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grn_bt.jpg (687 bytes) April 5, 1995 - Wednesday

It was a little past two in the morning when Ryan started to drift off to sleep. He was slouched in the uncomfortable burgundy couch in Geoffrey Thomas's hospital room. His thought were finally starting to morph into dreams. Every now and then, the security guard posted outside the room poked his head through the door to make sure everything was kosher. He was sitting in his own seat flipping through a copy of the latest NRA magazine, occasionally looking from one end of the hall to the other for suspicious looking characters. When he last looked into the room, he saw Ryan drifting off to sleep. He figured it was just as well, the kid looked exhausted.

Ryan jerked awake suddenly, not wanting to fall asleep. His drooping eyelids beckoned him to Sandman land, but his bladder had other ideas. Ryan didn't want to leave the room for even a minute. That would be the minute the killer would use to his advantage. He suddenly remembered there was a urinal right here in the room.

"You still out there?" Ryan called to the guard.

"Yeah, I thought you were asleep."

"I was, I have to use the bathroom."

"I'm not going anywhere. Help yourself." He said. Ryan sat up and stretched his stiff legs. He did his business, fighting off drowsiness the whole time. Ryan figured a Coke or Pepsi might help. Caffeine, that was the key. He walked outside the door.

"Is there a soda machine around here?" He asked the guard.

"I think there's one at the other end of the hall in the doctors lounge." He offered.

"Do you need anything?" Ryan asked.

"No, I'm okay."

"I'll only be a sec."

"I'm not going anywhere kid." The guard declared. Ryan started for the other end of the hall looking back when he turned the corner. In doing so, he collided with an orderly of some kind, knocking both of them to the floor. The orderly quickly scampered to his feet, grabbed his bag, and continued down the hall.

Ryan thought he looked familiar. "Hey." He called out. The orderly stopped, but did not turn around. "Do I know you? You look familiar."

"No, I don't think so." He grumbled under his breath, turning his head slightly to look at Ryan out the corner of his eye. To Ryan, he did look familiar.

"What's your name?" Ryan asked inquisitively.

"Jake." The orderly grunted. "I have to go. I have things to do." He disappeared down the other end of the hall. Ryan shook the whole thing off and continued for the lounge.

The mysterious orderly stopped at the other end of the hall and watched Ryan disappear into the doctor's lounge, smirking the whole time.

Ryan stopped in front of the Coca-Cola machine and dug for coins in his pocket. He pulled out three quarters and plopped them into the machine, suddenly noticing the smears on his fingers. It was comparable to that tan colored foundation women use on their face.

The orderly stopped at a courtesy phone in front of the elevators and used it to call someone.

Ryan wiped the smears off on his pants, stopping to sniff his fingers. It smelled like the stuff Tiffany used to put on her face when she dolled herself up. He pushed the button on the soda machine for a Mr. Pibb and watched the soda cluck to the outlet on the bottom of the machine, noticing another smear on his shirt.

The security guard, Bryson, was reading an article on game hunting in Montana. It was demonstrating the use of a new scope available for .22 rifles. He thought that it was not as informative as other articles had been in the past. He flipped back to the beginning of the article to see who the writer was. The name there was Barry Kolhepp.

"Jesus, no wonder." Bryson muttered to himself. Barry was not a writer in Bryson's opinion. He was an overpaid punk who mooched off the NRA to try out new toys and report about them.

"Officer?" A nurse whispered walking up to him. "You have a phone call from a detective Perri. He says he needs to speak with you urgently." Bryson looked towards the nurses station at the other end of the hall. He then looked the other way to see if the kid was coming back yet. The hall was empty.

"Christ." He muttered to himself and followed the nurse down to the station.

"When I placed him on hold," The nurse began. "He asked me to tell you he was going to another office and that if he was not on the line to hold, and he would be right back."

"Okay." Bryson said blankly.

 

The orderly walked back down the hall he had run into Ryan at. He was not there. He quickly turned the corner and approached Geoffrey’s room, watching Bryson and the nurse disappearing into the nurses station. He stopped in front of Geoffrey’s room and looked cautiously down both ends of the hallway. He was alone with Ryan's father.

 

Ryan smeared a sample of the smear off his shirt and sniffed it. It was the same stuff on his fingers. "What the hell is this?" He asked himself walking over to a mirror above the sink. He did not see any other smears. He did see himself looking like complete shit however. His eyes were dark and sunken with black circles underneath. He opened the soda and took a swig. The sugary taste was sweet and refreshing. He thought then he should get back to his father.

 

Bryson picked up the phone and listened. "Detective Perri?" He asked. There was no one there. Silence. He looked at the pretty nurse and winked. She smiled and continued with some form of paperwork at the desk. He looked out of the station and down the hall. It was empty.

 

The orderly peeked out of Geoffrey’s room with urgency. There was nobody around. He walked out into the hall and headed towards the nurses station. The nurse didn't look up when he walked by the station. Bryson's back was turned. The orderly smiled and disappeared completely out of view.

 

Ryan turned the corner of the hallway and walked back towards his fathers room. He didn't see the guard sitting in front of the room. A mild panic set in as he ran for Geoffrey’s room.

