Authors: John C. Dalglish
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Religion & Spirituality, #Christian Fiction
Devin James started his car and exited the San Antonio News underground parking lot into the evening. The SAPD press conference on The Hunter killings had run long
, and he’d just put the story to bed. It was well past seven in the evening, and he was usually home by now.
The drive home was faster than usual, simply because
most people had beaten him out of the city already. Devin lived in a condo on the north side of San Antonio.
’s a golf course community and, even though he didn’t like golf, he found the surroundings relaxing. He walked the cart paths around the course in the morning, before the early golfers had teed off, and always found lots of wildlife taking advantage of the ponds and trees.
Parking in his reserved spot, he made his way upstairs to his apartment. As he went to put his key in the lock, he spotted an envelope jammed into the crack of the door.
It dropped to the floor when he swung the door open.
Devin went in
side to put down his keys and laptop before returning to the foyer and picking up the envelope.
In childlike block letters, the words ‘OPEN IMMEDIATELY’ were printed under his name. He closed the door, went into the living room, and sat down while he tore open the envelope. Inside was a single sheet of paper with typing on it that began with the words:
From The Hunter.
James felt his pulse quicken as he read the faded typing.
It is with great sadness that I am forced to write to you in reference to the shooting of Bobby White. A missed kill is unacceptable to The Hunter, and Mr. White should consider his escape to be a temporary reprieve. The purpose of this note is to inform the public, and authorities, I shall not miss again.
he silent justice, which I am compelled to mete out, will find those who deserve it.
The note was signed with a block letter
The reporter read the letter several times
, trying to find anything that might indicate who The Hunter is. He saw nothing, but suddenly realized he should stop handling the note. Prints and DNA may be on the paper.
Setting the letter and envelope down, he dialed the police station.
“San Antonio Police.”
“Detective Jason Strong.”
Less than a minute later, the voice returned.
“I’m sorry, but Detective Strong has left for the day. Can I give him a message?”
“No…well maybe. Can you call him?”
“I have the ability to reach all of our detectives, but I’ll need to know why it’s necessary to contact him.”
“Tell him to call Devin James.
Tell him it’s concerning The Hunter killings.”
“Very well, Mr. James.
I’ll attempt to reach him and pass on your message. Does he have your number?”
Yes. Thank you.”
Devin hung up and stared at the letter. This had happened to him a couple times during his reporting career, and in each case, the letter had helped the police find the person who had written
it. He hoped the same would be true this time. The phone rang.
“Devin, this is Strong.”
“Thanks for calling, Jason. I’ve got something you need to see.”
“Okay. What is it?”
“When I got home tonight
, I found a note from The Hunter in my door.”
“What did it say?”
The reporter read the note to Jason without picking it up again.
“Okay Devin, have you got some sort of baggie there?”
“Yeah, probably in the kitchen.”
“I need you to take the note and envelope, using a soft cloth or napkin, and carefully slip them into the baggie. Seal it, and even after you have it in the baggie, treat it gently. Can you do that?”
“I’ll meet you at the station in the morning, say eight-thirty?”
“I’ll be there.”
“Be careful. This Hunter, as you call him, obviously knows where you live.”
A chill ran down the reporter’s spine. He
hadn’t thought about that.
“I’ll be careful.”
“Good. Thanks for calling.”
Devin hung up and looked toward the front door. Did he lock it? He couldn’t remember and got up to check. It was unlocked. He slid the deadbolt in place; it would stay there until morning.
The next morning, Jason met Devin James as agreed, and obtained the note. He immediately took it to Doc Josie in the forensics lab. She promised to put a rush on testing and let him know the results as soon as possible.
Next, Jason walked down the hall from forensics to check in on Marie Turley’s progress. The lists he and Vanessa planned to
cross-check were still their best lead.
Marie saw him coming and greeted him with a big smile.
“Jason, I was just getting ready to call you.”
, Marie. Does that mean you have my lists?”
“It does. Let me show you what I’ve come up with.”
Jason followed her over to a desk with two piles of paper on it. One was nearly a foot tall while the other was much shorter. Marie pointed at the tall pile first.
“That’s the four lists of each officer’s cases during the time span you gave me. This shorter stack is an idea I came up with
, and decided to run in addition to yours.”
She picked up the top sheet and handed it to Jason.
“It’s a search of all murder and assault cases with each officer’s name listed. They were either part of the response team, or the investigative team. My thought was The Hunter probably had more than just a ‘domestic disturbance’ motivating him to kill.”
“Marie, that’s brilliant. Vanessa is going to love you if
you’re right. She’s been moaning about the amount of paper we’re gonna have to go through.”
“I don’t know how many cases will cross-connect and have all four names
, but there is one case during that stretch which might be of particular interest. I didn’t check the names, but early in the time span you’re searching, was the ‘Circle K massacre.’”
