Stargazer

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Chapter 7: G-Men and the Task Force

Lewis picked up his coat and made his way out of the office . The press conference on the department tv has ended. Spietz had clearly been given the requisite support and consequent resources from the brass upstairs. No doubt he had spent most of Thursday looking for the ok to firstly phone Quantico and then subsequently get the thumbs up to announce what he had announced at the press conference.

There was to be a joint task force involving Columbus PD and the FBI to hunt the killer. A special phone line was being set up to take any information the public had to offer and overtime was going to be unlimited for Marcella, himself and McEvoy. They wouldn’t be catching any fresh cases for an unspecified time, and they were getting the use of the special Conference & Meeting Room on the 3rd floor. It was replete with two of the latest computers with internet access, air conditioning and best of all, a decent coffee machine.

Special Agents Samantha Johnson and Edward Ware were flying in this evening for a full debrief. Weekend plans were to be cancelled. McEvoy had offered to bring him and Marcella out for a quick early evening snack prior to the Feds arriving. He couldn’t remember when the last time was that he’d shared even a drink with his partner. Marcella had declined citing minor family issues she needed to sort out first in advance of the investigation really getting going.

They were meeting at 4pm in O’Hara’s two blocks away from the police department. It was a typical Irish American bar, a garish bright green luminescent shamrock taking up most of the half window at the front. There were a few pictures of Ireland inside as well as the obligatory map of the Emerald Isle. Other than that, it was as american as apple pie. It served Bud and Jack Daniels and had one Guinness tap, almost never used. There was a bar menu with such Irish delights like nachos, chicken wings and a house special chili cheese burger. And it was always packed with cops.
McEvoy was sitting in a booth with a bottle of Bud and chicken wings in front of him. Lewis ordered a Coke and the chili cheese burger. His dalliance with alcoholism had left him with a few rules: strictly no alcohol before 5pm, no drinking at home, and no liquor.

“So what does it feel like to be part of a task force” he asked as he slid into the booth opposite McEvoy.

“He’s chasing hard real early. Spietz must be spooked by what we’ve said” McEvoy replied. “He must think they’re all connected”.

He had a different theory. “I think he’s just trying to get ahead of the headlines. You know what will happen with something like this. Someone will start leaking details to the newshounds. It will come out about the others. Or those boys relatives from ’94 will come out of the woodwork. If he hits the ground running fast, no one will accuse him of not taking it seriously.”

McEvoy finished off a chicken wing before replying. “Big case to break. Maybe you’re right. Maybe he sees a vacancy at Deputy Commissioner coming up”. He half smiled.

It was enough of a smile for Lewis to see as an opportunity.

“Jim, I’m real sorry about what happened with Sadie. I know everything is upside down right now but it will come right for you. Marcella has it covered, that might help bring some kind of end to it”.

McEvoy stopped licking his fingers momentarily and looked up directly at him. The look was icy cold. For a split second Lewis thought he would reach across the table and punch him.

“Maybe” muttered McEvoy and returned to licking his fingers.

“You mind?” He took out his cigarettes. McEvoy shook his head. He lit the cigarette and exhaled.

McEvoy broke the awkward silence. “Maybe they are all linked. Feds don’t do local politics so they don’t care either way. If we focus on trying to make a link, it might narrow things down. We got little or no forensics, little or no motive that makes sense to us, and the freshest bodies are already months in the ground. That means we’ve less and less chance of getting any reliable witness to anything. The odds aren’t stacked in our favor. We need to see patterns.”

Lewis had to hand it to him. McEvoy might be a little odd, but he had a succinct way of summing up things and making plain what needed to happen. McEvoy continued.

“If you want to kill multiple people and not get caught, you’ll do what this guy’s doing already. You’ll know or research about forensics, how shallow a grave you need, and you’ll have the time and privacy to do what he did to those boys. And if you don’t want to get caught, that means you’ll want to do it again and again.”

McEvoy finished with this last sentence, emphasis being placed on again and again. Just then, the coke and burger arrived for Lewis. He was surprisingly hungry and he attacked it frenetically. It could be a long evening with the Feds.

.......

Spietz did the introductions and everyone sat down around the conference room meeting table. The two Special Agents assigned, Samantha Johnson and Edward Ware,seemed informal enough thought Lewis. They wanted first name terms only amongst themselves and were dressed casually for federal agents. Johnson was African American, mid 30’s guessed Lewis, and athletic and attractive. No wedding band either. Ware was probably 10 years her senior or more but no slouch by the looks of it. He was about 5’12 and kept himself in shape. He wore thin rimmed glasses which he habitually adjusted every 5 minutes or so.

