SYNOPSIS: Jason Franco is an aspiring novelist stuck in a dead end job working for a newspaper in a small town where nothing exciting happens until someone rapes and murders a young woman only eighteen years old. All evidence points to the woman's boyfriend who confesses to the crime. Jason is assigned to write a follow-up story for the paper and soon suspects that the local police are covering up for one of their own. Jason enlists the help from a high school classmate who works at the state crime and the two soon fall in love. Jason and his girlfriend, Tina, follow the leads and Jason finds himself a target for the rapist turned murderer. An attempt on Jason's life puts him in the hospital as the alleged rapist commits suicide. An unexpected turn of events put Jason back in the cross hairs of a different killer.
Crime Laboratory, Division of Criminal Investigation, Cheyenne, Wyoming
Saturday, June 27, 2105
Tina and Jason slept in late and then went to a pancake house for a late breakfast. Jason wanted to order the western omelet with a side order of sausage, but the look on Tina’s face made him change the order to blueberry pancakes. Tina ordered pancakes with fruit. While they waited for their order, Jason started thinking about last night. It was the best sex he had since college, maybe better.
“What are you smiling about?” asked Tina.
Jason chuckled. “I was thinking about last night. It was fantastic.”
“You’re doing better. You may have a career as a writer after all. Last night was spectacular.
Before Jason could pay for breakfast, Tina grabbed the check and paid it on the way out. They drove straight to the Division of Criminal Investigation building. Jason expected a larger building. Tina explained that the lab handles latent fingerprints, firearms, tool marks, chemistry, and DNA. Anything else had be to sent to Denver.
Tina parked her car and turned to Jason. “There’s a security guard at the entrance. I’ll have to sign you in. Don’t say anything about being a reporter. I’ll tell him that you’re my boyfriend and I’m just showing you around.”
“Is this going to be a problem for you?”
“Are you kidding? I flirt with this guard all the time. He has the hots for me. He would probably get undressed if I asked him to.”
Tina unbuttoned two buttons on her shirt. She took Jason’s hand and led him into the building and up to the security desk. Before they got there, Tina whispered, “Shit. Not him. Some other guy.”
The security guard was an older gentleman perhaps in his sixties. Tina showed him her ID and explained that Jason was her boyfriend.
The guard looked Jason over. “I’m going to need to see a picture ID, and you have to sign him in.”
Jason showed the guard his driver’s license. While the guard was taking Jason’s picture for a temporary visitor ID, Tina signed him in the log book. At this point she thought it best to go ahead and list his employer as the Torrington Star-Gazette. If anything should happen, she didn’t want to be accused of fraud. The guard gave Jason the temporary security badge and let them in.
Inside the lab, Tina pulled up a chair for Jason and they sat down in her cubical. She turned on her computer and opened a few files. “Where do you want to start?”
Jason thought for a minute. “The Littlefield murder wasn't a State Police case?”
“Yes and no. It was TPD's case and they made the arrest. The State Police handled the crime scene and we did the lab work. But I’ve access to a lot of databases.”
“Okay. The thought occurred to me that maybe this is the work of a serial killer; maybe a trucker going through town. Can you check and see if there are other murders that fit this MO?”
“Listen to you talking the lingo. But you think it might be a serial killer? The killer had to know both the vic and Mr. McAdams and where they lived.”
“I don't know. I'm just asking the dumb questions. I want to eliminate the possibility of a serial killer. Humor me.”
“Sure, no problem. Wyoming doesn’t have many murders.” Tina pulled up a couple of data bases. “See here. There were eight in 2010, eighteen in 2011 and fourteen in 2014.” Tina drilled down into several cases. “Nothing pops up. Most of these cases have been solved and the perp arrested and convicted. ”
“What about adjacent states? If the killer is a truck drive, there might be a trail of bodies across the country.”
“Well, that could take a while. Let’s look at Nebraska and Colorado.” After another hour, Tina said, “Nothing even close. I was thinking. We have been looking for a serial murderer. Suppose it wasn’t a serial killer but a serial rapist? I mean Littlefield was raped and then murdered. Maybe the murder wasn't premediated.”
Jason thought about her remarks for a minute. “As long as we’re here, we might as well check that angle. What parameters should we use?”
“Let’s look for unsolved rapes in Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and Colorado. We’ll look for cases were no weapon was used; the vic was beaten unconscious but survived; and the panties were taken.”
Tina spent a few hours searching data bases. Finally, they had a list of fifteen names. Jason cross checked the names against the list of names from Register Cliff. Ten names matched. There was no match for Molli R. or Cate S. They now had the full names of most of the women listed on Register Cliff. The full names were Penelope Saint, Kristen Jones, Sandy Cameron, Beth Alton, Jill Stone, Angelina Littlefield, Carmine Evans, Zoe Atkins, and Mary Damon. Tina suggested that perhaps the two unmatched names might be rapes that weren't reported.
It was getting late so they called it a night and planned to return tomorrow. They decided to pick up a picked up a pizza on the way and not eat out. Jason and Tina hardly spoke a word on the way to her apartment. Once there, Tina made margaritas again. Jason joined her in the kitchen.
Tina stopped making the drinks and put her arms around Jason’s neck. “Reading about rapes all day kills the mood, huh?”
Jason smiled. “I was worried that you wouldn’t be interested. How do you do it? You have to work with this stuff every day.”
“You have to learn not to let it get to you. You can’t bring it home. I just do my job and try not to think about the people involved. But if you don’t feel like it, we can just sleep. We don’t have to make love.”
“Are you kidding? If you’re okay, I’m okay.”
Tina handed Jason his drink and led him by the hand to her bedroom. Later they reheated the cold pizza and ate it.