 

Alarms in the nurses station went off as if a bank had been robbed. The nurse looked at the monitors on her display to see who's heart had stopped. It was Geoffrey Thomas's. "Oh shit!" She swore. Bryson looked around to see her scampering out of her seat.

"What is it?" He asked.

"Geoffrey Thomas's heart stopped." She exclaimed. Other nurses and a doctor appeared from various doors in response to the alarm. The head nurse looked over at another nurse and screamed for her to get Dr. Spears. Bryson threw down the phone and ran out into the hall to see the kid standing in front of the door to Geoffrey’s room in complete surprise. The hoopla caught Ryan's attention.

"What the hell is going on here?" Ryan asked. "And where the hell we you?" Bryson didn't answer as a flood of personal flocked into Geoffrey’s room. Ryan squeezed his way in as they began performing CPR on his father. "DAD!" Ryan screamed. A male nurse pulled Ryan out of the room.

"You can't be in here right now." He said disappearing into the crowd of people encircling Geoffrey’s bed. Someone pulled the curtain around the front so no one could see in. Bryson had run to the other end of the hall to look for someone out of the ordinary.

"Where the hell are you going?" Ryan bellowed.

Bryson hurried back and trotted to the other end of the hall, looking around attentively. "Did you see anyone around here?" he asked.

"No, just an orderly on his way to the elevators." He answered harshly. "Where the hell were you?"

"Detective Perri called the nurses station. I had to take the call. No one was on the phone." He answered running his fingers through his hair. "I should call him now. I might have been set up."

"No shit?" Ryan asked sarcastically, trying to look into his fathers room. He could not get in and it pissed him off. His heart was racing wildly. He thought his father might die, and this scared him. Someone walked out of the room. "What's happening?" Ryan asked.

The man looked sick, green around the gills. "Where's Officer Crumb?"

"Who?"

"The security guard who was watching you pop. Where is he?"

"Calling Detective Perri, why?"

"We may have some problems here."

"Is my dad alive?" Ryan asked frightened.

"I don't know. Dr. Spears is in there now." He said. "I think somebody got to him."

"WHAT? That's impossible."

"There was a card." The man said. Ryan didn't hear the rest. His head started to swim and he became dizzy. He was going to faint. The man caught Ryan and sat him in the chair outside the room. Ryan heard something about putting his head between his legs as he was forced to lean over. Bryson hurried back to the scene. "Did you call the police?" The man asked.

"Yeah, they'll be here shortly." Bryson said. "What happened?"

"I think someone got in here." The man said. "There was one of those cards on his chest. Like the one's the serial killer is using. Did you notify hospital security?"

"Yeah, no one in or out." Bryson said.

Ryan sat up, head clearer. "I think I saw him." he said.

"What?" Bryson asked. "Where?"

"The orderly, going to the elevators. He was in a hurry and rather rude. I recognized him from somewhere. I can't place his face or name."

"An orderly?" The male nurse asked. "What did he look like?"

"He was about my height, six-one. Blonde hair, dirty blond, back in a ponytail I think." Ryan said trying to remember.

"Was he white or black?" The male nurse asked.

"White."

"He's not an orderly with this hospital." The male nurse said. "There are only two orderlies on tonight, and both of them are black."

"Maybe he wasn't an orderly." Bryson suggested. "He could have been a nurse, or a doctor."

"No." Ryan interrupted. "He was too young to be a doctor, he looked to be in his twenties, probably later twenties."

"We don't have a doctor THAT young." The male nurse offered. "And I'm the only male nurse on tonight."

"I'll call the description into security." Bryson said. "He's not getting out of this hospital." He disappeared down the hall into the nurses station. People were coming out of the room slowly now. This was not a good sign. Dr. Spears stuck his head out of the door as if he were looking for somebody. He saw Ryan in the chair and stepped out of the room.

"Mr. Thomas." he began apologetically. Ryan knew then. His dad was dead. "I need to speak with you in private please."

"He's dead, isn't he." Ryan said blankly.

"I'm sorry Mr. Thomas, we did everything we could." Spears said. Ryan felt his body go cold.

"I want to see him."

"I'm afraid I can't let you in the room just yet." Spears informed. "There is evidence that suggests that there was foul play involved."

"Where's the card?"

"I'm sorry?"

"The card that was found on his chest."

"It's still inside." Spears replied. Ryan stood up to go into the room but Spears stuck his arm out to prevent entry. "I can't let you go in Mr. Thomas. It's a crime scene now."

"Scarecrow on the forehead too, right?" Ryan asked. "Probably branded, or tattooed." Spears looked at him curiously. Ryan continued, "I was here and I couldn't stop it. In the one fucking minute I went to get a soda, the killer was in and out. Right underneath my nose! Goddammit!" Ryan looked at Spears with much anger. "You know doctor, the same son of a bitch who did this was the same fuck who put ME in here a couple days ago."

