Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
Sunday, August 14th, 5:00 PM
DETECTIVE Hank Corning was slouched in the rusty chair behind his timeworn desk in the precinct. His hands were clasped as though praying; his fingertips touched his nose, his eyes closed. But he wasn’t praying. He was thinking. Contemplating his next course of action. Trying to put the pieces together to form something cohesive.
He dropped his hands, opened his eyes, and reached to the clip on his belt to retrieve his ringing cell phone.
“Hank Corning here.”
“Oh, Hank. It’s Amelia.”
He sat up straight and smiled. “Hi Amelia.”
“Hank, I just received a curious phone call.” She was talking fast, excited. “A man called, and he has Jenny.”
“Slow down Amelia. Take a breath and tell me everything.”
Amelia took a deep breath. “I received a call at the house just a few minutes ago. The man said he had Jenny and she was all right, and in good hands.”
Hank was standing now, pacing. “Did he say where she was?”
“No, he just said she was ok and not to worry.”
“Did the voice sound familiar at all?”
“No, not at all. I’m pretty sure it was a man though. He tried to cover his voice by talking in a low tone.”
“Is that all he said?”
“Yes, I asked him where she was, but he just hung up. So, I called star 69 several times and finally got an answer. They said it was a phone booth in the plaza down on Bentley Road.”
“Hold on, Amelia.”
There was silence, and then she heard him say, “Jackson, there’s a phone booth in the plaza on Bentley Road. Get a fingerprint guy down there right away.” He spoke into the phone. “Amelia, if he touched anything in that booth, we’ll get him.”
“Oh Hank, I don’t know what to make of this. I’m happy, but still afraid at the same time.”
“It’s not bad news, Amelia. That’s for sure. It’s actually good news.”
“There’s only one thing that bothers me, Hank.”
“What if it wasn’t really him? Maybe it was just a prank.”
Hank sighed. “Yeah, there’s that possibility, however, it seems slim. Keep your hopes up.”
Silence a moment, and then Hank said, “I need to get on top of this now. Hopefully, the fingerprinter will have something positive for me.”
“Ok Hank, let me know, please. I truly appreciate your support. It’s helped me a lot.”
They said goodbye, and he touched the “Hang Up” icon.
He hoped this was the break he was waiting for.
Monday, August 15th, 8:35 AM
ANNIE had kept extensive notes on whatever ideas and thoughts came to her regarding Jenny, the murders, and anything at all that seemed related.
She was going over them now, re-reading them, hoping for something to pop out at her from the hand-written pages.
Jake walked into the office and sat in the guest chair. “Anything come to you?” he asked.
She leaned back and shook her head. “Nope.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“I didn’t sleep well last night as you know. I’m sure I woke you up a few times. After Hank called and told us about Amelia’s phone call, it just weighed on my mind all night.”
“That’s what I love about you. You care so much.”
She smiled, and then asked, “Did you come up with anything?”
“I keep notes too, you know.” He tapped his forehead. “But mine are all up here, and even my brilliantly organized mental notes led me nowhere.”
She laughed, and then said, “I called Hank a few minutes ago. They only found a single set of fresh prints in the phone booth. Hank was hoping to find the killer’s prints, but assumed the ones they did find, belonged to the guy who answered the phone when Amelia called back. They’ll follow up on them anyway, just in case.”
“So, another dead end.”
“Yes, it seems to be.”
“I’m off to school,” Matty called from the office doorway.
Jake looked over his shoulder. “I’m leaving right now. I can give you a lift to school if you want.”
“Dad, it’s only two blocks.”
“Well, be careful.”
“Always. Bye Mom. Bye Dad.” He disappeared, and the front door slammed a few seconds later.
“Well,” Jake said, “I’m going to the high school right away. Another long shot, but we’ve got to try everything.” He stood. “I should be back before noon.”
“I should be here when you get back,” Annie said. “I have a few things to do here.” She sat forward and looked at her desktop. “A few bills to pay, and some invoicing to do.”
