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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Mystery stories
- Subject: Crime story
- Published: 01/07/2020
According to the information package which accompanied his dossier on Elias Abuelazam, the flight time from the Louisville F.B.I office to the Criminal Evidence Central Storage Unit in Montgomery Alabama was just under an hour, then there was the thirty minute drive to the airport. Peter Freeman’s supervisor, special agent Daryl Hastings, had explained it was customary for new recruits fresh from the Quantico Academy to do the ‘shitty work’ for a while until they could prove their commitment to the job, ahead of being sent on ‘real’ cases. Before setting out in detail what he wanted regarding Abulelazam from the C.E.C.S.U during their morning briefing in his office the day previous. Meanwhile taking the time to fervently voice his opinion that he should think himself lucky he was flying and not having to drive the 455 miles.
‘’You kids get it far too easy now a days’’ he moaned. ‘’the bureaus budget back in the 80’s when I was your age didn’t run to no fancy traveling frills. No sir, any place under a thousand miles was deemed accessible by good old Henry Ford. Sure you might have got a bit of butt rot riding in them hard Fairmont seats, but that was part of the job, the adventure of it all, son’.
Peter hated being called son, or boy, it reminded him too much of his drunken abusive Father.
‘’why we practically lived in those cars when we were on stake outs’’ Hasting groaned on, and in some aspect he was much like his old man. What was it with those guys from that Starsky and Hutch era Peter, began to wonder. They were all so god damned clichéd like they had to be some Dirty Harry passé movie character that worked and played hard. Fine, if you look like Clint Eastwood, but George Freeman, the lowly mail man who was the pillar of society at church every Sunday but beat on his wife Monday through Saturday behind closed doors, not so much.
Mind you, Hasting was no Eastwood either, when he thought about it, just a pot bellied gray haired bully who sweated profusely and stank of stale smoke from his regulation blue suit. He didn’t know much about him but he figured divorced for sure and probably living alone in some rank apartment drowning his sorrows every night with cheap bourbon. While ranting on how the ‘firm’ had ruined his life. Then coming into work each day with a chip on his shoulder before taking his rage out on any one who may have looked at him the wrong way. yeah he was just like his pitiful dad.
He remembered the early terror of infancy, which soon turned to hate as he got older, and his despairing feelings of inadequacy when he couldn’t protect his Mother on those nights his Father rained punches down upon her. Raw emotions which twisted to guilt as he realized later in life she only stayed because of him, yet in a way all that had gone before had led him to this point.
‘’Are you listening Freeman!?’ Hasting snapped. ’Pay attention! The Michigan media have already dubbed this piece of trash the ‘’Flint Serial Slasher’’. Personally, if it was up to me I wouldn’t give him two minutes of T.V coverage, but I guess murder sells papers and it’s what the average American likes to watch on the news over their bowl of cheerios every morning. This ass hole is already a convicted murderer but we suspect he’s also responsible for a string of eighteen stabbings, five of which resulted in death. Most of the alleged attacks occurred in Genesee County, Michigan in and around Flint, hence the reason for the illustrious moniker he’s now acquired. Abuelazam is six five and of Arab-Israeli decent, he’s a two hundred and fifty pound racially motivated hate machine so we need to make sure he stays in jail, for good. After his trial for the killing of Arnold Minor, in August of 2010, a year ago we sent all his files and the evidence associated with his conviction to the C.E.C.S.U.. We now think some of that evidence may hold several clues and maybe proof he’s guilty of these other five deaths. So I need you to go see Moses.’
‘Are you deaf as well as brainless Freeman, or maybe you’d like to go back to your daydreaming?’
‘No sir, it’s just I-‘
Suddenly the penny drops that Peter is just a rookie and only in the department a few months and clearly wouldn’t have known about Moses.
‘Oh yeah I forgot you weren’t around when Arnold Minor was murdered. Better get you up to speed then I guess. Minor was a 49 year old African American and the final fatality in a string of stabbings in Flint. Police officer Todd Pilsbury was the last person to talk with Mr. Minor after he found him laying in his own blood on the North bound lane of Saginaw Street. Pilsbury could see two deep knife wounds to his stomach and chest and it was clear he was in deep distress, saying he was dying and needed help. The officer, realizing Mr. Minor hadn’t long to live, asked did he know who stabbed him?
All he could say was the man was white. In fact it was Minor's DNA that actually convicted Abuelazam. When the police arrested him on the other assault charges and suspected stabbings they found Mr. Minors blood on his shoes, jeans, tee shirt and on the steering wheel of his Chevy Blazer. Michigan State Police DNA analysis expert Kristin Schelling testified that the major contributor to those spots matched DNA types from reference samples taken from Minor. Specifically, for the blood found in that Blazer, its unlikely it belonged to anyone else. After the court case the Flint police sent Abuelazam’s clothes to the storage unit in Montgomery. Moses is the cataloger there so you need to go and bring back all the data I’ve listed, do you understand?’
Hastings went on to explain how Moses Jackson was considered a bit on the eccentric side, suggesting he could rhyme off every piece of evidence ever stored in his facility over the thirty years he’d been in charge of the unit just by case numbers. He knew on which shelf every box pertaining to said case was stored along with each cabinet the associated files for that particular trial where kept in. He was a ‘’god damned human computer’’, Hastings had declared before throwing him a postscript request when he’d finished his exuberant description that he ‘’hoped he too wouldn’t vanish on the way back’’. In fact, the story he told next was just a tad disconcerting to Peter to say the least and, as Hastings pointed out, the sole reason why agents no longer drove long distance to the unit anymore.
