Kirk scribbled his signature at the bottom of each page of his statement and dumped the pen on top of his signed confession. It had taken two long hours to prepare the statement, but Luke had his man.
Luke held the pen out to Mr. Hardy. The Lawyer accepted the pen and scribbled his moniker on the last page.
Luke didn’t want this one to get away because of some legal technicality, so he also requested his colleague in the viewing room to video the entire confessional statement. Surprisingly, Kirk and lawyer consented to the recording.
It was after 8pm by the time Luke finished interviewing and processing Kirk Wallace, including fronting him before a bail Justice to remand him in custody.
As he stepped from the police station into the fresh air, Luke was relieved in the knowledge that one of his difficult cases had been solved.
He lifted his eyes to the overcast night time sky and inhaled a lung full of Brooklyn air. After a quick check of his watch Luke decided to head to Barnaby’s to see, if by chance, the old man was there. He wanted to thank him for the help, plus he could also do with a bourbon or two after his stressful day.
Luke rushed through the doors of Barnaby’s. He raised his hand in acknowledgement to Benny behind the bar, while he continued through to the rear.
After completing a full circuit of the bar’s rear seating area in search of the old man, Luke returned to the front bar and leaned on his arms. He smiled to the approaching barman. ‘Jack and rocks thanks, Benny,’ Luke ordered before turning and glancing at the handful of colleagues from the 84th who were still there knocking back post-shift beverages.
After scooping up his freshly poured drink, Luke lifted the glass to the barman. ‘Cheers Benny,’ Luke said before enjoying that first, long anticipated warming sip. ‘Hey Benny…’ Luke called to the departing barman. Benny threw his bar towel over his shoulder as he leaned an interested elbow on the bar. ‘I’m looking for someone…maybe you saw him in here tonight,’ Luke asked. ‘He’s an old man in his 80’s... walks with a slight stoop...wears a gray Fedora style hat, an overcoat and carries a walking cane...’ Luke said. ‘The handle of the cane is a skull made out of ivory.’
Benny’s brow furrowed. ‘I can’t say I’ve seen anyone like that in here tonight,’ Benny said. Luke nodded as he scanned the room one last time from where he stood at the bar. ‘Is he friend or foe…?’ Benny asked.
Luke’s wandering eyes returned to Benny. ‘He’s an ex-cop, you know…retired.’ Luke said. ‘I just wanted to buy him a beer.’
Benny nodded in apparent understanding as he slipped the towel from his shoulder and wiped his hands. ‘I’ll keep an eye for him...’
‘OK thanks Benny…’ Luke said. He tapped the bar twice before moving down to share a drink or three with his remaining work colleagues.
For the first time in weeks Luke slept solidly, waking refreshed the next morning courtesy of having removed another evil predator from the streets.
He regretted not being able to do anything for young Emily Dupree, but he drew comfort in the knowledge that the person responsible for her untimely death would not hurt any more children.
It was amazing what a successful collar – and a little luck could do to his mental well being. Luke no longer wallowed in self-pity, nor was thinking about the ex-fiancée.
Quality investigators the ilk of Luke lived for the thrill of the chase. They relished the challenge of matching wits with the criminal minds and tracking down a killer, or a violent offender.
Only those who had experienced such success could appreciate the incredible feeling of achievement and satisfaction one received in solving what could only be described as a real-life jigsaw puzzle, only the pieces of the puzzle were not laid out in front of you.
Luke was like his old self again when he fronted for work the next morning. All he required before he could complete the Emily Dupree matter was the autopsy report and the results from the forensic analyses.
He removed his note book from his pocket and flicked through the pages. He stopped several pages in when he noticed the drunken scrawl of the notes he made when talking with the old man in the bar that night.
He still couldn’t believe the old guy got it right with Emily’s murderer. He had to respect him for that, but the old man won’t be so lucky with his ‘educated guesses’ for these other cases. Luke closed his note book. A cynical grin emerged as he gently lobbed his notebook to the side of his desk.
The next thing Luke did was revisit his caseload of outstanding matters. He still had the brutal homicide of Linda Fulton, killed with a garden rock during an apparent home invasion at her home in Brooklyn Heights, the apparent robbery murder of IT businessman John Bishop in his car near the Fenway Projects and the strangulation murder of New York journalist Claire O’Connor in a Brooklyn hotel room.
Luke’s eyes fell to the case files laid out before him. His eyes flicked to the note book at the side of his desk. He stared at it for several beats. He knew he had to give the old man’s suggestions another try. The old guy was after all, one from one.
Luke lifted the note book and flicked through the pages to where he recorded the old man’s suggestions.
As per his written notes recording the old man’s suggestion, Luke contacted AT &T to request copies of Linda Fulton’s landline records and T-Mobile for a copy of John Bishop’s cell phone records.
