Stargazer

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Chapter 2: The Drake Equation

When you looked into the sky at night, the concept of Star formation wasn’t immediately obvious. You could convince yourself that a twinkling Star was the beginning of something great, but really of course a serious astronomer knew better. Light could play many tricks to a human eye, and fathers told many long tales about twinkling stars, but David wasn’t fooled.

It was only a hobby, but how much would he love it if it were something more. He had two telescopes, both refractive types, but they were really just toys when he saw what NASA had and the pictures they took. He stepped out onto the platform on the barn roof which faced south. The wooden lats creaked under his not inconsiderable frame. He breathed in deeply and exhaled slowly. Sometimes you can smell winter coming. A faint whiff of wood smoke at dusk, an earthy damp smell of rotting leaves, even the very smell of cold air, crisp and clear.

The sun was getting further away but that wasn’t the star of reflection or interest. In fact, the problem was no one knew what the star of interest was. Still though, time was short for this cycle given the orbit. He would need to return to both installations but he wasn’t optimistic. In Strouds Run the receivers were likely completely destroyed now as nature took hold and once the snows over the years came, nothing could have a chance as the essence of the site was washed away.

The other was only recently constructed and needed to mature. He was low on basic cleaning supplies. He’d head back into town Saturday, had a small job in Lima to do for Parks & Recreations anyway. He’d take the truck to Tar Holland again soon, and maybe a telescope just in case. You never know he thought, you never know. Destiny could be just around the corner.

***********

Georgia Rise didn’t sound particularly exotic for an address and the reality was even more crushing. Both detectives were familiar with the projects but even they knew there were projects in Franklinton and then there was Georgia Rise. Half of the homes were boarded up or burnt out, the other half had owners who seemed to have given up on the pretence of settled suburbia a long time ago. They didn’t have an address for the Millers. Two cops wouldn’t get too far knocking on doors, so Tom suggested the local Korean corner store as a first stop to try and locate the Miller residence.

It seemed a waste of time looking for boys whose weren’t even part of a current murder investigation but McEvoy muttered something about a hunch. They could of course run a search down at the station, the problem was that housing in Georgia Rise could be a bit fluid and families often simply moved house to an abandoned lot, particularly if the household had a drug runner as it’s patriarch.

The corner store was imaginatively called Store, it’s owners heritage only given away by some small Korean writing to the side of the overhead shop front. The usual bullet proof glass muffled the replies of the owner on the other side of a tiny counter. Looking around him, he noted the typically cramped stacked shelves. You could get noodles, bread, milk, lollipops, chocolate and cigarettes, with the added bonus of a few cleaning products and sanitary items. Looking for steak? Looking for a nice bearnaise sauce? You’re shit outta luck.
Mr Kim seemed to have a considerable knowledge of the Millers family and also didn’t appear to be their biggest fan. Lewis assumed the best and prepared for worst when he got the address. If anyone was home, they’d probably not answer the door at first knock. If it was an adult, it would be safe to assume they’d be either strung out or high. If it was a kid, they’d just run out the back, and all this wasn’t worth a chase.

Approaching No 302 Georgia Rise, having parked two blocks away, he noticed a fenced in pit bull chewing on something at the side. The dog looked up at the two cops as they made for the front door, and surprisingly carried on chewing whatever it was. Dog doesn’t spook - house has a lot of visitors. He knocked solidly on the unusually heavy wooden door, and had barely stopped when it opened to reveal who they assumed was the mother of their enquiry. She looked like she’d had better mornings. Wearing a ragged stained worn pink dressing gown, a Green Bay Packers sports shirt that was ripped at the neck line and sporting neither shoes or socks, her face was 35 going on 65. Her teeth were prominent only due to gum disease and her hair looked like it hadn’t seen a shampoo since the ’80s. She was expecting someone but not them.

“Whatcha want” she spat out. “I got shit to do”. They flashed their badges. “You got a warrant?”. She wasn’t going to be putting on coffee then.

“Ms Miller, we’re just here to ask a few questions about your missing son. How long is he gone now?” Lewis asked.

“I ain’t got no missing son unless you talkin’ bout DiAndre and he gone 4 years now. And he ain’t ...”.

“How old was DiAndre when he disappeared Ms Miller?” McEvoy interjected.

Direct simple questions seemed the only approach here.

“He ain’t disappear. He ran off when he was 15. Still sucking cock in Hollywood my guess. That boy was a shame on the family. He got pulled in by you boys twice for cock sucking. He can stay gone.”