"I appreciate you anger and frustration Mr. Thomas." Spears offered. "But this is a hospital and I would request that you conduct yourself as such." He stopped realizing that Ryan was as much a victim as his father was. "I'm sorry Mr. Thomas. I didn't mean to add insult to injury. I understand your situation. If you allow me to accompany you, I'll let you in for a few minutes. But you mustn’t touch a thing!" Spears lowered his arm and allowed Ryan entry. They walked behind the curtain blocking Geoffrey off from the rest of the room. Ryan was able to maintain composure when he saw his father spread out on the bed. The crow singed onto his forehead and the next clue on his chest. It was another manila business card with the cold black words printed neatly across the middle.

 

FELIX'S ROOMMATE

 

"How did it happen?" Ryan asked in a whisper, eyes shut.

"An air bubble to the heart." Spears said. "Death was instant. There was very little pain, if any at all." He pointed at the IV machine. The line from the bag to the machine was cut. The machine had pumped air into Geoffrey Thomas's body. If it had not been his father as the victim, Ryan would have the thought the whole murder was neat and efficient. The thought did not consciously cross his mind.

"Okay, I've seen enough." Ryan uttered, leaving the room. Spears followed.

 

The mysterious orderly walked into the main lobby of the hospital. It was closed and quiet. With the exception of two security guards looming around the front door. He stopped, expecting this complication. The window of opportunity was small, but not un reachable. He doubled back to a restroom next to the personnel office. This part of the hospital was closed off for the night.

In the bathroom, he looked into the mirror and pulled the wig off his head, revealing his own true hair. It was bunched up in a net. The bag was placed on the counter and opened up. Inside was another wig. The blonde wig was placed inside and the black wig was removed. He fit the wig on top of his head so it blended in perfectly. He reached into the bag and brought out a leather stamp. It was a small steel rod about six inches long with the emblem of the crow on the end. He put the stamp in his pocket and brought out a sling from the bag, fitting it around his neck and arm. The bag was zipped back up. He carried the bag to another room where there was a cart labeled 'for incineration'. The black bag was wrapped in a bright yellow trash bag like thing, used for storing product to be incinerated. It was tossed in the cart.

He walked across the hospital building feigning a limp, eventually arriving in the emergency room. The security guard there disregarded him as he did not have blond hair.

He looked at one of the three receptionist and asked. "I'm done, can I go now?" The receptionist looked at the security guard who shrugged his shoulders.

"I suppose so. Did you sign your release form?"

"Yes."

"Okay."

He nodded at the guard who nodded back and walked out the emergency room entrance. He reached into his pocket and tossed another piece of photo fragment onto the ground of the foyer, between the two automatic sliding doors that separated the emergency room and the loading bay for the ambulance.

The receptionist did not remember admitting a man with black hair for a broken arm. She looked at her co-worker next to her to inquire about it. She was busy with a patient. It was a busy night.

Eventually, she forgot about the man amidst her duties.

'Jake the Orderly' was only a half a mile away from the hospital when a car with two women in it stopped at the side of the road where he was standing, waiting.

"Hey." She called out flirtatiously. "Whatcha doing?"

"Waiting." He replied in a voice not his own. It was very nasal to disguise his own true voice.

"For what?" She asked, her companion eyeing him up.

"My ride." He answered, lying.

"Where'ya going?"

"Ohio." He replied.

She laughed. "I'm not going that far honey. Your on your own."

"I know." He said smiling, watching them drive off out of Westminster.

 

 

Perri and Miller had been asleep when the call came that Geoffrey Thomas had been murdered in the hospital. Bryson had been humiliated unto himself for letting the killer sneak by. Perri had confirmed the fact that he did not place a call to the hospital that morning, distracting Bryson from his post.

A patient waiting in the emergency room had gone outside to smoke. In the course of that trip, she discovered the photo fragment in the foyer area. She picked it up and looked at it. It appeared to be a top corner of a picture that showed the side of a woman's face and upper torso. It didn't mean a thing to her. However, as it was common knowledge that security had been beefed up due to some complications with a particular patient, she gave the photo fragment to the security guard in the emergency room. He took the fragment and radioed upstairs that he had it. Miller had gone to emergency to retrieve it, knowing it was probably part of the picture that the other fragment was from.

Ryan had called Alan at his house detailing the situation, asking him if he could stay with him for the remainder of the night (morning). Alan had readily agreed and said he was on his way.

Perri on the other hand had questions for Ryan about the mysterious orderly that only he had seen.

"I told you once already Detective." Ryan explained. "He LOOKED familiar, I didn't say that I knew him. I can't place his face. He might be somebody I worked with, or a student at the college."

"Did it look like Stewart Boswell?" Perri inquired.

Ryan thought about it. "Maybe, I don't know. I only got a glimpse. But it was enough."

"You said he spoke to you. What did he say? Did you recognize the voice?" Perri asked.

"I asked him if I knew him and he said 'no'. I asked him his name and he said it was Jake. Although I doubt that is his real name. He then said he had things to do and he was busy and then he took off towards the elevators."

"And that's it?"