Jake stood, leaned over the desk and gave her a quick kiss. “See you soon,” he said.
Monday, August 15th, 9:05 AM
JAKE whipped into the parking lot at Richmond Hill High School, and pulled into the visitor’s slot.
He climbed from his vehicle and looked up at the building. It was well over a hundred years old, with two stories of ancient and faded brick that had seen better days. An L wing had been tacked on to the far side since he’d last been here. That was more than twenty years ago. It looked much smaller now, even with the new section.
He made his way up the cracking concrete walkway, climbed four steps, and pulled open one of the double doors at the side entrance.
A wave of nostalgia overtook him as he stepped inside. The familiar cream-colored paint throughout, the faded hard tiled floors, and the dark walnut trim around the doors and banisters.
He moved into the long and deserted hallway. Almost deserted. One student at the far end was hustling away with a stack of books under his arm, bent forward as if leaning into the wind, probably late for class.
His footsteps echoed off the floor and bare walls, and he took a left turn, strolling through the old wing of the building.
It’s funny how everything was smaller now. The corridors weren’t as wide as he’d remembered. He could almost reach up and touch the ceiling, and the once khaki colored lockers had turned to a dismal brown.
Across the hall, three or four schoolroom doorways were spaced uniformly apart. He stepped to the nearest one and peeked in the small window. A teacher was frantically waving his arms as he talked, probably trying to drum some important point into the heads of distracted students.
He stepped back quickly. He didn’t want to be caught snooping.
He took another left into the next corridor and stood in front of locker #266. That was his, many years ago. He pensively touched the padlock, and then tapped on the metal door. The sound echoed lightly down the hallway. He looked cautiously around as the echo faded, almost expecting to be caught out of class, and sent to the principal’s office.
He laughed out loud, and then turned and continued down the hallway to the main office.
The main office was gone.
He looked around a moment. Probably moved to the new wing.
He headed in what seemed to be the right direction, and after making a couple of wrong turns, the hallway seamlessly entered the new section. He saw the offices, dead ahead.
The principal’s office was right in front of him. He glanced at the metal plate fastened to the door. Mr. Elertson. He headed toward the reception area, situated behind a large see-through wall. He eased open the glass door and stepped inside, where he was greeted by a woman who looked old enough to have been his first grade teacher.
She smiled cheerfully at him, and spoke in a sing-song voice. “May I help you?”
He smiled back. “My name is Jake Lincoln. I was hoping I could see Mr. Elertson for a minute?”
“Well, certainly dearie. May I ask what it’s regarding?”
“Uh, it’s about a security matter.”
The smile hadn’t left her face. “Just one second,” she sang, and then hurried toward the principal’s office.
As he waited, he looked around. Everything seemed to be running in high gear. People, mostly women, were bustling about. Computer keys clicked, files drawers slammed, and the constant buzz of conversation and consultation filled the room.
The door to the principal’s office opened, and a student came out slowly, head down, probably reprimanded for something or other.
The receptionist poked her head in for a few seconds, and then hurried back and flashed her constant smile at Jake. “Mr. Elertson can see you now.”
Jake walked cautiously into the office. Not the same room he’d visited quite a few times in his student days, but still, going to the principal’s office always seemed to have a negative feeling to it.
“Hello, Mr. Elertson,” he said. “I’m Jake Lincoln.” He offered his hand.
Elertson stood and shook it. “Have a seat,” he said, motioning to the padded chair in front of his well-used desk.
There were a few exchanges about the weather, and other mandatory topics that needed to be covered when two strangers meet.
Finally, Jake got down to business. “Mr. Elertson, I’m here on behalf of Lincoln Investigations. We’ve been retained to look into the disappearance of Jenny James.”
Mr. Elertson nodded. “That’s a sad thing. Jenny was always quite popular around here. She would volunteer to help our office staff from time to time, and we all enjoyed seeing her.”
Jake nodded. “So I understand.”