‘His name was Cory Banks, young fella, still wet behind the ears out of Quantico, looked much like you,’ he began. ‘We’d just closed a long and tiresome investigation which thankfully ended with a conviction on serial rapist, Jeffery Marsalis, who had terrorized women in the city of Philadelphia. Marsalis had drugged the women by spiking their drinks while they where both out on a date. For years, through a score of accusations, multiple arrests and two criminal trials, Jeffrey Marsalis had stayed one step ahead of a rape conviction. Twenty-one women in the Philadelphia area had accused him in incidents occurring between 2001 and 2005. Ten of those cases were prosecuted, in two separate trials. Both times -- in January 2006 and June 2007 -- Marsalis, a former emergency medical technician who masqueraded as a trauma surgeon, and sometimes as an astronaut, was found not guilty of rape, though he was convicted in the second trial on two lesser charges of sexual assault. Then, in April 2009, Marsalis, 35, faced rape charges again, this time in Sun Valley, Idaho, where his family had long owned property.
A young woman, "Jody," had accused him of raping her in his apartment after the two went out drinking one night in October 2005. Jody had to wait more than three years for Marsalis' Philadelphia trials to wrap up before she would have her day in court. Several factors set the Idaho case apart from previous attempts to prosecute Marsalis. Jody had gone directly to a hospital and to police the day after the crime, as previous accusers had not. The prosecution was able to call a crucial witness. Perhaps most damning of all was Marsalis' rambling, self-contradicting statement to Sun Valley police following his arrest. The night she went out with Marsalis, Jody said, she had found strange granular matter in the bottom of a shot he bought for her. She passed out with strange suddenness, she said, and woke up in Marsalis' apartment knowing that she had had sex and that her clothes had been rearranged on her body. And according to Jody, who was 21 at the time of the incident, the sex could not have been consensual, because she is a lesbian. Anyway I won’t go into the finer details of the court case, as I said we got a conviction. However a month after the trial I sent young Banks to the unit with all the bagged and boxed up forensic evidence, related files and audio tapes, the whole caboodle you might say in the trunk of his car. He was under strict instructions to drive to Montgomery, drop everything off with Moses’ and head back. I never saw that boy again. We know he arrived okay, because we have the signed visitor’s registrar showing the date and time he was there and when he left. Moses confirmed the delivery and when asked had he any idea where he might have gone could only speculate ‘’maybe he’d got lost, took a wrong turn or had a bad car accident on one of the back roads.’’- Well we searched all the roads into and out of Montgomery; we even flew over the area in a helicopter. Nothing was found, not Cory nor his car, not a trace of anything. I know he talked about looking into some cold cases of missing men there and was going to ask Moses for his help. Lord knows what’s happened to him.’
Even now, thinking about what Hastings had told him sent a shiver down his spine. Peter remembered how in one of his classes at the academy his instructor had spent an hour one afternoon going over a particular gruesome account of an agent’s kidnapping, torture and subsequent murder by a un-sub he had been staking out. His grisly depiction of the agent’s death, including images, was used to shock the new recruits into understanding how dangerous the job could be. Accepting this today would be their time to reflect on whether or not they wanted to continue, the instructor had offered them as a choice. If he was being honest, Peter did think about giving up for a brief moment but then he remembered why he was there.
Peter began to notice Louisville airport was now starting to fill up around him, when he’d arrived for his eight thirty flight after seven there were less than a hundred people sitting or buzzing around the few café’s and news stands open. Now it was vibrant and alive with business men and women in smart suits and stylish corporate uniforms, some pulling small cases on wheels behind them and others carrying briefcases much like his own. A few are talking on their cell phones as they hurry by, one or two every now and then amble along looking lost, or maybe they are searching for their boarding gate, who knows? From where he’s sitting a family is boisterously having breakfast trying to make them selves heard over the pulse of voices captured within the aerodrome. They look happy and at ease with each other but Peter feels a pang of jealousy as he watches them laugh. Why couldn’t it have been that way for him, he thinks. Why couldn’t his childhood have been as normal as everyone else. They say like Father like son, but he isn’t like his father and he isn’t going to be a murderer.
From the over head sound system a man with a very polite Louisville drawl lets him know his flight to Montgomery is now ready to board and all passengers should make their way to gate 14c. Peter puts away his dossier and slides the information pack into his coat pocket, he thinks for a moment about drinking the remains of his cold cappuccino he’d bought earlier but decides it probably isn’t a good idea. He hates using plane toilets. The only thing he needs to have ready as he gets up to go is his ticket which is firmly clenched between his teeth. Then, like a pro-footballer dodging the opposition’s defense for a touchdown, he heads through the oncoming crowds and hopes when he gets to Montgomery his hire car is waiting.
It would have been his Mothers birthday next week had she still been alive, Peter thinks as he passes by a small store with bright red inflated balloons in its window. Not that his Father allowed any such celebrations. He doesn’t remember ever getting a card or gifts on his. There were never any Halloween dress-ups or trick or treating, no friends to ask round for thanks giving, because, ‘’what was there to be thankful for?’’ his drunken father would rant. ‘’A dead end job, a wife who hates me, and a kid I never wanted.’’ his rage would seethe for hours before slowly erupting into frustrated violence and a torrent of foul words aimed at his poor mother. It was on those nights when he lay awake, after his Father had fallen into a drunken sleep, listening to his Mother crying, did he wish his father would die. Was that a sin? Should a child so desire his Fathers death? Did god punish him for this by taking her? This quest to understand why one human being kills another had been the driving force behind his reasons to join the F.B.I – and where better to learn these skills. too late to save his Mother, but there are always others.