"Well, after I bumped into him in the hallway and had our brief conversation, I went into the lounge to get a soda. I noticed a kind of make up foundation type thing on my fingers. It was a light tan, real light. There was some on my shirt too." Ryan said showing Perri the smear on his shirt. The head nurse who had taken the fake call from Perri at the nurse's station was standing nearby. She overheard the inquisition about the make up. She stepped over to look at Ryan's shirt.

"That's foundation." She interjected.

Perri looked at her. "Are you sure?"

"Pretty much. I use it to make my skin look darker than it really is." She explained. "Mostly on my face though. It's a woman thing."

Perri: "I see."

Ryan knew what Perri was thinking, and asked him about it. "Your thinking our killer was using foundation to make himself look darker than he really was, aren't you?"

"The thought crossed my mind." Perri admitted.

"Stewart was pretty pale you know." Ryan said.

"I know."

Miller turned the corner of the main hallway and came strutting down with the photo fragment in a plastic bag. "Bad news." He said. "The woman who found this and the security guard in emergency were handling this. I don't think were going to get a print."

"Probably not, but have it printed anyway." Perri responded.

Miller looked down at Ryan, who was still sitting in the chair outside his father's room. "I'm truly sorry about your father Mr. Thomas." He said. Ryan was taken aback by Miller's sympathy, which seemed authentic enough.

"Thank you Detective Miller." Ryan said looking down at the floor. He knew if his father was involved with scarecrow, then Miller must have known him at some point. In Ryan's mind, it still didn't clear Miller of the murders. Miller could have very easily hired somebody to do his dirty work. But for now, the sympathy was appreciated. Even if it was fake to cover his tracks.

Miller turned his attention to Perri. "I think it's pretty safe to say that the killer has left the building somehow. The security guard downstairs has been letting patients go in and out of the building since the watch began. He might have disguised himself as a patient to get out."

"Did we question him and the receptionists about it?" Perri asked.

"Not yet."

"Go ahead and take care of that then." Perri instructed. "It's going to be safe to assume our killer has somehow changed his appearance again. I want to hear about anything out of the ordinary down there. I don't care how trivial."

"You got it." Miller said leaving the intensive care wing again. He passed Alan in the hall who was approaching Ryan. At the same time, Geoffrey Thomas's body was being wheeled out of the room on a stretcher, covered completely by a pink sheet. Ryan watched duly as his father was rolled away, not comprehending that the man who helped give birth to him and raised him was underneath the plain pink sheet. Alan stood next to Ryan and watched also.

"Jesus Ryan. I don't even know what to say." Alan stumbled. "I'm sorry."

"This isn't real." He said staring off in the direction his father had been in. "None of this is real. I saw him again Alan. For a brief second, I saw his face. Disguised and altered by make up, but I saw him. And he looked familiar."

"Christ on a pony."

"He got away. They found another photo fragment." Ryan added. Alan looked at Perri who held up a bag.

"Was there anything there?" Alan asked.

"I don't know yet." Perri answered. "I didn't take a real close look at it. It looks like we got a sliver of a face from the female in the picture, and a little bit of her body. I didn't see anything in the background that looked familiar. Just the edge of a brick building."

"I don't suppose your going to let us see it." Alan asked.

"You know I can't."

"Then turn your back for a minute." Ryan suggested. "We only want to help." Perri studies Ryan briefly, taking into consideration that it was his father he had just lost to the hands of this killer. Perri held out the bag with the fragment and dropped it.

"It would be unwise to take this out of its bag." Perri said and walked away, leaving the bag with the fragment on the floor. Ryan picked it up and Perri walked to the nurses station. They studied it, not seeing much.

"Mean anything to you?" Alan asked.

Ryan studied the picture harder. "Look at that mark on the building in the background." Ryan said. He was referring to the plaque on the lower edge of the building.

"Yeah?"

"Doesn't it look like that plaque on the edge of the students activities building. The one that dedicates that building to some guy who paid to have it built?"

Alan held the picture closer to his face. "Yeah, it does, doesn't it."

Perri walked back up to Ryan and Alan. "See anything?"

"Maybe." Ryan said. "That building in the background. There's a plaque on it that looks similar to the one on the student's activities building at the college."

"Western Maryland?" Perri asked.

"Yeah, that one." Ryan responded almost sarcastically. "I think this picture was probably taken at Western Maryland College."

"Wait." Alan said. "Look at the small tree next to the building. It's a small tree."

"I see." Ryan said drawing out the 'I'. "The tree next to the student activities building now is much bigger than the one in this picture."

Perri finished the sentence, "Which would mean that if this picture WAS taken at the college, it was taken several years ago."

"Probably close to twenty five years." Ryan concluded.

"We're still analyzing the first fragment." Perri said. "If it's an older picture, the lab will tell us." Perri took the fragment back from Alan and tucked it away in his pocket. "You can go if you'd like Ryan. I think were done here for now."

"Thanks." Ryan said.

"I'll contact you when they finish doing the autopsy on you father."

Pain shot through Ryan's heart as the first realization of his fathers death started to hit. Ryan nodded at Perri and started to walk away.

He stopped to ask Perri one more question. "You haven't found my car yet have you?"

"Not yet. I'll let you know when we do."

"Thanks." Ryan replied. He and Alan left the hospital, going home to Alan's house.

