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.
Jane Wickham, FBI Agent
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Jane's cellphone rang, and she answered it. After a minute she put her phone back in her pocket. “They need me inside. You can't come in. Thanks for your help.” She handed the thumb drive back to Sean and closed her laptop. Sean hiked back to his office as Jane returned to the station.
An agent was standing in the doorway to Cruse's office. “You have got to see this,” he said to Jane. He pointed to Cruse's desk. The bottom left hand draw was opened and empty. “I've seen this before. It's a false bottom.”
“How do you know?”
“Look at the bottom of the other drawers.”
Jane opened a couple of the drawers. “The others have bottoms stained to match the desk. That one is just plain plywood, unfinished.”
“Affirmative. It's cut to fit. Under it are a couple of strips of wood so that there's a secret compartment about one inch deep. See that string? That's a dead giveaway. That's how you open the compartment. Go ahead, pull the string.”
Jane looked in the drawer and saw a white string in the drawer. Jane lifted the string and the false bottom opened up with it. “Voilà!”
Underneath the false bottom was an evidence bag with an envelope inside.
“Did you touch it?” asked Jane.
“Don't. I'll take it from here. Good job.”
When Naomi arrived at the station, she was surprised to see an FBI van in the parking lot. Outside the entrance, officer Dunley told her that the FBI were inside. Art met her inside the front door.
“Naomi, you're not going to believe this. The FBI is here going through Jeri's office.”
Naomi didn't respond. She marched straight into Cruse's office, now hers. Sure enough, two men and a female agent were going through files and Cruse's desk. “I'm Naomi Marini, the acting chief. Mind telling me what you're doing in my office?”
All the agents stopped working and looked up. The female agent strode over to Naomi and pulled out her ID. “Hello, Naomi. Senior Agent Jane Wickham, FBI out of the Cheyenne office. We're investigating Jeri Cruse. He's a suspect in several rapes across state borders. This was his office, correct?”
“Well, yeah. It was until yesterday. You're aware that he was killed yesterday?”
“Yes, of course. Now if you'll please step out of the office, we'll try to not interfere with your normal operations.” Jane held up the evidence bag found in Cruse's desk.
“Son of a bitch,” said Art. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Hard to tell,” answered Jane. “I see a small envelope inside the bag. I'm guessing it's the missing evidence.”
“Let me see,” said Naomi. She looked at the evidence bag without touching it. “Yes, it looks like the pubic hairs that the ME found on Littlefield's body.”
“How do you know?” asked Jane.
“The crime lab sent it back. The last time I saw it, it was in the evidence locker.”
“Well, we need to take it to the crime lab,” said Jane.
“Would you like me to have one of my officers run it down to Cheyenne?”
Jane looked Naomi in the eyes. “No offense... Chief, but your department is being investigated for losing evidence. No way will you, or any of your staff, touch any of this evidence. I'll take it myself after lunch with all the evidence we find so far.”
“Suit yourself.” Naomi spun on her heels and marched out.
Art followed her to the break room. “What are you going to do?”
“Nothing I can do.”
While they were talking Natalie entered. “There you guys are. We got an e-mail from the State AG, Bryan Freeman. He requested the presence of the two of you in Denver for a press conference at one tomorrow.” Natalie poured herself a cup of coffee and left.
“That's a three and a half hour drive,” said Art. “It's official business so we can take a patrol car. Want to drive down together tomorrow morning?”
“You go ahead. If I'm going to a press conference, I need to have my hair and nails done. I'll drive there tonight in my own car. Maybe go shopping while I'm there. I'd like to see Jason too.”
Art laughed. “Funny, my first thought was that the chief wouldn't approve taking a patrol car. I forgot for an instant that you're now the chief. I still can't believe that he's dead.”
“Yeah, it's hard to believe. I'll make the new schedules before I go and meet you in Denver.”
Jane called the crime lab to tell them she had the missing evidence and she would drive it there herself. She arrived just before closing time. When crime lab director told Dyanna and Tina, they volunteered to stay late and process the evidence. Tina and Dyanna inventoried the evidence together, documented each one and logged it in. Dyanna held up an evidence bag.
Tina jumped up. “OMG. Is it the missing hairs? I thought they were destroyed.”
“Guess not. Do you want the honors or should I?”
Tina smiled. “Let’s do it together. We could split hairs.”
Dyanna opened the bag. “Funny.”
The two women started testing the hairs. Dyanna checked the hairs to determine gender. After checking one hair, Dyanna said, “Tina, we have a problem here. The hairs aren’t male. They’re female pubic hairs.”
“Angelina’s?” asked Tina.
“We’ll have to check the DNA.”
Tina ran the DNA tests. Once they had the results, they checked it against Angelina’s DNA; no match.
Tina thought for a moment. “What other female came in contact with Angelina?”
Both Tina and Dyanna answered at the same time, “Officer Marini!”
“Do we have her DNA?” asked Dyanna.
“Yes. I checked a few weeks ago.” Tina checked Naomi’s DNA against the DNA from the pubic hairs while Dyanna watched over her shoulder. “OMG. It’s a match. Officer Marini raped Angelina.”
“Is it possibly a transfer?” asked Tina.
“Pubic hairs? She would have to have her pants down.”
While Dyanna finished up, Tina tried to call Jason. He didn’t answer.
Even though it was late, Dyanna and Tina called the crime lab director at home. He had left instructions to call him once the DNA tests were done. He, in turn, immediately called agent Wickham. She was still in Cheyenne.
Jane Wickham didn't know who to trust in Torrington to arrest Naomi. She was also afraid that if she broadcast an APB on Naomi, she would find out about it from a fellow officer. She decided to take a chance and drive the ninety miles to Torrington to make the arrest herself that night. She called her team and told them to assemble. The team drove up in a van. Once the FBI arrived in Torrington, they drove straight to Officer Marini's house and surrounded it. It was just starting to get light. Marini's car was gone. Of course, she was long gone too. She had more than a two hours head start. Jane told her team to search the house for clues. While the team searched the house, Jane phoned in the BOLO on Marini from the van. When she was returning to the house, one of her agents stopped her. The agent led Jane to the rear of the house. In the back yard was a burn barrel. The inside looked as if there had been a recent fire.
“Want to bet those are the missing panties?” asked Jane as she looked inside the barrel. “Wait. Here's something that didn't completely burn.” Jane put on a pair of latex gloves. She reached in and removed a burnt object. “This looks like a dildo.” Jane looked back inside the barrel and removed partially burned straps and a couple of small buckles. “This is what's left of the harness. Marini used this to rape all the women.”
“Should we dump it and bag everything?” asked the agent.
“No. Let's take the whole barrel as is to the lab. Maybe we'll find prints.”
After a couple of hours, the FBI completed their search of Naomi's house. Jane called her team together in the kitchen. “Okay, let's go over what we know.”
“Evidence suggests Marini is a serial rapist.” said one agent.
A second agent added, “She's on the run with her car. We found what we believe is the dildo she used and what's left of the panties she kept as trophies. She might be fleeing to Canada.”
“Do we have any physical evidence that links her to the rapes besides the two pubic hairs found in Cruse's desk?” asked Jane. Her question was met with silence. “That's what I thought. Maybe the crime lab can finds clues in the burn barrel or on the dildo. Meanwhile, we need to find Marini.”
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