‘Welcome aboard sir’ a beautiful auburn haired lady greets him with a bright smile as she stands in the doorway of the aircraft; she’s wearing a navy blue skirt and a white blouse. Tied around her neck is a red kerchief and the name tag on her left breast pocket reads head stewardess Candice Taylor. Peter smiles back and shows her his ticket which she glances at. ‘5c sir, window seat just on the left, and thank you for flying delta airlines’ she says though her unfaltering beam and Peter likes it when she calls him sir.
When he thinks about it, as he ambles down the isle, this will be only his third time ever flying, the first two being from his Uncle and Aunts home, and Quantico. After his Mothers death and the subsequent arrest of his Father it was the decision of the courts that he should go and live with his uncle Ben and his aunt Emily. Ben was his Mothers younger brother and a police officer in charming Bardstown. A place well known for being the first stop on the ‘Kentucky Bourbon Trail’’ and both had welcomed him with open arms. Emily was especially warm towards him when she found out how his Mother had kept the beatings and abuse secret. She cried a lot in the beginning and was blaming herself for not seeing what was going on. Ben did a good job on consoling her though; pointing out, how could she have known. Even he, he said, a seasoned police officer who dealt with domestic abuse cases all the time, never thought for a moment anything was amiss. So how could she? This seemed to placate her somewhat and in a while she accepted there was nothing she could have done. ‘’Mother was very good at hiding her bruises’’ He’d reassured her.
As the thoughts of his past start to bubble, images of that day begin to rise to the surface as Peter takes his seat; flashbacks in sepia puncture his mind in erratic replays like some out of focus homemade film. He tries to distract himself by looking out of the window, concentrating hard on men below who are loading suitcases into the planes hold. But he is unable to stem the tide of his most unwanted memory flooding in. It was a Tuesday; he knows that because in the summer the ice cream man always came on a Tuesday. He sees himself walking home from school; it’s the last day before recess. He’s happy yet afraid, glad he’ll be with his Mother; Father sometimes didn’t beat her so much if he was around. Yet frightened his anger might spill over onto him. He hears the music of the ice cream man on his street; he begins to run with excitement, he must get home quickly before he leaves. Mother always buys him a snow cone if he asks. He races to his door and bursts in throwing his school bag down in the hall. ‘’Mother, Mother, mother’’ he shouts running to the kitchen ‘’the ice cream man is here.’’ he slams open the door, confused as to why she hasn’t answered him. He can smell the odor of whiskey before he sees his father standing over the bloodied body of his Mother lying on the floor, a large kitchen knife drips red in his hand and his eyes are wide and terrifying. He bears his tobacco stained teeth and grins like a hideous circus clown. ‘Look what you made me do’ he sneers, then lunges forward. At that moment Peter jolts awake with a muted scream just as he feels a hand grasp his shoulder.
‘Are you ok sir?’ the auburn haired stewardess is asking. ‘You need to fasten your seatbelt, we are preparing to land’. Peter smiles awkwardly and clicks his belt tight as the captain begins describing the September weather outside as a warm 85 degrees with a light south wind and finishes with thanking everyone again for flying delta airlines.
Peter checks his watch briefly, fifty minutes has indeed gone by. Barring any problems with his hire car he’s confident he’ll make his arrival with Moses around ten. The plane lands with a bump and he feels the sensation of deceleration in his body as it pushes him back into his seat. Within minutes it has taxied to a halt. Peter unbuckles and gets up; his head now feels light and a slight wave of nausea comes over him. He desperately doesn’t want to be sick, especially not in front of the beautiful stewardess, so he bustles by the waiting aisle passengers who are less than amused by his clumsy antics. A few mutter under their breath how bad mannered they think he is, but Peter needs fresh air quickly. When the door opens, sunlight and oxygen flood the cabin, Peter takes a deep breath. His sickliness begins to fade a little as the air fills his lung. Next to him a large man in a gray suit slaps him on the back and grins. ‘Don’t worry son,’ he says, ‘Flying is still the safest way to travel.’ Peter hates it when anyone calls him son.
It isn’t long before he reaches the arrivals area and he stops briefly to admire the large photograph on the wall of the Edmund Pettus Bridge which spans the Alabama River near Selma. A construction of steel through arch crossing named after a confederate brigadier, it carries U.S route 80, a course he’s required to take on his way to the unit. For a fleeting moment he remembers the story Hastings told him about Cory Banks before he left and wonders what he was thinking when he too went over the very same bridge. He walks on with that thought still lingering and out into the main terminal. Like Louisville, it’s busy with people. There is a steady hum of voices like waves crashing on a beach. He looks up at the rotunda domed ceiling that simulates sunrises, sunsets and stars at night. All around him the walls are made of white iron and glass that let in the morning sun. From his pocket he takes out a piece of folded paper, puts down his briefcase and unravels it. Written on it is the name of the car hire company he needs to find, Alamo Rental, and below is a short reference number. Hastings had told him if he heads to Montgomery Mugs, which houses the only gift shop in the airport, then he’d find Alamo Rental right next door. After a few moments of wandering around he stumbles upon a small kiosk where a young man near his own age dressed in a white short sleeved shirt and blue tie is talking on the phone. Above his head is a small cardboard banner with Alamo Rentals in bold white letters on a blue back ground. It would seem the young man is having a very animated conversation. Peter smiles at him and waits until he’s finished.