Ryan slept through the night without nightmares.

 

Alan prepared a small breakfast the next morning that consisted of bagels and pop tarts. Ryan picked at the food, eating a few bites, but stared off into space for the most part.

"Are you going to class today?" Alan asked.

"I dunno."

"You should at least try Ryan. It'll help take your mind off things."

"Maybe." Alan started to clean up the kitchen as Ryan stared into the table. It was like his father was not dead. After Ryan had moved out of his house four years ago, he didn't see much of his father. He was a busy man being part owner of a company he shared with a guy he went to college with. It was a construction company that contracted out to business's locally, with a few large accounts. Such as the local Pizza Hut franchise, and the local McDonald's franchise. Geoffrey Thomas had been a considerably wealthy man. Ryan knew he was bound to come into a large sum of money in lieu of his fathers death.

It was not a comfort. It would probably always serve as a reminder that this money was a repercussion of his fathers death. Although inevitable at some point in time, it was much too soon. If Geoffrey had not changed his will in the last five years, Ryan was going to become a silent partner in his father's business, leaving all the decisions and operations to Milton Donner, the other partner.

"I really don't want to have to deal with all of this shit!" Ryan declared to himself in Alan's kitchen.

"What do you mean?" Alan asked.

"Wills, lawyers, business's, my dad's house, his money, that shit. I don't want to have to deal with it!"

"You probably won't have to." Alan reasoned. "The lawyers will probably take care of everything per your father's instructions. You probably won't have to make any decisions at all."

"Well, I can tell you that my dad had already prearranged his funeral." Ryan explained. "There won't be a viewing. My dad didn't want one. He's going to be cremated and his ash's spread on my mom's grave. She died when I was little. I barely remember her. My dad always said he wanted to be cremated and have his ash's spread on my mom's grave. He missed her. All the time."

"Did he ever re-marry?"

"No, he thought he would be betraying my mom's memory." Ryan said. "He did have a couple girlfriends over the years though. In the end, it seemed they were always after his money."

"Is he leaving it to you?"

"I think so. And the house, which is already paid for believe it or not." Ryan said. "It's all mine now. And I don't want any of it!"

"Why is that? Did you not get along with your father?"

"No, we got along fine." Ryan insisted. "It's just that all of what he's probably going to leave me is his, not mine. I didn't earn any of it. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind being rich and having my own house and company, it just wouldn't be the same. Because I didn't earn it. I didn't make any of it. It would all be handed to me on a silver platter. I would feel like a mooch living on everything my father worked so hard his whole life to build."

"That's only one point of view Ryan." Alan explained. "Maybe your dad wanted you to have it all in the event of his demise. Maybe he wants to keep everything in the family, so you could take care of your own family. You could build on what your father left you. Take what he has, and expand on it. Make more money for yourself. It would be considered earned then. Yes, so you would get a head start because there was a certain amount of money there to begin with. But you could take that million or however much it is and turn it into two million, or three, or however much you want. It would be earned then. You could say your father provided for you, so you could provide for your family."

"Tiffany was supposed to be my family." Ryan said sourly. "With all this money and equity, I still have nothing, because Tiffany is not here."

Alan was touched. "I know Ryan. Really I do. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that maybe you'll meet someone else down the road. But the possibility is there."

"She wouldn't be Tiffany." Ryan concluded.

"No. No one will ever be Tiffany." Alan agreed. "You haven't healed yet Ryan. You haven't even begun. You don't have to think about such things right now. You have your whole life ahead of you."

He looked at Alan, shaking his head. "I can never again take that statement for granted Alan. Because in a certain light, sometimes its just not true. I think I told Tiffany once we had our whole lives ahead of us. And look what happened. It wasn't true."

Alan was nodding his bowed head. "You're right Ryan. You're one hundred percent right. A lesson to be learned by all of this crazy bullshit is that life should not be taken for granted, no matter how safe you feel."

"Alan, nothing in this town will ever be the same again." Ryan noted. Alan was nodding his head again, looking Ryan in the eye.

"I know it." he said. "You can read about how serial killings can unravel the fabric of entire towns, how they can change the lives of everyone even when they are not involved. Westminster has been branded unsafe by people who don't know the whole story. That word is going to spread like wildfire. People will leave this town, even if a killer is caught. People will avoid coming here, even if a killer is caught. Lives of thousands of people are forever changed. I would have never believed until I had actually seen it. I wish that now I never had.

"Nora wants to move away from here." Alan continued. This caught Ryan's attention. "She's scared for us and our kids."

"Are you moving?" Ryan asked.

"She called me from her mom's house last night. We discussed it. Ya know Ryan, even with all that's happened here, I don't want to move. I've lived here practically all my life. And even though everything has changed now, I still don't want to go. This town is a part of me, and me a part of it. I would move only to accommodate my wife, because I love her and have dedicated my life to making her happy, to keep my family safe and secure. But I have no definite answer yet."

"I've thought about it myself." Ryan confessed. "When this whole thing is over and a killer caught and punished? Yeah, I might move myself. Probably to the ranch in Pennsylvania."