Jason gave her a blank look.
“I’m afraid I’m in the dark on that one.”
Marie shook her head sadly.
“Not surprising, really. It was a black day for this department, and no one really wants to talk about it.”
“The short version is five people were shot despite police being on the scene. You’ll have to read the details for yourself, but it’s not a pleasant story.”
Jason leaned over and gathered up the smaller stack of paper.
“Is it in this collection of cases?”
“Okay, I’ll make a point to read it. Can you have the big pile sent up to the third floor?”
Jason turned to go.
, Marie. As always, you’ve out-done yourself.”
“You’re welcome. Let me know how the search comes out.”
Jason found Vanessa at her desk. She looked up, obviously surprised by the size of the pile Jason was carrying.
“Is that all?”
“No, the full lists were too heavy to carry by myself, but this pile is the result of a refined search Marie ran. She got the idea to search only murder and assault cases during the time frame we’re looking at. Each of these has at least one of the officer’s names on them.”
a good idea; let’s pull out Brad Winston’s cases, and start with them.”
Jason set the pile down
, and pulled out the ones with Brad Winston listed at the top. He gave one-half to Vanessa and spread the other half in front of him.
“If we’re right, at least one of these files will have all four names.”
Three and a half hours later, they had seven files set aside. Those files were the only ones with all four
people listed. Vanessa thought her head would explode, and when the phone rang, she groaned in pain. Jason picked it up as she discarded her last file.
“This is Detective Strong.”
Vanessa leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes, using the call as an excuse to take a much-needed break.
, Doc. What have you got?”
popped open when she realized it was forensics. Jason rubbed his temple with his free hand.
Vanessa moaned, closing her eyes again.
, Doc. Thanks for calling.”
He hung up
nessa felt Jason staring at her and opened her eyes.
“You look exhausted.”
“Yeah well, you don’t look so hot yourself, Strong.”
It was Jason’s turn to laugh.
“You want to get some lunch before we start to dissect these seven files?”
The Hunter was angry, but knew composure was the only way to prevent the failure from happening again. As The Hunter stood staring at the kill board, the name of Lisa White remained absent. Only a certified kill can be mounted on a hunter’s trophy board. Bobby White had survived—for now.
When The Hunter looked at the map, no X crossed out the Lisa White hunting location, and it would stay that way until all the remaining kills were
completed. A shooter must move forward on the targets, and finish them in order, before going back after a missed target.
Running a finger across the map, The Hunter rested on the next target’s name.
Time again to lift an arrow from the shelf, and stalk the name written across the shaft.
A smile crossed the face of The Hunter
as adrenaline surged inside. This is what a hunter practices for, plans for, and lives for. The hunt and the kill.
Jason picked up the seven case files remaining from their morning search, and carried them into the conference room next to the lieutenant’s office. Vanessa sat across the table from Jason and scanned the files.
“One assault and battery case, two
bank robberies involving assault, and four homicide cases. Which one do you want to start with?”
“Let’s see if we can eliminate the three cases not involving homicide. They seem the least likely to be a motive.”
Vanessa slid the first case file in front of her and opened it.
“This robbery involved a teller being pistol whipped by the suspect. It took place at the Wells Fargo Bank on Mulberry
, and the guy was caught later that day, when he crashed his car during a pursuit. Chuck Peters and Lisa White were among the responding officers. The bank robber was pursued by several patrol cars, including Brad Winston and Dan Connor.”
She flipped through several sheets of paper until she found what she was looking for.
“Thomas Hicks did five years and six months for the robbery. He was released four years ago.”
Jason shook his head.
“Seems unlikely, but we shouldn’t rule it out, don’t ya think?”
Vanessa signaled her agreement by
setting it aside and reaching for the other robbery file.
“This one took place at the Bank of America on San Pedro.
The security guard was punched twice by the robber and sustained a concussion. The robber then fled without getting any money. There’s no record of an arrest. Detective Chuck Peters led the investigation and all three of our other names are listed as responding officers.”
Jason stood up and came over to Vanessa’s side of the table.
“Wait a second. Isn’t Chuck Peters listed as ‘Detective’ Chuck Peters’ on the arrow that killed his son?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“So, the other three were all listed as officers, but Peters as detective. Based on our theory, that would eliminate the first robbery, because he was still Officer Peters, but not the second. What about the other cases?”
They each grabbed a file and went through it. Vanessa found hers first.
“Peters is listed as ‘officer’ in the assault and battery.”
“Same in this first homicide file.”
They dug into two more files, and this time Jason was first.
“Detective Chuck Peters.”
“Not this one, Officer Peters in this file.”
Jason reached over and grab
bed the last file, the ‘Circle K massacre.’
It took a few minutes longer
to track down the information—the file was by far the largest of the seven—but he found the name.