‘Now sir, how can I help you?’ he eventually asks putting down the phone.
Peter hands him the piece of paper with the reference number and the young man keys it into his computer. ‘Mr. Freeman?’ he says without looking. ‘Mr. Peter Freeman, or should I say special agent Freeman,’ he smiles leaning forward. ‘Working on a big case sir, here in Montgomery maybe?’
‘I can’t say’ Peter replies dryly.
‘Top secret then’ the young man grins. ‘Of course it is, now lets see’ he says returning to his screen. ‘The only two cars available are a black Mercury Milan or a sky blue Chevrolet Malibu.’
‘’I’ll take the Mercury.’
‘Good choice sir’ the young man says, and Peter watches in awe as his fingers float over his keyboard like a Mexican wave. He opens a drawer below the counter. ‘Here are your keys, the gas tank is full and the car is parked in lot F28’ he says flashing his bright white teeth. ‘Now you drive carefully and welcome to Montgomery.’
Peter takes them and heads out. The warm sun bathes his face and he can feel the light southern wind the captain talked about on his arms, the air is fresh and his earlier wave of nausea seems to have faded.
The car lot isn’t overly large for an international airport and it’s not long before Peter finds the Mercury. He gets in and sets his briefcase on the passenger seat; the interior smells of pinewood and wildflowers, an aroma that reminds him of his mother’s spring cleaning. He keys the engine and it starts first time with a guttural roar then settles into a cat like purr. Sliding the stick shift into first gear Peter lets out the clutch and pulls away, rolling down the window as he goes.
It’s a straight road from the airport along US80 which will take him first to Lowndesbroo then on to Benton, before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma. The C.E.C.S.U is located in what was once the town’s main shopping mall, now owned solely by the F.B.I., it can be found behind the Animal Hospital on Morgan Avenue. As he drives along Peters thoughts drift towards his meeting with Moses. If it were true what Hastings said about him being able rhyme off every piece of evidence ever stored in his facility. And if he knows on which shelf every box pertaining to said case was stored along with each cabinet the associated documentation for that particular trial where kept. Would it be improbable to think he had the files on his own Mother's murder? Would Moses, if he asked, let him see those records? Could they shine more light on why his Father did what he did? No one had ever given him an explanation and he has never seen his Father since the court case to ask him, why?
Forty minutes later Peter is pulling into the Units car lot cruising slowly looking out at the rundown building with its white painted walls now peeling back to the brick in patches which look like cancerous scabs. All the windows are tinted black and wooden shutters seal off the empty exterior stores once vibrant with shoppers. The building reminds him of the Sphinx at Giza, a tomb worn away by time and weather, with macabre secrets concealed within its belly. A cloud covers the sun as Peter gets out of the car turning the morning into a gray canvas. Making the warm southern breeze change into a northern chill, it’s as if evil itself knows he’s arrived. Goose flesh rises on his arms as he walks to the entrance and under his feet the crunch of gravel echo’s off the seemingly desolate building. It seems to move as he approaches almost meta-morphing into a hideous shadowy beast. To his right of the aluminum doors are a cluster of small intercom devices. Only one has a name on it. Moses Jackson. Peter leans towards the speaker and pushes the button.
‘Hi there, its Peter Freeman from the F.B.I.,’ he says, ‘I’m here to collect the Elias Abuelazam evidence, special agent Daryl Hastings sent me.’ he listens for a reply, but there’s none. Perhaps the device isn’t working he thinks. Or worse maybe Hastings forgot to tell Moses he was coming. Then just as he’s about to leave there’s a buzzing noise from behind followed by a distinctive click. One of the doors has opened slightly. Peter pulls it the rest of the way; it makes a creaking noise as it grinds on its rusty hinges, going just far enough back to let him get through. ‘Helluva place to keep important files’ he says as he emerges into a vacant ramshackle foyer. Dust motes dance and swirl around in the splinters of light seeping through the open door.
‘Hello is anyone there?’ his voice echoes hauntingly. Slowly his eyes are becoming accustomed to the low light and when he begins to survey his surroundings he sees a group of dilapidated tables and chairs lying askew outside a cafe where people long ago would meet for coffee, breakfast or lunch. Now there was nothing, no color or life to them, just cobwebs and dust, and he imagines he hears the eerie voices of past patrons. He begins to look around, just ahead are two motionless escalators, and to his right a row of neglected store fronts, some still bearing the grime covered signs of its long gone owners. He reads, Pennys, The Sharper Image, Toys R Us, Limited Too and Gap Kids. There’s Radio Shack with its distinctive green front, Sam Goody, and more, it was if he had stepped back in time to the 90's.
A lonely pigeon swoops down from the roof, startling him. Frightened, it tries to fly out of an unopened window but only manages to crash against the pane with a sickening thump before returning to its hideaway high up within the ceiling. Peter’s eyes follow a few of its feathers sashaying slowly downwards, almost hypnotizing. Just as they land the two escalators growl into life like some awaking dinosaur and lights flicker on, bathing the mall in a warm white glow. At the same time music begins to play from numerous wall speakers, eerily filling the silence. It’s as if the building has begun to breathe again. He hears footsteps, and then a figure appears at the top of the downward moving metal escalator.