When the small talk died down, Spietz spoke up. “All right ladies and gents. I’m sure our visitors will want to get going here. I’ll leave you to it and remind you that you have the Departments full backing in this.” He glanced over to Lewis as he said this, a clear indication that if things got messy politically, so be it. Maybe McEvoy is right, maybe he wants it to get messy he mused.

“Tomorrow we’ll have someone on the phone line 9-5, the answering machine will do the rest. The computers have access to the databases you need, and the coffee machine is ready to roll”.

Spietz smiled and left the room. Lewis looked over at the answering machine. Six hours or so after the press conference and the red light to remind them a message had been left was still not blinking. McEvoy was right. There wasn’t going to be a steady stream of witnesses.
Lewis did the overall outline of the entire situation starting with the Tar Hollow bodies and site. He moved on to the troublesome issue of the missing boys from ’94 and the apparent falsification of those files status as being resolved. He finished with the three cold case murders. The questions came thick and fast.

“Why just a ten year look at Missing Persons and cold cases?”

“Why just interview Timmonds in the pedophile ring?”

“Why the notes in these two but not the other cold cases?”

“Why look at those particular cold cases and not others”

“How many Missing Persons are still unresolved in Ohio State currently and what are their details”

Lewis looked to Marcella like a deer caught in the headlights. She looked mad as hell when she spoke.

“We’re a week in here folks. In fact Lewis and McEvoy are in a week, I’m on this for just 3 days. We’re still catching bodies from routine work and we’re still trying to clear cases from before. We’ve been in Lima, Trenton, Tar Hollow and Lebanon Prison. Give us a break here.”

Special Agent Ware was the first to respond.

“Look, when we ask questions, it’s not a criticism of you guys or your work. Think of it as more a session where we bounce ideas off one another about what needs to be done. Ask us why we look at certain things, certain aspects. Make us question ourselves. Make us question our assumptions. We’re not your bosses, we’re here to help.”

Special Agent Johnson jumped in at this point.

“We won’t have a lot to work with if we limit this to just the Tar Hollow boys. Yes, it will take time to trawl through every missing persons report and yes it will take time to interview every pedophile in the state, but with our help, you can narrow it down to the most likely unsolved cases. Now what you’ve told us already looks promising, you haven’t been barking up the wrong trees. We just think there might be even more trees.”

The tension in the room went down a notch. Marcella shifted in her chair uncomfortably. McEvoy was scribbling something intently.

“You ok with that” Ware asked McEvoy.

He looked up. “Just taking notes” he replied. Lewis could see Ware was a little bemused at McEvoy’s lack of real engagement.

“So how do we help you narrow this down?” Lewis asked. “How do we help you make less work for us?”

Ware looked at Johnson as if to prompt her to answer.

“We need detail on what we have. And we need to use what the killer offers us either purposely or by accident. Take the notes. He gave us those on purpose. That note means everything to him. Right now it means nothing to us. He put those in the boys mouths for us to find. That says something about him. He’s confident he won’t get caught. He has a sense of ego which makes him think he can play with us. It means he’s ok with us working out what it is he’s trying to say. But we need to find out what he’s trying to say”.

“And he is trying to say or achieve something.” Special Agent Ware piped up. “The boys were buried in a triangle and dismembered and placed in a particular way. This looks very ritualistic.”

Johnson finished by asking them what impressions they had formed already. She addressed the question directly to Marcella, presumably trying to get her back in the room, but she wasn’t quite there yet. Lewis interjected.

“We think he’s probably black, and physically big. Aaron Smith, the swimmer, he was physically more like an adult and fit. We reckon this guy can take care of himself physically. We think he must be persuasive to lure these kids into his car, or else he must have a van or truck that he can snatch them into.”

Marcella interrupted him.

“And we don’t think he’s in a struggle each time, throwing kids in a van because they’d have more defensive wounds when he tries to kill them and only one kid has any defensive wounds. He’s getting them in to a situation where he surprises them physically. That takes persuasion. When you look at the adult males in the cold cases, the only one with defensive wounds was the guy in Trenton and he’s also the only one with almost half his right side of his face gone. He saw his attacker.”

She continued. “What we don’t get is why place them like he did”.

“I’m not following. You don’t know why he dismembered them?” Ware replied.