Alan laughed a bit. Ryan smiled a little as if to say 'What's so funny?' "Nora was talking about moving to P-A. Maybe we'll be neighbors."

"That would be hip." Ryan mused. "Yet somehow, I can't see you coming over to my house to borrow the lawn mower."

"Yeah right." Alan poked. "That would be the other way around. You would be borrowing MY lawn mower."

"Hey, I'm the rich one here, remember? I could corner the lawn mower market!"

"I find it hard to believe your dad had that much money." Alan said.

"Honestly, I don't know what the man was worth." Ryan pondered. "But I think your right, it probably is not that much."

The two men sat in silence for a moment.

"I never realized my dad was involved in anything at college." Ryan said. "Much less something as crooked as 'scarecrow'. I really wish I knew what the hell 'scarecrow' was all about."

"You and me both." Alan added.

"You feel like taking a drive?" Ryan asked looking at Alan across the table.

"Where did you have in mind?"

"My dad's house. Somewhere in his office, I know I saw a yearbook from W.M.C. I wonder what might be in there worth looking at."

"Its worth exploring." Alan said with approval. "Are you sure your ready to go back to your father's house?"

"It might be what I need." Ryan figured. "It doesn't feel like he's dead. I don't think I've accepted even the remote possibility that any of this is true. Alan, I'm not feeling any pain over my fathers death."

"The shock hasn't hit you yet." Alan explained. "When it does, your going to wish it never had."

"Thanks, I think." Ryan said unsure.

"But I think your right. This visit to your dad's house might help the healing process." Alan said, offering a comforting smile.

They had been right. When Alan turned the car into the driveway of Geoffrey Thomas's elaborate house in Woodbine, only a short sixteen miles away from Westminster, Ryan felt the first pangs of loss. The look on his face tipped Alan off as he was driving up the extensive driveway. Ryan felt him stomach turn over, several times.

"Are you sure about this?" Alan asked. "We can still go back. I can get the yearbook by myself if you want."

"No, this is necessary." Ryan insisted. "Lets just do it and get it over with. No sense in delaying the inevitable."

Alan parked the car and they went inside the house. In all of the visits Ryan had made to this house in the past four years, none felt as nostalgic as the visit he was making today. Childhood memories of his father (and a few of his mother) long since forgotten came flooding back at an unbelievable rate. Tears welled up in Ryan's eyes even before he had completely walked through the front door. The house had already been trampled through by an army of police searching for evidence about poisoning. The kitchen was in a shambles. The meal Geoffrey had been eating was still on the dining room table, though picked apart by the forensics team. There was a faint stench of rotting food. Ryan placed the remaining food in the garbage disposal and put the dishes in the sink.

"Welcome to my home." Ryan smirked. "Sorry about the mess. I haven't had a chance to tidy up yet." Alan did not laugh at the black humor, although he thought right afterwards he should have to ease Ryan's obvious pain. "Remind me to throw all of the food away later. I don't want to take any chances."

"Of course." Alan said, half smiling. "Where would we find the yearbook?"

"In his office, I'll show you." The two men walked to the other side of the house. Alan was admiring the elaborate decorating and furniture along the way.

"Ryan, you never told me what an exquisite house your dad lived in. Did you grow up here?"

"Yep. It's changed a little since then. It's more modern now."

"I believe it." Alan added, marveling over the statue busts in the den. Ryan led them into Geoffrey’s office, complete with every modern luxury one could imagine. An elaborate sound system, a full bar that rotated into the wall. Computers out the ying yang. It was hard to believe all of this belonged to a man who started out in life by digging ditches.

Dreams do come true apparently.

Ryan was scanning the wall of textbooks, reference books, and just about any other kind of book you could imagine. The yearbook was up here somewhere, he had seen it before in the past. Although its importance now was much more pertinent. Alan approached the great wall of reading material and assisted Ryan in his search. Western Maryland College yearbooks all tended to look the same. Most were navy blue with the name and year of the college etched in the spine with gold lettering. Students had the option of having their name etched in the front for an extra ten dollars.

"Is that it?" Alan asked pointing towards the top of one of the shelves. Ryan looked. It was the yearbook.

Ryan knew somehow that his father only had one college yearbook. It was that of his senior year in 1970. He reached for the yearbook which was still in immaculate condition.

"Ya know something Ryan, if memory serves me correctly, which it does, Adam Jones graduated this year too."

"The dean of the college?" Ryan asked for confirmation.

"Yep. It was the year before I graduated."

"Interesting." Ryan said, recalling the conversation in the newsroom about Adam's student history with the college. He flipped through the pictures till he came to Adam Jones' picture. There was a strong inkling to see Adam's picture first. It was difficult to figure out if Adam was a potential killer or a potential victim. Either way, he was involved.

"Well, well, well." Ryan mused. "Would you look at that!"

ADAM W. JONES II
Adam, A.J.
FUTURE PLANS: To work within our education system.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: May 23, 1970, I think.
CAN BE HEARD SAYING: The usual...you only live once, so why limit yourself.

"Think back." Ryan instructed Alan. "Remember when we looked at Duncan Porter's yearbook picture."