It’s a small man as far as he can make out, five six or five seven in height maybe, no more though.
‘Is that you Mr. Jackson?’
‘Why don’t you come up special agent.‘
Peter walks towards the moving stairs and steps on. When he reaches the top he’s greeted by a dumpy balding black man dressed in khaki chinos, a white shirt and navy blue tie, his glasses are hanging round his neck on a thick gold chain. He notices a wooden walking cane in his right hand and the slightly awkward way he's leaning. ‘Hastings informed me you were coming’ he says smiling. ‘How was your flight?’
‘Yeah, good’ Peter lies, figuring there’s little point in telling him about the bad dream he had on the plane. Perhaps though, if the opportunity arises, maybe he’ll ask him those questions he’s been thinking about.
‘This is some place, Mr. Jackson, not at all what I was expecting’
‘Its funny how life works, its circumstances which brought me here, agent freeman, certain situations over the years which took place guided me in this direction. I have a feeling you too might understand what I mean. In 1975 Montgomery City borrowed money from the government to build this place; they wanted to move with the times, modernize they said. Their arrangement was mutually beneficial they agreed, on paper that was, but regrettably not in real life. The understanding was the city wouldn’t have to pay back a penny for five years. Then after that time, at the end of each economic quarter, the money was due which resulted in costing them three times what was borrowed. Now you would think any normal city would have put aside a percentage of any profits made on the rental proceeds of each store to meet these payments. No, Mr. Freeman, that isn’t what happened, will you walk with me? My offices are just along here, and call me Moses.’
‘Yes sir, I mean Mr. Moses sir’ Peter replied nervously.
Both men began to amble along a wide mezzanine floor area of dust covered marble tiles, gated store fronts and a steel and glass balustrade which circled around the center cutaway to protect shoppers from falling to the level below. The steady click-clack of Moses walking cane echoing as they went.
‘Now where was I? Oh yes, instead of saving as they should have, they spent it on frivolities such as meaningless business trips to Europe and Asia. They squandered the money on ill advised investments, built monuments to themselves which the pigeons now just shit on. But still they thought mañana, mañana, tomorrow, there’s always tomorrow. Then, in 1980 until 1982, the economy suffered a double whammy of two recessions. There was one during the first six months of 1980. The second lasted 16 months, from July 1981 to November 1982. The Fed caused this recession by raising interest rates to lower inflation. That reduced business spending. The Iranian oil embargo aggravated economic conditions by reducing U.S. oil supplies, which drove up prices. GDP was negative for six of the twelve quarters. Unemployment rose to 10.8% in November and December 1982, the highest level in any modern recession. It was above 10% for ten months. President Regan lowered the tax rate and boosted the defense budget, helping to end the recession. But it was too late, the damage was done, a lot of the stores had already closed and those that survived the recession weren’t enough to carry this place. the city defaulted on its loan so it was shut down and put up for sale.
For two years there were no buyers, and then the F.B.I made an offer, they saw the potential of its vast storage space in the vacant stores. Each of them could be sectioned off to accommodate the growing mountain of criminal evidence. All of it could be housed in one central unit for the whole of the United States. Before that the criminal division was in a defunct police prescient in downtown Montgomery. Which they’ve since demolished, I might add. Charlton La’Truic ran it back then, had done since 1958. He was, let’s just say, a controversial man for that era. Now a day they call it gay and no one cares two hoots, but in the sixties being a homosexual man was precarious enough but worse in law enforcement. However mostly he kept himself to himself, except when he’d been drinking. He was of French Cajun origin, least that’s what he told me when I first met him. I was just a young green horn like you when I joined the unit, and Charlton took me under his wing and taught me how to catalog. He became my mentor until-‘
Moses stops at a small green painted store front and begins rummaging in his trouser pocket.
‘This is where I live’ he says taking out a key. He slides it into an almost invisible lock in a steel door and turns it.
‘You live, here?’ Peter says astonished.
Moses shrugs his shoulders and gives him a dry smile ‘I won’t tell if you don’t’ he says opening the access. ‘besides I saves a lot on rent, and where’s the harm in it?’
‘They might argue you have contaminated evidence’ Peter says. ‘what if they found out, all those cases stored here may possibly become negated, doubts could be raised on DNA samples, for instance. Hairs found at crime scenes no longer viable, tainted clothing now useless, incriminating bloodstains spoiled, criminals could be set free.’
‘Funny that’s what the last guy said’ Moses says looking somewhat perplexed.
‘Who?’ Peter asks puzzled.
‘That young fellar, the one who was here before, Cory something or other…I cant remember’
‘Cory Banks?’ Peter offers.
‘Oh yeah,’ Moses says with a frown. ‘Such a shame what happened, I kinda liked him too, poor kid. But I told him, I don’t keep any of the files or evidence in my living quarters, you can see that cant you?’
Peter looks around, in one corner is an old army cot neatly covered in a gray blanket and in another a battered brown leather couch. There’s also a table with two chairs similar in looks to the abandoned café he’d seen as he came in. The store come room is lit by two fluorescent lights and a small television ruminates silently on a makeshift stand. An assortment of books litters the floor and the air smells of old tobacco smoke and stale liquor.
