.
Lewis grabbed some paper towels from a dispenser by the door and handed them to her. Ruthless as it sounded, he’d gotten what he wanted. All the time cross checks with patrols and the murder times, the Colt .38 he’d seen, the violent assault; they all built the mechanics of the how. But what he knew now about McEvoy was the most important piece of the puzzle, it gave some hint at the why.
Lewis rang Ware first before he tackled Butz. If Ed came with news that Quantico were interested in allocating time, there was a chance Lewis might get himself and Marcella secconded to any investigation and any info from CoolPlay headquarters would push that process along. But he wanted to bounce something else off Ware too. He wanted to be sure he wasn’t jumping to ridiculous conclusions about all of this.
He filled it all out for Ware, the history of childhood abuse, the timings, the lie about his whereabouts after he left the diner, the gun, the Psychology Post Grads comments, McEvoy’s Explorer being a description match to vehicles seen by witnesses in the area of the killings, the Cincinnati murder connection, all of it. Ware was convinced there was something. And that was without having experienced that look and vibe from McEvoy early on in the week in Cincinnati.
Ware felt it mandated at minimum a search warrant and offered to ring the State DA to push things along if Butz wasn’t buying it. But even if Butz gave him the go ahead to serve McEvoy, the likelihood of McEvoy destroying the gun and or just straight up disappearing himself was higher as time passed.
He thought long and hard before ringing the diner. He was afraid he’d spook McEvoy if he did, but he needed to bait him somehow into not just up and running if he saw Lewis coming. The only thing he could use for bait was the Stargazer investigation; McEvoy had seemed a little obsessed by it last time they’d met. He left a message saying “Stargazer isn’t Finished” with a bus boy to tell McEvoy immediately and that he would be down by 7 pm tomorrow with new “material”. It was mysterious enough for the bus boy to actually pass it on. He’d also found out McEvoy was either the 5 o clock finish or the 6:30 - 7 o clock finish tomorrow on Thursday, the bus boy who answered wasn’t sure which.
Butz had predictably been a pushover for seeking the warrant and arrest, he had promised to hit the State DA’s office first thing in the morning to get the paperwork through. The chance to close out 6 cold cases was too tempting to resist even if they were chasing after one of their own. Previously one of their own Butz had reminded him at least twice- not to be treated with kid gloves.
Strangely enough Marcella was even more forthright. “Consider him dangerous Jim. He’s completely unhinged. He won’t hesitate to drop you if he’s given the chance”. Those were her exact words. Butz had insisted she go with him to Cincinnati to arrest McEvoy, and even though Lewis had some inexplicable irrational feeling that he alone had to end this, he knew she was right to be cautious. In fact, more than that, he knew he had to assume that this could escalate violently quickly. His approach would be to get in the apartment and serve him, catch him off guard. They would take a plain unmarked sedan from the car pool; McEvoy would too easily have noticed his or Marcella’s car. They’d arrive early and stake out his apartment and wait for him to return from work and take it from there.