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.
Staff of the Torrington Star-Gazette
Monday, June 29, 2015
Early Monday morning, Tina dropped Jason off at the airport so he could catch the shuttle van back to Torrington. When he entered the newspaper office, Sean was standing in the doorway of his office. “So how did you make out with your informant from the crime lab?”
Jason froze. How did Sean find out.
Sean laughed. “Jeez, Jason. Do you play poker? You’re bright red. You're just supposed to interview her, not sleep with her.”
Mary and Zac started laughing. “Did you get some pussy?” asked Zac.
“Shut your mouth, Zac,” yelled Mary as she marched over and smacked him on the back of his head.
Jason didn’t answer but strode straight into Sean’s office, sat down and updated him. When he was done, he said, “Bottom line--we need to get those pubic hairs tested for DNA. I do believe it’ll clear Paulo.”
“You’re right. Good work.” Sean reached for his cell phone and dialed Chief Cruse’s number. “Hey, Jeri. We're just discussing the Littlefield case. You know that the pubic hairs found on Angelina Littlefield were never tested for DNA. We should get them tested. You know, to close any possible loop holes.”
Sean listened for a minute and then said, “Okay, thanks.”
“What’d say?” asked Jason.
“He said that it’s up to the defense lawyer. His hands are tied.”
“Do you believe him?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he’s right. Let’s talk to Paulo’s lawyer.”
“He said he didn’t want the hairs tested.”
Sean dialed up Paulo’s lawyer and after talking with him he hung up. “You were right. He says he doesn’t want to test the pubic hairs because if Paulo changes his plea and if the pubic hairs turn out to be his, he could end up on death row.”
“That’s crazy. It could clear Paulo.”
“I know. It just confirms what I thought about Paulo's lawyer – he's an idiot.”
Jason and Jason sat in silence for a few moments. Finally, Jason asked, “Now what?”
Sean sat up straight. “Zac, get in here. Mary, you too. Staff meeting. Now.”
Sean waited until everyone was in his office. “We need to talk strategy.” He turned to Jason. “We need a public outcry. I want you to write a story accusing the police of bungling the case. Zac, we’re going to accuse the police of injustice in the Paulo case. Can you use social media to create a stir that will embarrass the DA in Cheyenne?”
Zac smiled. “Can I? You bet. I’ll work with Jason and we’ll publish a story that will cause a public outcry like the Arab Spring.” Zac held up his hands and spread them as if reading a headline. “Torrington police inept. Innocent man jailed for murder.”
Sean pumped his fist. “Okay. Jason, write the story ASAP. Zac, show me what you’re going to send. I want everything to go public tomorrow morning.”
Jason stood up. “Wait. Wait. Are you serious? This is a big step. We need to discuss this further.”
Sean smiled and leaned back in his chair. “Okay, let’s discuss it.”
Jason sat back down. “We need to consider the ramifications of accusing the PD. If we’re wrong, we could be sued. We could also be charged with fraud or obstruction of justice.”
“What?” said Mary. “I’m not going to jail, not even for you.”
Sean smiled. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
“What are we trying to accomplish?” asked Jason.
Sean leaned forward. “We want the PD to get those pubic hairs tested for DNA.”
“Then it may not be necessary to accuse the PD of anything,” said Jason. Maybe we can get a court order. Maybe we can talk to the Attorney General.”
Sean shook his head. “That’ll take too long. Meanwhile, an innocent man sits in prison. Besides, we already know the answer.”
Mary spoke up again. “Dad, you’ve always reported the news objectively without taking sides. This is different. It’s one thing to report the news, but it's entirely different to use the newspaper to incite the pubic to pressure a government agency to do something. It’s not right.”
Sean stood up. “Those are all good points. The TPD may be totally innocent at the very least or they may be abusing their power. On the other hand, there may be a cover up. We’ll put it to a vote. How many of you sincerely believe that Paulo is guilty as charged?”
No one raised their hand.
Sean clapped his hands once. “Okay then. In the name of justice, let’s do this. Jason, you write the story. Try to keep from directly accusing the PD of any crimes if you can. Zac, you work your magic on the internet and social media. Mary, you keep the coffee coming and man the phones.”
Zac was excited. “We need something like the ice bucket challenge. We need to grab people’s attention.”
“Like what?” asked Mary and Sean.
“How about we show someone in an electric chair with the caption, Save an innocent life,” answered Zac.
Sean frowned. “Paulo’s not on death row.”
“No one uses the electric chair anymore…I don’t think,” added Mary.
“Okay, okay,” said Zac. “Let me think of something. What do we want people to do?”
“What do you suggest?” asked Sean. “You’re the expert.”
Zac thought for a minute. “We need a call to action with a lot of action buttons. People should share with their network or re-tweet the message. We’ll have a petition to the AG for them to sign. I can set up an action button to send e-mails to whomever.”
“Start with the Attorney General,” said Sean. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll try the governor.
Jason came up with several ideas and ran them pass the group. They agreed to use a picture of Paulo and super impose handcuffs and leg chains on it. Zac wasn’t too happy about it but it was the best he could do on short notice. It didn’t take Jason long to write the story. Sean approved immediately. Jason worked with Zac to make various versions for different social media. They decided to post something on Twitter, Linked In, Instagram, Pinerest, Tumblr and Google+. Sean approved everything that Zac and Jason put together except for minor changes. He added the Star-Gazette logo to everything and a statement that the Star alone was responsible for their content.
While Sean was reviewing the posts, Jason printed the list of rapes. “Then there’s this.” Jason handed Sean the list. “Tina and I along with another CI did a some research and came up with a list of rapes with similar MOs. We should check them. It’s possible that there is a serial rapist.”
Sean read the list. “I remember a few of these cases. You said the names are on Register Cliff?”
“Yeah. Here's the odd part; once a yesr flowers show up at the base of the list. What type of sicko commenerates rapes?”
Sean thought for a moment. “He's not commenerating his rapes, he's commenerating the fact thast he hasn't been caught.” Sean sighed. “The TPD didn’t even consider a sewrisl rapist. More and more they seem like the Keystone Cops.”
“Who?” asked Zac.
“Never mind,” said Mary. “I’ll explain later.”
“Jason, you're not getting side tracked are you?” asked Sean. “We started trying to prove that Paulo is innocent. Now you're searching for a serial rapist.”
“I'm certain that a serial rapist killed Angie. If I can prove that then it proves that Paulo's innocent.”
“And what if you find this serial rapist and discover that he didn't rape and kill Angelina? What then?”
“Then at the very least we have exposed a serial rapist.”
“Okay,” said Sean. Sean looked over the list again. “What's with Molli R. and Cate S?
“We couldn't find a match. Tina thinks maybe they weren't reported.”
“Check them. See what you can find.”