‘How about some coffee’ Moses smiles. ‘You know I’ve got some real notorious murderers on file here along with their convicting evidence, court transcripts and audio tapes, some from before you where born. Legendary you might say. Villains like Ted Bundy, and the Night Stalker, you’ve heard of them haven’t you?’
Peter nods and takes a cup of steaming coffee Moses is now handing to him, he sips it and it tastes a little bit sweet but he’s glad of the caffeine hit, hoping it will perk him up after his drive.
‘Bundy was regarded as handsome and charismatic, traits he may have exploited to win the trust of victims and society. He would typically approach his victims in public places, feigning injury or disability, or impersonating an authority figure, before overpowering, raping and killing them in secluded locations. He sometimes revisited his secondary crime scenes for further sexual gratification. He decapitated at least 12 victims and kept some of the severed heads as mementos in his apartment. On a few occasions, he broke into dwellings at night and bludgeoned his victims as they slept. Before his execution in 1989 he confessed to 30 homicides between 1974 and 1978 carried out across seven states; however the true number of his victims is unknown, possibly higher.
The night stalker, aka Richard Ramirez, or Ricardo Leyva Muñoz Ramírez, to give him his full title, was an American serial killer, rapist and burglar. His highly publicized home invasion crime spree terrorized the residents of the greater Los Angeles area and later the people of San Francisco region from June 1984 until August 1985. Prior to his capture Ramirez was dubbed ‘The Night Stalker’ by the news Media. He used a wide variety of weapons including hand guns, knives, a tire iron, machete, and a hammer. He was convicted of thirteen counts of murder and died on California’s death row, while awaiting execution, of complications from B-cell lymphoma.’
‘Well well, Mr. Freeman, I’m impressed, you certainly know your killers, but what about those who never hit the headlines?’
‘Lets see’ Moses takes a seat at the table. ‘How about Randy Kraft’
Peter ponders for a moment over the question and then takes another sip of his sweet coffee. ‘Born March 19, 1945, Kraft was an American serial killer also known as the Score Card Killer, The Southern California Strangler, and the Freeway Killer, who murdered a minimum of 16 young men between 1972 and 1983. It is also believed he committed the rape and murder of up to 50 other young men. He was convicted in May 1989 and is currently incarcerated on death row at San Quentin state prison. Kraft became known as the "Scorecard Killer", because upon his arrest investigators discovered a coded list containing cryptic references to his victims.’
Moses begins to clap his hands softly and slowly, ‘Amazing agent Freeman.’ he says in a low voice. ‘It would seem you have a very good memory when it comes to criminals. I too like to read about those who have a dark side; I’ve spent many lonely hours here exploring their murderous minds, how they felt when they killed, why they did it, their rationality behind their crimes. Their modus-operandi if you like, each ones distinct pattern. Yet, if you look into the life of any violent individual, you are likely to see a past darkened by extreme moments of terror and suffering.’
‘Not every trauma creates a killer, but most killers are created from trauma,’ Peter says, and tries to lift his coffee cup, but his fingers are numb and refuse to move. He grabs at it uncontrollably and it falls to the floor, crashing into pieces.
‘I agree’ Moses says rising from his chair. ‘And you are the very exemplar of such a case. Don’t be alarmed but you will start to feel a little strange.’
‘You put something in my coffee didn’t you?’ Peter says glancing down to the spill of deep brown liquid now seeping into the cracks of the tiled floor. He tries to speak again, to ask Moses why he was doing this, but his tongue is also semi frozen like his fingers. All feelings in his legs and arms are disappearing; his body is slowly slumping into the chair. He can hear and see, but nothing else. Moses has grabbed him under his arms and is dragging him with difficulty over to the cot where he place’s him on his back.
‘While there can be a genetic predisposition to violence, agent Freeman, I believe genes always interact with the environment. Whereas our experiences don’t change our genes, they heavily influence how our genes are expressed. In other words, you can have the genetic profile of a killer without ever hurting a fly. What makes the difference is often trauma. Take you, for instance, you too could have been a serial killer; you see I know all about your father. You think he only killed your Mother don’t you, you seen him do it, didn’t you. But I have read all his files. Your Father not only murdered her, but twelve other women as well. You experienced the trauma of being there when it happened, yet you chose instead to channel your disturbing ordeal into good, therefore breaking the cycle. Your Father was a mail man; his job was to drive all over the state of Kentucky delivering packages. For ten years he got away with raping and murdering innocent women who lived on their own. He never left clues, any hairs, clothes fibers, fingerprints or DNA. The only reason he was caught was his last victim didn’t die. She survived getting her throat cut. Yet despite her horrific wounds she was able to phone the police, giving them a full description. They put his likeness all over the news and your Momma recognized him, she was pleading with him to give himself up just as you were coming home from school. They fought; he grabbed a knife - that’s where you came in. But the irony of it was that at the same time your mother was fending off your father, your Uncle Ben had also seen the bulletin on TV. Sadly he was only minutes away from getting to her on time. When he got there and burst through the door George Freeman was standing over you with his knife raised, your uncle shouted at him to stop, to drop his blade and back away. Instead he drew it higher as if to strike. That’s when your Uncle Ben shot him in the arm. I know you don’t remember much about it, but it’s OK, because sometimes that’s the way the mind deals with trauma. Now you know.’