"Yeah?"

"One of the things he submitted under 'Can be heard saying' was 'good shot A.J.'. Do you remember that?"

Alan eyes lit up. "Your absolutely right."

"It's become one hundred percent clear to me now that Adam Jones was definitely involved now." Ryan reasoned. "This proves it, another entry for May 23, 1970. Porter made mention of an A.J., obviously, it was a name Adam was using in his college days. Now, can we assume that 'good shot' means Adam shot something? Or someone?"

Alan was shaking his head in disgust. "Unfortunately, its a possibility. However, what I know of Adam, although he was a bit of a wild man in his college days, he never fit the profile of a killer. It would have jeopardized his career plans."

Ryan laughed a bit. "Didn't we hear Miller say that already? If 'scarecrow' ever got out, several lives could be ruined?"

"Yeah, I remember." Alan admitted. "It sounds like murder was somehow involved, doesn't it?"

"I can't believe my father would be privy to murder." Ryan defended flipping through the yearbook again, looking for his fathers picture.

He came to it and was shocked by what it read.

JEFFERY R. THOMAS
Jeff, Thomas
FUTURE PLANS: To own my own business and make lots of money. And marry Donna.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 10-17-69 - My proposal to Donna, and something were planning for this spring, I think.
CAN BE HEARD SAYING: Milt, were gonna make a ton of money! Donna, get ready for the ride of your life. Thanks mom and dad, I couldn't have done any of this without you.

"Something we going to do this spring, I think." Ryan said to himself. "Adam said the same thing, 'I think.'"

"The answer is simple." Alan deducted. "When the yearbook committee puts these yearbooks together, they get the information from the students in the winter. So what your reading here is information taken sometime in December or January. May 23 hadn't happened yet."

"But Adam used that EXACT date in his bio." Ryan insisted. "Are you saying that whatever happened on that day in May was premeditated?"

"It would appear so."

"Five to six months in advance?"

"What better way to cover your tracks." Alan said. "'Scarecrow' had enough time to work out the details of covering their tracks, whatever they did murder or not."

Ryan set the yearbook down on his father's desk. "What if they did kill someone Alan. This group of people, Austin, Duncan, Alex, Maria, and now my dad apparently. What if they killed someone, and then tried to cover it up."

"They did a good job of it." Alan said dryly. "Twenty five years without a peep. Until now."

"Wait a minute." Ryan said taking a step back. He looked as if he had just been punched in the gut."

"Ryan, what is it?" Alan asked with concern. "Are you okay?"

"I don't know, it just jumped right out at me."

"What did?"

"The names Alan. They spell a common name."

"I don't follow."

Ryan took a sheet of paper from the desk and grabbed a pen. "The names of the victims in order. The first letters of their names spell another name." Ryan wrote the names down the piece of paper in the order they were murdered.

Austin Webb
Duncan Porter
Alexander West
Maria Hogan

Geoffrey Thomas

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph." Alan gasped. "They spell ADAM."

"It also explains why the killer is spelling my dad's name with a 'J' and not a 'G'. Not only is the true spelling of my dad's name, Jeffery, begin with a 'J'. But it also fits with the other name." Ryan changed the 'G' to a 'J'. "It's not Adam G. It's Adam J., as in Jones."

Alan held the sheet of paper up to his eyes and studied. "Un-fucking-believable." Alan whispered. He put the paper back down on the desk and took another pen. He finished the name JONES down the sheet of paper, filling in the names of other people involved with 'scarecrow'.

Austin Webb
Duncan Porter
Alexander West
Maria Hogan

Jeffery Thomas
O
N
orman Miller
E
S
tewart Boswell

"You believe Stewart and Miller to be victims?" Ryan asked in surprise.

"Possibly." Alan said. "Just cause they fit in the name, doesn't mean it's them. As for the 'O' and 'E', I have no idea."

"The card found with my father said 'Felix's roommate'. Does that mean anything to you?"

"No, but if we follow the pattern here, his first name will begin with an 'O'." Alan figured.

"I think we need to have a talk with Adam Jones." Ryan said firmly. "Today!"

 

Ryan and Alan drove back to the college and proceeded directly to Adam Jones' office in the administration building. However, he was not there.

"Where is he? This is extremely urgent!" Ryan snapped at his secretary, Grace.

"He went out of town for a few days." Grace reported harshly. "I'm under no obligation to tell you where. If this is about your transfer to another sociology class Mr. Thomas, you need to speak with..."

"This is NOT about my Soc. class. This is a personal matter."

"Perhaps you would like to speak to Mr. Saunders then." Grace suggested. George Saunders was the vice president to the dean.

"No, I have to speak with Adam." Ryan insisted. "This can't wait."

"I will have Mr. Jones contact you as soon as he gets back Mr. Thomas. That's all I can do for you today."

Alan put his hand on Ryan's shoulder form behind. "Forget it Ryan. We're not going to talk to Adam today." He said turning his attention to grace then. "Could you have Adam contact us at the newsroom as soon as possible then please?"

"Certainly." She said scribbling down the request on a note pad. "Will there be anything else?"