“No, no sorry. I’m talking about the three cold case adult males. Whoever killed them put the bodies all in the same position. Arms outstretched, face up, legs together.”

Johnson and Ware looked at one another.

“What’s that, what does that look mean” Lewis asked.

“It could mean a lot of things Tom. It could mean for instance we have two serial killers instead of one or it could mean one killer changing up his methods to avoid us making a connection. But it definitely means in the case of our three adults, that the killer placed those bodies there at least 36 hours after he killed them, unless he killed them very near by and moved them quickly. And you said earlier Tom, that the bodies were dumped there, no blood at the scenes. Rigor mortis wouldn’t allow him position them for a minimum of 36 hours.”

“And we already know whoever killed those boys in Tar Holland placed the boys in a particular way”. Marcella interjected.

McEvoy finally stopped writing and looked up. “That means this guy was either happy to drive around with a body in the back of his truck for that long which I can’t believe, or he took them somewhere and killed them and stored them until they loosened out. Which means he must have somewhere private he owns where he can come and go as he likes without being disturbed. Which is exactly what our kiddie butcher needs.”

Johnson smiled. “Exactly. He’s not living in a terraced two up, two down. He likely lives alone. Or he has help. And the other point here is the state of decomposition relative to the time points the boys went missing. He either kept them alive or killed them and froze them. Again, that requires space.”

“All dismembered, and when we looked at each pile relative to one another, they formed a near perfect equilateral triangle” replied Lewis.

“No I mean the heads of the boys. Were they placed in a certain way?”. Johnson was leaning in now as if on the verge of some epiphany.

“I’d have to check the site pictures again. I’m not sure on that” Lewis offered.

Johnson leant back again, a little deflated.

“What about the three adults. Was there any triangular feature nearby or similar” Ware asked.

“Nothing like that” McEvoy spoke this time.

“We have a map of the State here?” asked Ware. Marcella got up and unrolled one Spietz had left earlier and with Ware’s help, pinned it to a large bulletin board.

“So you’re telling me they found one in Lima, one in Trenton, and one in Columbus right?. He placed a pin at each location and drew a red line between each point. Marcella looked at Lewis smiling.

“Looks like a near perfect equilateral triangle to me” Ware added in case anyone wasn’t paying attention. “We’ve got just one killer”.

........
The meeting with the Feds broke at 8:30 pm and everyone agreed to meet again in twelve hours time, freshened up and ready to go. McEvoy volunteered to cross check the NCIC database against their own current unresolved Missing Persons and cold cases as well as going back another ten years to ’78 for the same. They agreed at this point to limit it to where the victim or missing person was black and male. Any potential was to have it’s file pulled and examined together by at least two team members.

Marcella suggested looking at Timmonds call logs over the next 72 hours to see if he contacted anyone of note, particularly in Columbus PD; Lewis reassured Johnson and Ware that Spietz wouldn’t object. They agreed to re-examine all the scene pictures from the Tar Hollow site and the three separate adult scenes in the morning as well as going over the available forensics again.

Lewis could feel the chili cheese burger bubbling up. His lifestyle didn’t lend itself to a wholly nutritious diet but he knew taking every meal as a speed eating contest wasn’t helping. He was tired as he descended to the second floor to pick up his service revolver in his desk. McEvoy had his back to him and was writing from files into a A4 pad. There was another A4 pad on the desk. Lewis put his hand on his shoulder. “I thought you’d gone. That can wait I’m sure”.

McEvoy recoiled violently, apparently startled.

“Easy there tiger, just looking out for you” He sensed McEvoy wasn’t entirely in the room with him.

“Sorry man, just kinda zoned out there. You surprised me, didn’t here you coming in. I’m just making a little summary of the files for quick reference”.

He shrugged his shoulders. He was tired and as this point couldn’t really give a fuck. “Well I’m done for the day. Don’t be late for our first full day tomorrow”. He said this half in jest, all in earnest. McEvoy seemed to have been on a different time schedule to everyone else of late. He’d been burning the candle at both ends by the looks of the rings around his eyes. Lewis got his revolver and left. McEvoy wasn’t the only who needed quality sleep.

........
It was 10:30 by the time he left the office. His hand was cramping from the writing. His thoughts were beginning to swirl as he drove through the city. A kaleidoscope of colors streamed by him as traffic lights changed and store signs rushed by. McEvoy began to see them now, out for the night, all dressed up. Friday night party night, hook up night. There would be a lot of them out tonight, but there would be a lot of everyone out tonight. His erection softened. He could wait. For tonight at least.

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