Charming thought Lewis. This was likely going to go no further. Now there was even a doubt he’d actually even been reported missing. They’d need to cross check records just to even get a start. This was a total dead end. “Well you have a good day Ma’am” he offered.

“He like baseball?” McEvoy asked out of the blue

“Baseball and sucking cock is all he lived for” she offered back.

It was time to leave.


Sitting back into the cruiser, he looked quizzically at McEvoy. “Baseball and sucking cock. Really? I know we’re playing connect the dots here Jim, but what kid doesn’t like baseball”.

McEvoy was staring out the passenger seat window, apparently fascinated with the side wall of a house.

“Fuck it” he mumbled and pulled away from the kerb. “Some people get Poirot for a partner, I get Rainman”.

.......


Spietz wasn’t having a great morning either and Monday was about to get a whole lot worse.

“So now, I gotta buy not just a psycho who cuts up kids, I gotta buy a whole bunch of extra cold missing persons cases as well? Thank you very fucking much.”

“Boss, the missing kids thing may be nothing, just a cross check. If it is something, it might lead us somewhere with this freak”.

He knew that this was unlikely if the cases were cold. Stats don’t lie, and the statistics on solving cold cases were abysmal. But he said it anyway. And it was thrown right back in his face.

“Gimme a fucking break Lewis. You know, I know and the deaf mute there in the corner knows these missing kids will give you nothing but more questions. They’ll give me a few too, especially if there’s a lot of them”.

Spietz wasn’t biting and he knew it. McEvoy stood up suddenly as if he’d been stung by a bee.

“Captain, you know the bear story is dog shit. It won’t last a week. The media will be all over this and we’ve got four dead at one scene and no spree element which means we’ve got no choice but to let Quantico know before it breaks. Either we control this thing or we look like we’re good for OD’s and bar room brawls and nothing else.”

“Heavenly Lord, it speaks” Spietz retorted. “Welcome to the conversation. What’s this about four bodies? I heard three.”

Lewis glanced at McEvoy. Even by Spietz’s lowly standards, the sarcasm was unnecessarily hostile. McEvoy’s eyes seemed to darken. His knuckles whitened as he made a tight fist with both hands.

He felt like he was about to witness the Hulk emerge.

“Err, there’s a mismatch with the arms of one kid sir” he interjected. “We’ve got two right arms with one body and no match to the other two. That means ...”. Spietz was looking at McEvoy, who had 23 years, 2 inches and 25 pounds on him. Spietz was mad as hell but he wasn’t stupid.

He turned to Lewis. “I know what it fucking means. You’ve got till Thursday to dig around. I want to meet Thursday afternoon here and then we go public.”

*******


McEvoy left Spietz’s office and went straight down two floors to get to the basement car park. His dark green Ford Explorer needed it’s winter tires and that was all the excuse he needed to get out of the station. It was 3pm and his tire guy was fifteen minutes away near Columbus University Campus. Marcella has tried to catch him, no doubt to tell him about their impending arrest for Sadie’s killer.

The fuck they knew about that. The absolute fucking joke to think some pissant maintenance jerk off with a bloody T-shirt was a lock. He’d been there and done that. This was a University town with university problems. He knew what went on. Just because he’d gone to Community College, they thought he didn’t get it? He forgot about his tires. He was just going to cruise. The radio blared out In Every Dream Home A Heartache by Roxy Music. He wasn’t surprised to find he had an erection. It had been a while for that. As he turned onto West 5th Avenue, he started to see them. In pairs, on their own, in groups. He really saw them. He saw them now and they could see him now maybe. Some were just shapes but some were beautiful. He glanced at his watch.

It was just past 7 in the evening. He had been driving around for hours now and it was as if he had just woken up. It was time to head home. He’d stop at the liquor store on the way.

**********
Lewis had stood and watched as his partner stormed out of the office. The sullenness and poor communication skills weren’t new after six or so years with McEvoy, but he hadn’t ever seen the black fury he has just witnessed. Maybe two months off wasn’t long enough for him after Sady. And then there was the drinking.

Either way, the boss wasn’t about to leave a Detective off again given what was about to hit the main stage once the media circus began on Thursday. And neither was he going to be amenable to his suggestions of a personnel switch in the near future. So it looked like this was going to be a solo run for now. His best option was to dig around a little now, join a few dots, wait for the Feds to get involved and keep his beak clean from a department politics point of view.

