Authors: J. T. Lewis
He couldn’t help himself though, all the great ones took mementos as reminders of their feats, and he would be the greatest of them all.
February 17, 1997
Sheriff McHenry had been at it for thirty six hours straight, and he was ready to drop. Whoever had perpetrated this murder had been good, very good. Scant clues had been discovered by either his deputies or forensics. The strange card had yielded no clues to date either. He had people trying to track the printer of the cards; somebody undoubtedly should remember printing a card like that.
There was no sign of prints, hair or fibers. Even if he had access to DNA testing, there was no trace of any body fluids or skin cells. There were no shell casings at the scene, so he probably had used a revolver.
So far they had been able to keep the murder out of the media, releasing a story of a two-car crash with fatalities. He had decided to use the offered help of the fire department, using the firemen to direct traffic and the big trucks to block the view of the crime scene from prying eyes. He had personally sworn each man to secrecy himself, but he knew was only delaying the inevitable leak.
The get-away vehicle, recently reported as stolen, had been found down on Langdon Creek the next morning. Hidden from view by the overgrown conditions, he or she had apparently had another car stashed there.
The K9 units had also been a bust, only finding the short trail between cars at both locations.
The sheriff finished his cup of coffee. He had long ago lost track of how many he had consumed since this whole thing had started. The cold liquid drained from his cup left with a sour taste in his mouth that would probably follow him to the grave. Pulling a cigarette from behind his ear, he looked around for somebody to yell at.
His tired eyes met only the fourteen or so men who had been up as long as he, each one looking worse than the next. There was no doubt about it, they had hit a wall. He had to get some of these men home for a few hours of shuteye or they might all keel over from exhaustion.
Calling over his chief deputy, they worked out a scheduled rotation to get the men rested but back for their regular shifts.
“OK, listen up,” the sheriff yelled, “We need to get you men some sleep and home time. Jason has the rotation and will let you know the schedule. We’ve hit it hard boys, but there is no use killing ourselves with the small quantity of clues we have on hand. We need some fresh eyes looking at this; we’ll catch a break tomorrow.”
“Dismissed,” the sheriff barked as he turned from his men, ending any discussion as he crushed his unlit cigarette between his fingers before pulling out a fresh one from the pack as he walked.
He made his way to his office and sat down with a grunt, one more thing to finish before he too could head to the house. He picked up the receiver and dialed the number, rolling back in his chair to wait for someone to pick up while fondling the cigarette between his fingers.
“Pain in the ass,”
he mumbled under his breath as the other party picked up, announcing themselves in an overly professional manner.
February 17, 1997
Frank and I had taken up station in the conference room, going over and organizing our clues. Frank Luther was an enigma in these parts: part detective, part bulldog, but a man you want on your side in an investigation. He would dig to the bottom of the file, a crime scene, or even a dumpster to get to the information needed.
Betty jokingly called him my sidekick, although that would imply something comedic, and there was
funny about Frank.
A bachelor as well as a veteran of thirty years in law enforcement, Frank had salt and pepper hair that he wore high and tight. At 5’9” he was built like a spark plug, having a barrel chest that made it hard for him to get into some of the close spaces we sometimes had to venture into.
He loved interrogating a suspect, dancing masterfully in and out through the facts, playing the good cop part, as well as the bad. Putting them at ease in one moment, making them squirm the next. I have witnessed many times the gathering of information from a suspect that no one else could crack, opening his arms like Moses leading his children home.
Although we have been partners for at least six years, Frank is by nature a loner, and I sometimes feel I have not cracked that barrier that puts us on par to being true friends. Still, I consider myself lucky to be his partner and would do anything for him.
We had been going over the facts and throwing around theories all morning, coming to some conclusions, throwing out some others. Frank had been on the phone with other departments asking about cases involving the word “Ghost” or any other similarities with no luck.
All of the accumulated information was laid out in front of us, but at this point it was too sparse to draw any concrete profiles from. The Vics were clean, with no legal problems in their past. We could surmise from this that it was a planned killing, and the perp liked calling himself ‘Ghost’. Other then that small bit of knowledge, everything else was conjecture for now.
The accumulated evidence, tied with our experience did inevitably lead us to a few assumptions however.
We believed the murderer to be male, probably not over mid-twenty’s due to his need for attention.
We also assumed this to be his first murder, although other crimes in his past seemed likely considering the demonstrated organization of the crime.
We were at a loss as to how to proceed from here. Frank was antsy, wanting to get busy on something but not knowing which way to move forward.
“Has the Coroner turned in a report yet?” I asked.
Frank said he would check and left the room quickly. Knowing Frank, he wouldn’t be back until he had the report, even if he had to stand over the Doc, pushing him on until he finished.
I continued mulling over the list for several more minutes until a rumbling in my stomach let me know I was overdue for lunch. Pulling together the file and leaving it on the table, I grabbed my notebook and headed out into the sunshine to find a quick meal, planning to walk for awhile during lunch to get the cobwebs out.
Walking through reception on the way out of the office, Ellen gave me a wink as I passed, saying “Have a good walk.”
My normal day very seldom included a walk at lunch, and I marveled once more at her uncanny ability to read minds. Being in her mid-forties but looking twenty years younger, reading minds was just one of her amazing attributes for which she was well known.