‘Special delivery for Detective Luke Fox...’ the jovial uniform officer from the front desk announced as he burst into the detective’s bull pen carrying a large cardboard box. Luke monitored the approaching officer negotiating the various desks as he traversed the room, on his way to Luke’s desk.
‘So what’s all this...?’ Luke asked, watching the portly officer dump the cardboard box onto his desk.
The officer dusted off his hands then gestured to the box. ‘This was left for you at the front counter by a Mrs. O’Connor from New Jersey. She said it contained her daughter’s property. Apparently you were expecting it, or something...’ The cop said.
Luke stood from his chair to examine the heavy covering of duct tape sealing the box. He slit it open with a car key then peered inside. The cop who delivered the box remained watching on.
The arrival of Claire O’Connor’s property couldn’t have come at a better time for Luke. The progress of his revived investigations had momentarily stalled while he waited for the information he requested from sources external to NYPD, such as the TELCOS.
Luke snapped on a pair of latex gloves then peered into the box. He removed a woman’s large tan leather Louis Vuitton purse and placed it on his desk before relegating the box to the floor.
‘These things just keep getting bigger and bigger...’ Luke said to no-one in particular.
With his hands buried deep into his pockets watching Luke, the desk cop shook his head in apparent agreement.
’What must they weigh with all the shit they put in ’em...’ Luke said.
The desk cop grinned at Luke’s comments. He lifted his chin to the purse. ‘You could just about hide a body in that one...’ the cop said with a grin. He turned to exit the room. He’d apparently seen enough.
Luke carefully unzipped the hand bag, peeled it open and conducted a cursory check inside of the bag. As far as he could see it was empty.
The handbag’s contents remained inside the box in a clear plastic zip lock bag, from when it was previously in police possession.
He remembered how the old man suggested the vic would have a recording device or similar hidden somewhere in the hand bag.
Luke spread the bag wide open. With both hands working inside the bag his attention was drawn to something solid under the lining at one end of the bag. He traced the shape of the flat object with his hand.
Maybe it was a lady’s makeup compact that had slipped through a tear in the lining. Problem was, he couldn’t locate any fault in the bag’s internal lining.
When Luke rubbed his thumb down the fold in the corner of the bag the sharp edges of a Velcro strip jagged his attention. He grabbed a sizable piece of lining in each hand and firmly pulled it apart, like he was opening a bag of crisps. The distinctive Velcro tear resounded from inside the bag.
Luke reached inside the opening he created in the lining and carefully removed a flat black object. It had a thin black cord attached. He traced the cord with his fingers and discovered the cord was attached to the front of the purse.
He examined the outside end, looking for a microphone, pin hole camera, or something similar that may have been attached to the cord leading from the small black object, but he was unable to locate any discernible aperture.
Luke was about to concede there was nothing there when he did a typical double take at something that caught his eye. At the bottom of the zipper, near the stitching on the bag, he noticed a small indiscernible gap. On closer inspection he noticed there was a pin-hole camera secreted in this gap.
He unplugged the thin camera cord and lifted the small black box out to examine it further. It measured 2 ½ inches long by 2 inches wide and about 0.05 of an inch thick. The mysterious device had the words, “Spyworld Mini DVR” printed on the upper face.
A standard SD card was in a slot. I’ll be... He ejected the SD card and examined it. It’s a mini Digital Video Recorder that records onto a 32GB SD card.
Luke placed the DVR onto his desk then reached back into the bag to carefully remove the tiny pin-hole camera, with its cord still attached. The camera’s diameter was smaller than a nickel, while the lens diameter was only about 3/32 of an inch.
Just as the old man predicted, the journalist had secreted a covert video camera in the lining of her purse. The fact the old man was right once again was not lost on Luke.
Luke was confident the SD card from the device would hold some vital clues. Claire had gone to a great deal of trouble to conceal the miniature camera and DVR in her purse, which the offender clearly missed.
After inserting the SD card into the relevant slot of his desktop computer Luke began to review its contents. There were three files on the SD card.
By double-clicking on the first file it opened up a video playback window. He clicked on PLAY. The date and time stamped video was in color, the lighting was good and the resolution was remarkably clear.
The empty sofa from Claire’s Downtown hotel room filled Luke’s computer screen. His eyes dropped to the video progress bar, which indicated the footage run time was one hour and forty minutes.
Claire had strategically positioned the purse on the coffee table in front of the sofa so the camera could record her meetings with her contacts when they arrived and sat on the sofa.
Luke continued to watch. Voices were discernible in the background. A male and a female were talking but no persons were visible in the footage. After a further minute a male person sat on the sofa, in front of the camera. She had done her homework. The male person was in perfect view. A short time later Claire moved in to camera view and sat on the sofa to the male’s left.