Peter can only manage a grunt of shock on what he’s hearing and a childlike whimper as his bladder empties itself.
‘Oh dear, I’m afraid that always happens’ Moses says, and kicks some old newspapers under the cot.
‘I, on the other hand, wasn’t as strong as you, Peter. I was twenty two when I first came to the unit, young and eager, hoping to impress my new mentor, Charlton La’Truic. Although I was already aware of his sexuality, having been briefed beforehand by Earl D James, who was the mayor at the time, I didn’t let it bother me. I figured as long as he left me alone in that way we would get along just fine. For the first four years he taught me everything he knew about cataloging. He educated me in the ways of categorizing evidence, tagging and labeling meticulously. I learned about classification, grouping and how to organize facts and record data. I became really good at what I was doing. More and more, as time went by, every division was asking for me personally because they didn’t have to wait days for the results like they did before. However, unbeknownst to me, Charlton was harboring a slow burning contempt at my popularity; I guess in his eyes the student had now surpassed the tutor. It all came to a head one wet afternoon the day before we were due to close for the Christmas holidays. Charlton had gone for a boozy lunch with Ted Swanson, the Montgomery chief of police. Rumors were rife he too may have swung in the same direction, if you know what I mean, although nothing was ever proven and Swanson was seen as a god fearing family man. Except there’s an old saying, ‘’rumors are like ripples in a corn field, they are ephemeral, but they do indicate the way the wind is blowing’’ – any way, Charlton came back to the unit around four and it was quite obvious by his demeanor he was looking to pick a fight, he was drunk of course. I could smell the whiskey from his clothes and he was having trouble balancing on his two inch platform shoes he liked to wear. I was busy cataloging a recent delivery of forensic items regarding a very sensitive murder case which was currently high profile. Charlton deliberately began distracting me by looking over my shoulder. When I told him I was trying to concentrate and emphasized the importance of the categorization he called me an ‘’Uppity ungrateful little nigger.’’ I let the first insult slide and tried to ignore him. But he wouldn’t let it go; and kept on using the ‘N’ word.
I finally told him he was a sad washed up faggot. I guess he didn’t care for that much, because he grabbed a pair of scissors from the counter, which we used to cut pieces of clothing evidence that may have blood spatter on them. I quickly rose from my seat and backed away as he moved towards me pointing the scissors. I said, don’t be stupid, with my hands outstretched in defense, but he wouldn’t listen. Put them down Charlton, I pleaded. But on he came, all the while shouting he was going to kill me. My heart was pounding in my chest so loudly I thought I was going to faint. Then he suddenly lunged, his eyes were wide and full of rage. I guess I just instinctively stepped to the side, I don’t remember, but those cumbersome shoes he was wearing made him unsteady, he toppled, falling between me and my chair.
For a moment he just laid there groaning. don’t move, I’ll call 911, I said. But he got up. It was then I saw the scissors sticking out of his chest. I thought surely he would calm down and I could get the paramedics. I was stunned when he pulled them out and began thrashing. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to wrestle them from him. I was so traumatized with what was happening, and he just kept approaching with his face contorted into a portrait of hate. Without thinking, I plunged the scissors into his left eye. There was a sickening squelching sound as they went in all the way up to the handle. Blood immediately began to stream out like a burst water main, some hitting me in the face and eyes. Mommentarily blinded, I was frightened he might try and strangle me. So I began stabbing at him again and again. Seven times I counted before he finally dropped to the floor.
I looked on dumbstruck while he twitched and writhed in his own blood, and then at the scissors in my hand. Droplets thick and red fell to the ground and in those moments, when Charlton La’Truic was taking his final breaths, I can honestly tell you I never felt so alive. All of my senses were heightened; I felt indestructible, like some sort of super human. Could this be the high murderers experience when they kill some one, I thought. if so, then I could understand why they did it. All those years of cataloging not once had I ever thought as to why they did it again and again? I assumed they were just sick minded callous sob’s, but they weren’t. Like any junky, all they craved for was another hit. Charlton was my first taste, my initiation if you like, into the fraternity of death. However it wasn’t long before reality came around and kicked me up the ass, what to do next? In hindsight I probably should have called the police and told them he’d attacked me and it was just self defense. But then I looked at all the holes in his body, how could I explain so many? And what if Charlton really was the secret lover of the head of the police? I wouldn’t stand a chance in the courtroom.
So I dragged him down to the basement and buried him in some soft ground behind the furnace. After that, I went back upstairs and cleaned up the crime scene. Everything I’d learned as a result of cataloging began to come clear in my head; it was if I instinctively knew how to make sure no trace evidence would remain. So I worked through the night, checking and double checking I had missed nothing.