Grabbing a pastrami sandwich at Lenny’s down the block, I started walking a several block course while I ate. The sun was bright and warm for February, the heat feeling good through my parka. I was definitely feeling better by the time I got to Taylor Park about half way through my walk, and I was enjoying my time outside. Being cooped up inside all winter tended to make me grumpy and irritable. I decided to have a seat in the sun for a few minutes, letting the warmth creep into my whole body.
Leaning my head back into the sun, I dozed off momentarily.
Never knowing how I get there, I was once again in the room; that beautiful, comfortable room. I sat down in the chair, lifting the coffee cup that never emptied or got cold. Taking a few minutes to look over the chess board, I discovered that my opponent was using a new line of attack.
“Very devious,” I uttered out loud, turning my full attention to the board for a few minutes more.
I have enjoyed the challenge and tactics of chess since learning from and playing with my grandfather when I was young. He would certainly enjoy this ongoing game I was involved with immensely, and I thought of him quite often while in the room, working out strategy against my unseen opponent.
When I had lined out my response to his attack, I moved my bishop to block his progress, then sat back to enjoy my coffee. I just sat there enjoying the warmth and comfort of the room for a long while, my mind relaxed, not thinking of anything. Leaning my head back, I closed my eyes.
Opening my eyes once more, I was no longer in the room, but walking down a dark road, the skies dumping water on me in buckets. I found myself walking up behind a parked car, surprised by bright flashes with loud retorts coming from the inside. A thin man wearing a hooded sweatshirt swiftly got out of the car and ran to another one parked in front. Getting in, he then slowly accelerated down the road, the taillights disappearing when he rounded the bend.
Walking up to the original vehicle, I look into it and see the grisly scene before me. I can’t open the door for some reason, so I just take in what I can through the window, trying to get as much into my head as I can. Something nagging in my mind told me that this was very important.
Walking to the other side of the car, I again try the door with no success. It seems as if I have no strength, like my arms won’t work right. I lean down and stare into the window again. Looking closely at the woman, I start to notice something on her neck, putting my nose to the glass as I try to comprehend what I was seeing.
Unexpectedly a lightning flash lit up my dark surroundings for a split second, temporarily illuminating the scene before my eyes. Time slowed, and I was suddenly face to face with the ghostly figure staring hauntingly back at me.
I jerked back in shock; my feet tangling together as I tried to escape the grisly scene. I felt myself falling, falling back into the flooded ditch behind me.
I threw up my arms, trying to grab at anything to catch my fall, but found nothing and continued to drop, the ditch having disappeared as I plunged into nothingness.
I jerk awake on the park bench; my heart pounding in my chest. The warm sun seemed suddenly out of place as I shielded my eyes to the brightness.
I stayed there for a few minutes, trying to make sense of the scene as it played itself out in my head. I grabbed the notebook and recorded all of the facts that I could remember. On the last item I stopped, pen over paper, trying to remember. Something about the woman’s neck, but I couldn’t pull it out. It was buried deep. I wrote ‘
….’ at the end of the page, hoping it would come to me later.
Closing the notebook, I stood and started the walk back to the office. Having witnessed the crime in my head, the sun now didn’t seem quite so warm. I now had a chill down to the core of my being, and I would need several more cups of coffee when I got back.
February 17, 1997
Arriving home after another dreary day at work, the man grabbed a beer and started pacing his ratty apartment, too excited to sit.
Two weeks wait for the next “project” was such a long time Now that he had a taste, it was a
long time. He walked back to the refrigerator to find something to eat, then decided he wasn’t hungry and continued his pacing.
Reaching into his pocket, he touched it for the thousandth time that day.
He was again calmed by the feel of his prize.
Taking it out, he gazed at it as he sat down on the couch, taking in every detail. He noticed it was of an unusual design, a cross with a circle around the middle, probably some kind of religious symbol or something.
He again thought of how his mentor would feel about his award, quickly depositing it back into his pocket, as if she were watching.
He would be good; he couldn’t believe his luck at finding Jasmine and wouldn’t screw it up. She had helped him get organized, given him the chance to actually do what he had always dreamed of. They were a team, but he would be the famous one of course, “The Ghost.”
His mentor was smart, even finding him was genius, tracking him down just from rumors and snippets of conversations overheard by others, conversations spoken by him mostly when he was drunk of course. He always talked too much when he drank, but he would talk of famous murders and murderers, leaving little doubt as to his admiration of the men he idolized.
Although he had never seen her, she had probably scouted him in person at some point, listening in with awe as his stories unfolded he suspected. He had decided that she was probably some plain looking housewife in real life.
You really gotta watch out for those quiet, mousey ones.
He thought back to the day of first contact. Picking up the seldom used phone that night, he mentally prepared himself for the usual rapid-fire banter of a telemarketer. Although he mostly enjoyed giving grief to the idiots that called him several times a week, he actually thought there ought to be a law against this type of intrusion.
The raspy voice on the other end of the line was a surprise as the person asked him to confirm his identity. Hesitating only momentarily, the man thought
‘what the hell’
as he told the caller his full name.
Silence followed, long enough for the man to consider hanging up on the raspy-voiced caller, but intrigued enough to hang on and wait.