“Detective Chuck Peters!
That gives us two homicide files and the robbery case that match up with our evidence. We’ve already eliminated the robbery, so that leaves the two homicides.”
Vanessa was already gathering up the five eliminated
files, while Jason spread the other two out for further examination. He began looking through the first murder file while she put the others away.
He figured Marie Turley had nailed it when
she’d suggested the Circle K file, but the other homicide file was smaller and would be easier to check out. Vanessa returned with Lieutenant Patton in tow.
“Vanessa tells me you’re onto something, what is it?”
Jason filled the lieutenant in, and when he mentioned one of the cases was the Circle K file, he noticed a definite change in his boss’s mood.
“What is it, Lieutenant?”
John Patton pulled up a chair and sat next to Vanessa. They were both watching him closely now. Vanessa had also noticed the change in the lieutenant.
Patton chose his words carefully.
“That was the darkest day in my career; not personally, but for the SAPD. I’d never seen a department come under siege the way we did after that case. Dan Connor was shot that day. Lisa White was also there with Brad Winston. A bullet in the firefight grazed Brad, and he was never the same after that. In fact, he left the force a short time later. I should have caught the connection sooner.”
The lieutenant paused. Jason flipped open the Circle K file and found what he knew would be there. The detective responding with Chuck Peters was John Patton.
“You were there with Peters.”
“Yes. Chuck was a young detective then
, we were partners. It fell to us to sort out what went down and how it happened. The details came out in the paper, your buddy Devin James was the lead reporter, and the city went nuts.”
Jason could see the pain in his lieutenant’s eyes
, but so far, he hadn’t figured out what was the source of that pain was. Vanessa asked the question Jason was thinking.
The lieutenant got up and walked toward the door.
“It’s in the file. I’d rather you read the reports yourselves.”
The detectives sat staring as Lieutenant Patton went around the corner and into his office, closing the door behind him.
After he was gone, they
both reached for the Circle K file. Vanessa began reading the report filed by John Patton and Chuck Peters. Jason took the autopsy reports and started with them.
They read in silence, the only noise being flipp
ed pages, until Jason reached the cause of death in the first autopsy.
Vanessa looked up at him as he sorted through the sheets.
“The cause of death on two of these autopsy reports is listed as gunshot with a nine-millimeter.”
“What weapon was carried by the guy who did the hold-up?”
Vanessa scanned the file with her finger until she found it.
“He was carrying a thirty-eight, which means two of the victims were…”
Jason slumped back in his chair.
“That’s right; killed by a different gun, most likely belonging to one of the responding officers.”
Vanessa let out a long whistle.
“No wonder the lieutenant didn’t want to talk about it. Two civilians shot by police at a scene. Which ones?”
Jason sat forward and pulled the autopsy report for each of the victims out of the file, laying them side by side.
“Victim one: Tiffany Barker, age thirty-six, gunshot, nine-millimeter. Victim two: Jim Dolan, age twenty-two, gunshot, thirty-eight caliber.”
He jumped his finger from one report to the next, as he read the line
s summarizing cause of death.
Levi Anderson, age seventy-one, cerebral hemorrhage. Victim four: Sarah Webster, age twenty-nine, gunshot, nine-millimeter.”
He sat back as he finished.
“The fifth victim was the gunman, and he’s listed as self-inflicted gunshot with a thirty-eight caliber bullet.”
While Jason had read the cause of death in each case, Vanessa was searching for something. Jason watched her rifle through reams of papers.
“What are you looking for?”
She slid a sheet from the bottom of the file. After reading it, she passed it to Jason without comment. Jason read the report and weighed what it meant for their case.
Ballistics determined the bullet that killed Tiffany Barker came from the gun of Dan Connor. The bullet that killed Sarah Webster had come from the gun of Brad Winston. Two friendly
had no doubt this case likely sparked The Hunter to kill. Their job now was to find who the Hunter was before anyone else got hurt. Suddenly, he sat straight up in his chair.
Vanessa stared at him.
“Who else what?”
“Who else was involved in the case, what other names are tied to it?”
“You think they might be targets?”
“It makes sense, doesn’t it? The note to Devin James said The Hunter wouldn’t miss again. That means more shootings.”
Vanessa looked at the reports, slowly sifting through them and reading each new name as she found them. Two
EMTs were listed, several other responding officers and a handful of forensic people, but two names jumped off the page.
Detective John Patton and Lieutenant Jesse Garza.
Jason wrote them down as Vanessa read them, and stopped when Vanessa said John’s name.
“If we’re right, Vanessa, these people all have to be warned. We have no way of knowing the next target.”
“Let’s start with the lieutenant
, and get his okay to tell everyone else. He has to agree with our theory before he’ll let us start calling these people out of the blue.”
They gathered up the file and went to see their boss.