It was the New Year before anyone asked for Charlton. It was none other than Ted Swanson who first called, surprise, surprise. I told him he’d talked about going to New Orleans for the holidays. Unfortunately he didn’t leave an address or phone number before he left, I explained. Then I waited. I thought they’d go looking for him when he never came back, but they didn’t, and then January came to an end and other than the odd call from the mayor asking, had Charlton been in touch, nothing happened. Pretty soon the unit was back to business as usual, minus Charlton, and at the end of February I was offered his job. Regretfully, I’d like to say the rest is history, but I can’t. You see, Peter, I got away with murder. Do you know what that feels like? The Native Americans believed if you killed your enemy in battle his spirit merged with yours, increasing your power. That’s how I felt, and I wanted more. I thought about how I might achieve this for quite some time, months in fact. I couldn’t just go and kill some random person off the street, that would be stupid, I’d get caught. No, I needed to be in control. It was while I was cataloging a case of a young hitch hiker who was raped then strangled, I come up with the idea. I phoned a friend of mine who was an agent working for the F.B.I. at the time. Like you, he wasn’t long out of Quantico; He’s your supervisor now, I believe. I asked him in a round about way as to what percentage of missing person’s cases are solved. He told me that, while most are found, in any given year there’s over forty thousand people unaccounted for in America. His answer intrigued me, perhaps if I found a victim like the young hitch hiker I could bring them to the unit. They would become just another missing person, just one more statistic. For years I fed my demons this way. Finding them was easy, in my spare time I cruised along route 80, mostly I picked them up near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, heading for town, or leaving, it didn’t matter. Never women though, that was one rule I always stuck by. I did the same old coffee trick as I did with you, once they were inside my car; I always carried a flask, it’s much easier if they're subdued you see- if they didn’t drink it willingly, I let them go. Once they were submissive I’d bring them back to the unit and relive Charlton’s murder, savoring the high until the next time. As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before it got a little crowded behind the furnace, so for a while I had to stop. Time went by, then one day I got a letter informing me the Unit was being relocated to here.
You can visualize the shock on my face when this happened? It would be only a matter of time, I was certain, until they discovered the bodies. Yet what could I do? What plausible explanation could I possibly give? None of course. A month after I got the correspondence, two large black mini vans showed up toting four well built police officers dressed from head to toe in black fatigues. The oldest looking one took charge and quickly began instructing the others on how everything should be moved. It wasn’t long before almost every file; every box of evidence and every cataloging piece of equipment was loaded up and transferred. I helped move the more sensitive stuff; like body parts, that kind of thing. It was nearing the final moving day when the question I’d been dreading was asked. ‘’What’s behind this door?’’ the older one said twisting its handle as we passed by the basement. ‘Nothing down there but the buildings heater’ I nervously said. ‘’Have you got a key?’’ he asked. I lied of course and told him I hadn’t seen it since the furnace was last repaired which was quite a few years before. Then I held my breath in case he decided to put his shoulder to it. Bust it down. He shrugged. ‘’I guess they’re gonna bulldoze this place anyhow’’ he said, and walked away. The building lay empty for a year after that and then the city flattened the site turning it into a car lot, covering over the bodies with bitumen and tarmac. I couldn’t believe my luck; once again I’d gotten away scot free with murder. So with my confidence boosted I went back to cruising along the highway.
It wasn’t long before I was able to carry on where I’d left off. Soon I began to revel in the irony of it all. Virtually every law enforcement you can think of, from the F.B.I, the state police, to the county sheriff, were all investigating these missing men and they were sending me their god damn reports to file. I was the most prolific serial killer America has ever seen and I had access to every piece of information, what a f**king paradox. I was here killing, right under their noses, and where better for a murderer to hide but in plain sight.
I bet you're wondering, Peter, why I’m telling you all this, and why I drugged your coffee. When you have been doing this for as long as I have you get a feeling when something just isn’t right. It happened with the last agent who came here. And I got that same sense with you. He began asking too many questions, told me he was working on some cold cases of missing men last seen on the highway near the bridge in his spare time. Apparently he wanted to impress his supervisor, none other than Hastings, would you believe, and could I help him. You can see the irony in that, can't you. They never found his car, of course, because its still here, they never looked in the underground car lot. That’s where they all are, the bodies. I think you figured this out; you’re a smart guy, Peter, top of your class at the academy. Oh yes, I know all about you, it is my job after all’.
Moses leans down and opens Peters coat, removing his firearm from its holder. He slides back the cocking mechanism and takes off the safety. He points it at his head. ‘I made a mistake with Cory Banks. That’s the thing about serial killers and rapists, eventually they all slip up. But I won’t make the same mistake with you’.
Moses squeezes the trigger and expects a hole to open up in Peters head, but all he hears is a dud click. He tries again and again, frantically pulling at the gun as Peter slowly rises from the cot. Shaking in terror as Peter awkwardly grabs a pair of scissors from the table. His eyes widen with fear as Peter plunges them into his chest before slumping to the floor.
‘I said I would never be a murderer like my father’ Peter croaks, as he watches Moses' life ebb away. ‘But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t kill if I had to. I never put bullets in my gun. I hate violence, and by the way, you talked too much. You just couldn’t help yourself in telling me every sordid detail. That was your mistake. And just so as you know, before you die, I wasn’t here for you, I had no clue about your past’.
As the light of day slowly fades Peter begins to gain more movement. After a while he’s able to sit upright and take his cell phone from his pocket. His hands are shaking and his eyes can barely focus but he manages to key in a number with his bloody finger. He puts it to his ear and listens to it ringing. Then he makes his way uneasily down to the underground car lot. Before him, as he looks around in horror, are at least fifty dust covered cars, each one in various stages of deterioration. Behind every wheel are the mummified skeletal remains of a person coldly staring out of the filthy wind shields, their faces frozen in a perpetual scream.
‘Get me special agent Hasting, please’ he says when someone answers. ‘I’ve got a serious situation here, sir,’ he starts to explain when Hastings comes on the line. ‘And I think I might know where Cory Banks is.’
The End. 9380 words. October 31st to December 22nd 2019