The male in the footage was a white male who appeared to be in his early thirties. He was clean shaven with shoulder length hair. He wore a green Celtics hoodie and grey track pants.
Luke watched on with interest as Claire interviewed this man, admiring the cunning way she identified the person she interviewed, for the benefit of the recording camera.
At no time did she address the male by his full name. But on one occasion she addressed him as Mr. Gallagher. Then later in the interview she cleverly slipped in question by asking if she could call him Michael, to which the male ignorantly consented. He had no idea Claire had just named him; Michael Gallagher.
Luke paused the playback. ‘Michael Gallagher’, he repeated to himself, as he rubbed thoughtful hand across his chin. He checked the prior convictions on offenders named Michael Gallagher.
Within seconds his NYPD data base search returned a number of hits, but only one was in the age range for the subject in the video.
Luke selected the Michael Gallagher record with the date of birth of 1985.
When the prior convictions appeared on the screen the photo confirmed the man in the video was definitely the correct Michael Gallagher. Luke read his priors with disgust. This Michael Gallagher was a registered sex offender with priors for child pornography. Luke's lip curled. What the hell is Claire doing meeting with this pedophile scum?
Luke reactivated the video payback. He now found himself looking at this male with loathing and repulsion.
Claire showed Gallagher a number of photographs and discussed each one with him, however they were not visible to the camera. By the type of conversation being held it was apparent they were photographs of another male person, probably the focus of her investigation, but frustratingly, Luke had no idea who it was.
Before long it was evident Gallagher met with Claire to provide her with information. It wasn’t him she was interested in. As clever as Claire was in setting up the covert video, she never once mentioned her target’s name. On one occasion Gallagher said, “He is known around the circles by the handle, Silver tongue.”
The term “Around the Circles” would be a reference to the sleazy underbelly of the pedophile world. The nickname Silver tongue failed to bring up any hits on the NYPD records alias database.
By the time the video was over Luke was none-the-wiser as to whom Claire was investigating.
Luke activated the playback on second file. The progress bar indicated a much shorter movie, this time only running for forty minutes.
It didn’t take long from Claire’s line of questions for Luke to confirm that this second male who had arrived and sat in the seat recently vacated by Gallagher was also a convicted pedophile.
He was fifty-eight years old and had previously served a ‘nickel’ for interfering with young boys. After his five year stint in jail he was recorded on the sex offenders register for life.
The video ended after forty minutes and Luke was still no closer to finding out who killed Claire O’Connor. The people Claire met with were both pedophiles. This suggested her target was probably a pedophile. Maybe the third video would shed some light.
Like the previous two videos, the third video opened with the camera filming a vacant sofa. Voices could be heard in the background. Luke noted that of the three videos this was the longest. The progress bar listed the total movie length of 180 minutes.
The tone of the male voice in this 3rd video was short and direct. The muffled unintelligible conversation continued out of screen shot for several minutes. A male voice which was now much closer to the camera gave a firm direction, “Empty it”.
The camera vision lifted and inverted 180 degrees. A symphony of sounds rang out as the contents of Claire’s purse bounced on the coffee table. The purse and camera returned to the upright position on the table.
A male walked into the vision but was only visible from the waist down. The male lifted Claire’s mobile phone from the coffee table, opened the back and flicked out the battery. He dropped the phone and battery back onto the table.
The unknown male remained standing at the coffee table. He could be heard asking, ‘So just to be clear…there are no tape recorders or recording devices anywhere here…?’
A female voice, presumably that of Claire, could be heard to reply, ‘Definitely not...that was part of our agreement for this meeting.’
The male lowered himself onto the sofa and into full camera view. He was a white male, solidly built wearing a dark blue NY Yankees baseball cap that covered his hair and forehead. His face remained clearly depicted. He wore blue jeans and a Rolling Stones “Lips” t-shirt under a dark jacket.
The mystery guest watched Claire as she moved in to sit beside the male.
Luke’s brow furrowed. Why did he look familiar?
The male sat slightly turned towards Claire, with his right leg crossed over his left knee. ‘So, what’s this about...?’ He asked.
‘Firstly, thank you for meeting me here today, Mr. Baker...I—’
‘I told you no names…’ The male jabbed a finger at Claire.
Baker…? Why do I know that name...?
After a relatively short period of time it was evident this Mr. Baker was Claire’s target. Her questions were direct and hard-hitting.
‘I have gathered considerable evidence against you…evidence that suggests you are a key organizer and participant in an international child pedophile and child pornography ring,’ Claire said
‘That is absurd. How dare you make such unfounded and offensive allegations.’
