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
When Sean arrived at the office, Zac and Mary were huddled around Zac's computer screen. Mary waved for Sean to come over. She stepped to one side to make room for him behind Zac who was seated. The video of Cruse's attack on Jason was playing. Zac stopped it and started over.
Zac paused the video and turned to Sean. “Boss, I received about one hundred e-mails about this since we posted this video. I don't know how I missed it. Listen to this.” Zac fast forwarded to a spot and paused again. “It's hard to hear but you can make it out. Listen.” Zac clicked on the play button.
The video started. Cruse was talking to Jason outside his car. “Big mistake. But we didn't plan on killing her.”
Zac got excited. “Did you hear it?”
Sean was stunned. “Holy crap! He said 'we'. Did I hear right? He said 'we', not 'I'. He said 'we'.”
“What does that mean?” asked Zac.
Sean straightened up. “That means that Cruse had a partner.”
“But who?” asked Mary.
Sean thought for a moment. “Could be anyone. Someone in the TPD maybe.”
“Who?” asked Zac.
“Did he have any close friends besides you?” asked Mary.
“I don't know,” answered Sean. “Not that I know of. Art and Naomi were closest to him.” Sean shook his head. “We keep digging. It's not over.”
“Nat called earlier,” said Mary. “The FBI are there going through Jeri's stuff.”
“Put this on a thumb drive for me,” Sean said to Zac. “I want to show it to the FBI.” It took Zac less than a minute to save that portion of the video on a thumb drive and give it to Sean. Sean hiked down to the TPD station and found officer Dunley blocking the entrance.
“Sorry, sir,” said Dunley. “The FBI says no one can go inside.”
“Okay, officer Dunley, please tell whomever is in charge I have vital information on the Littlefield murder case and Chief Cruse suicide..
“Yes, sir.” Dunley used his cellphone to call Nat inside.
In a couple of minutes, a thin woman in a business suit stepped out of the station and marched up to Sean. “Mr. Tyler, a pleasure to meet you at last,” said the woman as she extended her hand. “I'm Agent Jane Wickham with the FBI. I'm the team leader on this investigation.”
“Have we met?” asked Sean.
“No. Natalie told me who you are, and I read all the articles in your paper. I wanted to meet you. You have information for me?”
“Yes ma'am.” Sean held up the thumb drive. “On this.”
Jane looked at Dunley. My laptop is in our van. Follow me.”
Jane led Sean to a black van in the parking lot with a FBI logo on the door. She indicated that Sean should get in on the passenger side. Once inside she opened a laptop. “I don't trust anyone in the TPD. Let's look at that thumb drive.” She booted up her laptop and plugged in the thumb drive. Together with Sean, she watched the video.
“Right there. Listen,” said Sean.
Jane turned up the volume.
“Did you hear it? He said 'we'.”
Jane didn't reply but played the video over two more times. “Damn. I saw the video over at least a dozen times and I missed this.”
Sean smiled. “We did too at first, but we got over a hundred e-mail from viewers who caught it.”
“Unbelievable. J. Q. Public solves another crime. That means that Cruse had a partner. Any idea who that might be?”
“No. Is everyone in the TPD accounted for?”
“So far. The day shift is trickling in now. But this fits. It answers a few questions.”
“What do you mean?”
Jane turned toward Sean and looked him in the eyes. “I'm going to share with you some information, but you can't publicize it yet. I'm doing this only because you and your reporter, Jason Franco, exposed Cruse. You have to promise not to tell anyone until we make an arrest and you can never say where you got the info or use my name. Deal?”
Sean stuck out his hand. “Deal.” They shook hands.
Jane placed both her hands on the steering wheel. “First, we searched Cruse's car this morning. He had a suitcase packed and ready to go. We inventoried all the contents. A route was on the dashboard GPS from Torrington all the way to Mexico. He had a fake passport, ID and pesos – a lot of pesos. We also found a small hammer and chisel. I'm guessing we'll find it's the chisel used on Register Cliff.”
Sean held his chin for a moment. “But none of that proves that he's the murder or rapist.”
“We also found a paper map on which the location of each rape was circled. We crossed checked it and they match. That also doesn't prove anything. The copyright on the map was last year so it was recently purchased.”
“But you said this video fits. What did you mean by that?”
“Affirmative. Cruse had two suits and three dress pants packed but no socks. Why didn't he pack socks? Then there was no belts, no toiletries, no shaving gear and no toothbrush, nada.”
“That is odd. Cruse was a meticulous planner. That's not like him.”
“Affirmative. It doesn't fit his profile.”
“You think he wasn't planning on leaving?”
“Correct. The suitcase was just to throw us off track. Everything in the suitcase pointed toward Mexico. On the video, he said he was going to Canada. He didn’t know he was being recorded. I think that was the truth. He was planning to kill Mr. Franco so he spoke the candidly. He was planning to commit a homicide/suicide to cover for his partner.”
“That would make sense. He slipped up when he said 'we'.”
“That's not all. Think about it. All the rapes and the Littlefield murder were committed at night; fewer witnesses that way. But he killed Paulo and tried to kill Jason in broad daylight. Highway 85 is a busy road. People saw his car. Three calls were made to 911 about Jason's car going off the road. It's as if he wanted to be caught.” Jane paused for a minute then turned toward Sean. “What do you know about officers Marini and Boyd?”
“No much. They've been on the force for a while. Both of them grew up in Torrington.”
“Doesn't strike you as odd that you were the first to arrive on the scene before any of the TPD patrols? Then Boyd and Marini show up in separate cars at the same time. That can't be a coincidence.”
“I don't know.”
“What we didn't find is more important that what we did find.”
“You mean the missing evidence. I suppose that's long gone.”
“That too, but I was referring to the trophies; the panties.”
“Maybe he destroyed them.”
“Psychos don't do that, usually.”
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