Whatever or whoever was preying on black kids in Columbus was unlikely to be caught until he wanted to be caught. His own bitter singular experience with a serial killer before almost sixteen years ago taught him this. They spent four years chasing some degenerate around the state who had a penchant for strangling young women and burying them in tuxedos. He eventually got “caught” when he started sending pictures to the local newspapers and the polaroids pre burial with a return to sender address. Tomorrow he’d nose around missing persons and if McEvoy turned up, he turned up.


The desk phone rang, it was Marcella. They had double checked Sadie’s suspect’s alibi, and sure enough it wasn’t remotely water-tight. Forensics had a match to the blood on the perps hoodie; Marcella reckoned they were close to a confession anyway. This was all a huge stroke of good luck, murder police knew that the chances of getting a suspect were exponentially and inversely related to the length of time after the murder. The longer you went without a break, the lower the chances of getting your man, and in Sadie’s case, two months was a long time without a break. Maybe this might clear the storm clouds a little for McEvoy. He wasn’t prone to armchair psychology but he pondered on the idea that this anger was some sort of grief reaction and closure might help. He definitely knew what would help him right now and that was a few bottles of Bud and a few shots but he wasn’t going there again. Time for some field work.

.......

Lewis awoke fresh at 6:44 am in time to turn off his alarm before it went off. He had been doing that now for nearly seven years following his divorce but couldn’t trust himself to turn off the alarm permanently. His morning routine was a cigarette first and foremost, a shower which took less time than his cigarette and then coffee. That set him up for his final morning task, a visit to the shithouse. He didn’t consider himself particularly regimental but these core elements of his early morning hadn’t changed since he started smoking at twenty two.

WBNS-TV was reporting a stabbing near Ohio State following a bar room brawl, and the usual mix of sports related news. Once again Andrea Cambern was looking particularly well, he mused . He’d be happy to make her part of his morning routine, no need to ask. The weather was still holding up, highs of seventy five, lows of sixty four, mostly sunshine and partially cloudy. His ’93 Altima sunroof was a bit leaky, but not today. The first port of call would be Missing Persons at Columbus PD and a cross check on NCIC, the national crime database. Lewis was hoping the two were one and the same mostly, because if they weren’t, when the FBI arrived, they’d be asking some awkward questions. Of course it was possible given what they experienced yesterday at the Miller house and given the chaos of urban American poverty, that boys did indeed just run off and parents didn’t report or maybe didn’t even care.

But a whole load of paperwork and searching questions for whoever ran Missing Persons back then would appear if NCIC had even three or four less boys than reported locally. And Lewis knew that Spietz was there in Missing Persons until at least late ’91. He grabbed his keys, hoping an early start into the files would go unnoticed at base.

Light traffic got him behind his desk by 07:45 with Missing Persons ’88 through to early ’98, not including the three that were found in the forest. All in all there were forty one files civilian reports of loved ones missing, ten resolved as found alive , another sixteen resolved as deceased due to suicide and three found deceased, unsolved homicides. That left twelve as technically still open, and of them, none were from ’88 through ’91. Lewis breathed a sigh of relief when that penny dropped. That was Spietz off the hook for any non reporting if it exists.

But something was a bit fishy. In the middle of the “still open” pile, there was a Miller there, Deangelo specifically, fifteen years old with a rather non specific and cryptic “RESOLVED” stamp on it. In fact, there was another marked the same way “RESOLVED” as well, and one still missing making three in total still open apparently whilst simultaneously two being resolved without reason given. Why were the files still in here if they were resolved? All black, all boys, all in their early teens and all through ’94-95.

The two labelled resolved were from Franklinton, one still missing was from Lima a town 90 miles northwest of Columbus. He stared at his basic crude summary for what felt like an hour. Maybe it was the third coffee causing his mind to race, to jump to conclusions. His mind was trained not to create single narratives, not to jump to conclusions. Make connections but keep other options open. But this was irresistible. Say the two RESOLVED boys were just that: permanently “resolved” to Mother Earth. What was discovered last weekend at Tar Holland wasn’t the killers first.

And there was a distinct possibility someone he knew well for a few years in Columbus PD either knew they were dead and suppressed an investigation, or worse still, was now actually somehow involved in this at a very bloody level. And he hadn’t even looked closely at another 3 marked Unresolved Homicides yet, meaning a body had been found and matched the missing persons DNA. And all of these were curiously grouped together in ’92-93 although geographically wide apart. It would be interesting to compare this to NCIC data for the last ten years. He needed Marcella’s desk for that, so he had to concoct some sort of story prepared for what he was searching for, and he needed to look for it as she was departing the office so he wouldn’t have her looking over his shoulder.

*********

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