‘Unfounded…?’ Claire said. ‘I have located evidence that proves conclusively you were involved in locating young boys, often destitute orphans living in poverty stricken 3rd world conditions in India and Indonesia. You removed them from this environment and brought them to the United States under the promise of a better life, where they would be adopted out, or fostered to good American family homes,’ Claire said. ‘But instead...’ Claire continued, ’what you did was, you sold these helpless young boys to your depraved pedophile ring, a pedophile ring you organized. Instead of these boys being raised in a loving US family, they were abused and molested and what’s worse, they were filmed and photographed during these violations.’ Claire was confident and calm in her delivery.
‘This is absurd,’ the male protested. ‘Either you produce evidence of these ridiculous allegations or you will be most certainly hearing from my lawyer.’
Claire obliged. She removed a photograph from a manila file and showed it to the male.
‘This photograph…’ she began, ‘is of you abusing one of those unfortunate young Indian boys...’
The man’s eyes fell to the large photo in Claire’s hand. ‘That’s not me…’ the man snatched the photo from Claire’s grasp. ‘This is ridiculous...that man is wearing a mask...How can you possibly say that’s me...? You will be hearing from my lawyer...How dare you cast these aspersions over my character...’
‘Oh, there is more...I assure you...’ Claire’s tone was surprisingly calm. She gestured to the photo in Mr. Baker’s hand. ‘Do you see that mark on the left hip of the male in the photo...?’ Claire asked. ‘My reliable information is that the mark there is a distinctive birth mark...’ she paused in her delivery. ‘I will wager any amount of money you like that you will have the same birth mark on your left hip. And if you do…’ she continued, ‘that is more than enough confirmation for me, and I might add, any jury in this land, to believe that this is you in the photograph.’
The man remained silent. His eyes never left the photo in his hand.
Claire continued. ‘I have four other photographs of you with four other different children as well. What’s further disturbing is… some of these photos show you with other male adults abusing a child. And what’s more, I have conclusive evidence that proves you are the organizer of this entire operation.’
The man sat unmoved as Claire unloaded her barrage of evidence onto him.
‘Why are you doing this…?’ the man asked. He sounded defeated. ‘Why did you call me down here and show me all this rubbish...?’ The man dropped the photo onto the coffee table.
‘Because you use your position as a New York City Councilor to harangue the public over the rights and safety of young children, and you even campaign for harsher penalties against those vermin who abuse young children… “Vermin” was your word by the way, Mr. Baker,’ she added.
Luke’s eyebrows arched. ‘Baker...’ He rolled his eyes. ‘Holy shit.’ I knew I recognized him…Evan Baker, City Councilor from Brooklyn’s 46th District.
Luke’s attention quickly reverted to the video footage when Baker raised his voice.
‘I said no names…’ Baker blurted. ‘You say any name again and I’m gone…Do you understand?’
‘I understand,’ Claire said. ‘But as I was saying before you interrupted me... I invited you here today to speak to you about these allegations and provide you with the opportunity to respond before I concluded my investigation. Provide you with natural justice. And to protect your privacy I agreed to meet in the privacy of this hotel room because your face is well known around these parts.’
‘How do I know you haven’t told anyone you are down here interviewing me?’ the male asked.
‘You have my word... I have not told anyone the names of who I am meeting with.’
‘Shit… No Claire…’ Luke blurted. ‘Don’t tell him that.’ He rolled his eyes knowingly.
‘How do I know that these photographs have not been seen by anyone else?’ The man asked.
‘Look, I told you… nobody knows what I am investigating, or that I am here talking to you,’ Claire reassured.
The man nodded. ‘Good. I appreciate that.’ The man lifted the photographs from the table. ‘What about copies of these?’ he asked.
‘They are the only copies I have, so no-one else can see them unless I show them.’
Luke’s head dropped. He slowly shook his head. ‘You silly, naïve woman,’ Luke said. ‘Why did you tell him that…?’
Claire should have realized where this male’s line of questioning was going. By all reports from industry contacts, Claire was considered one of the best in her field, but after watching this video it was evident she was a rookie when it came to this type of high risk situation. Claire clearly wasn’t aware of self-preservation at all cost.
Sure, the video recorded the meeting, but she failed to ensure her own safety by taking security measures such as keeping copies of photos and other records in another location. And when asked, she should always say that there are copies of everything with her Editor, who knows where she was, and who she was meeting with, even if she had to lie.
But Claire naively failed to do so. It was a rookie mistake that turned out to be a fatal underestimation of who she was dealing with, and what he would be prepared to do to avoid being exposed. Luke shook his head at her ignorance and naivety.
The man lobbed the photograph back onto the coffee table. ‘What else do you have in there?’ He gestured towards the manila file on the table. ‘Show me what you have…’