“So, how may I help you, Mr. Lincoln?”
“The last time Jenny was seen, was leaving the school. One of her friends said she was meeting Chad Bronson. He was the last person to see Jenny, and, as you probably know, he was murdered that same day. He likely picked her up here after school.”
Elertson nodded and leaned forward. “Did anyone see them leave?”
“Unfortunately, no. But I was hoping you had some cameras installed that might help us.”
Elertson shook his head and frowned. “We have some cameras in the hallways, but those are on a daily recording rotation, so anything there would be long gone.”
“Hmmm. There are only a couple of dummy cameras outside. We’ve been hit with budget restrictions, and just can’t install all of the security measures we’d like to.”
Jake slowly rubbed his hands in thought. It seemed like another dead end.
Elertson continued, “It’s unfortunate I can’t help you.” He sighed. “But hopefully the board will listen to us now, and allow us a little more security budget for the future, but right now . . .”
Jake nodded and stood. He offered his hand again, and said, “Thank you anyway.”
Elertson stood and followed Jake from the room. “On behalf of the staff here, I certainly hope you find Jenny,” he said. “And if there’s anything else, please contact me any time.” He took a business card from his breast pocket, and handed it to Jake.
Jake took the card and thanked him again. He found his way out, and back to his vehicle. He leaned against the hood for some time, waiting for a hint of inspiration that didn’t come.
Monday, August 15th, 9:10 AM
LISA Krunk was always on the prowl. Today was no exception. She was hanging out near the police precinct, waiting for a victim.
Don was sitting on a low concrete wall; his head down, studying the ground, with the camera in his lap and a bored look on his face.
Lisa stopped her back and forth pacing as Officer Spiegle stepped from the precinct door. He looked up at the sun, wiped his brow on his sleeve and trudged down the steps. As he rounded the corner, Lisa approached him.
Don was up and had the camera ready. The red light appeared as it hummed into action.
Lisa said, “Officer Spiegle, may I ask you a few questions?”
Spiegle saw the camera, and unconsciously brushed his hair back with one hand. He stood a little straighter, and his chest seemed to puff out slightly. He put on his best smile, looked at the camera, and then at Lisa, and waited.
She massaged his ego. “Officer Spiegle, I understand you were one of the officers instrumental in finding the body of Chad Bronson.”
He nodded. “Yes, that’s correct,” he boasted.
“Can you tell the viewers a little bit about that?”
“Well,” he said, “the body had been buried for more than a week, so when we unearthed it, it was rather a ghastly sight.”
“I can only imagine,” she soothed, and then asked, “Do you think, then, Mrs. Bellows and Mr. Farley were killed by the same man?”
“Yes, I believe so. We’re trying to ascertain that now.” He hesitated. “We think there’s a serial killer on the loose, and we don’t know who it is.”
“So then, should the citizens be worried they may be next?”
Spiegle looked confused. “Well, I sure am.”
“And what gives you the indication the same individual is responsible for all three murders?”
“According to the information I . . . we got from forensics, he used the same gun and knife all the time.”
“And do you have any indication who the killer may be?”
“Are you confident you’ll make an arrest soon?”
“Well, I sure hope so.”
“You don’t sound too sure.”
“Well truthfully,” he scratched his head before continuing, “we’ve no idea at all who it is.”
Lisa faked a smile. “Thank you, Officer Spiegle.”
The camera swung toward her. She said, “In an exclusive report, I’m Lisa Krunk, live for Channel 7 Action News.”
She watched the cop walk away, satisfied with a bit of editing, she would have just what she wanted.
Monday, August 15th, 9:25 AM
JEREMY was running a little late this morning. His alarm clock seemed to be on the fritz, and hadn’t buzzed him awake.
He’d gotten up late, and by the time he’d packed his lunch and was ready, it was already past nine o’clock. He was expected to be at work by nine.
Now, as he pulled into the rear lot at Mortinos he hoped he could slip in without catching the attention of his stupid boss.