"Not today." Ryan huffed and walked out of the office with Alan.

 

The news back at the newsroom was not any better. There had been several messages on the phone machine.

The first was from Mike. "Hey guys. I've been trying to get a hold of you for a while and I can't seem to catch up with you. Ryan, I hope everything is going okay for you. I heard your dad was in the hospital. I can't get a hold of Jarrod either. He doesn't have a car so I have no idea where he could have gone. Listen, whoever gets this. I left early to go home for spring break. My brother is coming back from the military to visit and I don't want to miss him. He'll be gone before spring break starts. I'm sorry I couldn't catch up with anyone. I'll call before the weekend to see what's going on. If I miss you then, I'll try at your house Alan. I'll talk to you all soon, later."

The second call was from the Carroll County Times. Someone there wanted to talk with Ryan about his involvement with Tiffany's murder.

The third was Ron. He had some more information and would try back later.

The fourth was Perri. He had information for Ryan about his dad's death. He would try back later also. Perri also said he would try Ryan at his dorm.

"Where the hell is everybody going?" Ryan asked to no one in particular. Alan was the only person in the room.

"I don't know. It's weird, isn't it."

Ryan looked at his watch. It was close to eleven. "Well, I guess we still have a paper to put together here." He said without enthusiasm. Alan nodded as they began to work slowly on the layout of the paper. It was going to be a small edition this month. There was not a whole lot of things to write about that didn't somehow tie into the fact that a serial killer was loose in Westminster. Yet somehow they managed to throw together a few things. There had still been a few articles written by students not involved with the actual process of layout. Alan didn't even pick and chose which articles he wanted to use this time. He used them all, editing only for content, punctuation and spelling.

Ryan's next class would be at noon. Alan's at one.

Neither one of them would make it to those class's that day. Just as Ryan was about to leave the newsroom for his noon class, there was a knock at the door.

Ryan looked at Alan inquisitively. "You expecting someone?"

"No."

Ryan opened the door. It was Gerald Lance from Ryan's former Soc. class.

"Gerald." Ryan said pseudo-politely. "What can I do for you today."

"I saw it." He said nervously. He looked frazzled, like he had not slept in a week and was spooning coffee grinds in his mouth to stay awake.

"Saw what?" Ryan asked grown immediately impatient. He did not like Gerald. Especially after his crack comments about Tiffany.

"Professor Webb's murder."

Ryan and Alan looked at each other with silent expressionless faces.

Ryan stepped aside so Gerald could enter the room. The door swung closed behind him.

"I was there." He uttered.

The story poured out of him like a burst dam.

 

Gerald Lance had met a girl at a party his friend was throwing. Her name was Carrie Gray. It was not a large party as it was only Thursday night. Gerald had seen Carrie around college at various other social gatherings. She had the body of a fucking goddess. It was his primary goal that night to get into her pants, no matter what the cost. Carrie seen it that way. She had just broken up with a long time boyfriend and was not ready to get involved again.

Gerald said in so many words that a wild quick fling purely of the sexual nature would take her mind off her troubles.

Initially, she did not object to the proposal.

They took a walk away from the dorm where the small party was commencing.

Down by the stadium. Where students could commonly be found doing various things to each other when vacant dorms were not available.

The time had been close to eleven p.m.

"Where are we going?" Carrie asked in a defensive manner.

"Someplace private."

"What's wrong with your dorm?"

"My roommate's there." Gerald said in a low voice. "We wouldn't have any privacy."

She smiled at him seductively as they walked across the field to the far set of bleachers. It was Thursday, so nobody should be there. "Do we need privacy?" She asked flirtatiously. "Don't you want to be daring. Lets go to the quad."

"Yeah right. The rent-a-cops would have us arrested."

"No balls." She jeered.

"Hey, I'll show you balls babe. Two of them. And the big thick pole they hang off of."

"You think so?" She teased. They approached the service road behind the stadium press box. A car was parked at the far end. Gerald squinted his eyes to see it, but it was too far away.

Odd.

"I know so." He declared, spinning her around and kissing her violently on the mouth. She smelled sweet. He continued to probe her mouth with his tongue. She was moaning when she grabbed his crotch and fondled him.

Gerald thought this was going to be his lucky night. He had never nailed anything as gorgeous as Carrie Gray.

He fondled playfully at her breasts, marveling how one would not fit inside his hand. "Do you want it?" She asked through heavy breaths. He yanked her under the bleachers and pressed her up against the wall of the press box. He fumbles at her belt buckle. He wasn't even going to undress her. The plan was to drop her pants and fuck her up against the wall with all his might. She snapped open his pants and stuck her hand inside his underwear, stroking him fast and hard.

He pushed her pants down. She was not wearing underwear. Gerald expected to see some kind of pink or black G-string that college girls mostly wore.

Instead, he got a shot of the Love Beaver in his triangular specter. Not aware of the surroundings anymore, he took his own underwear down not waiting for Carrie to do the honors. She grabbed his face in her hands and sucked at his lips, nibbling on them.

Being a true gentleman, Gerald grabbed himself and proceeded to enter Carrie without further foreplay. "Yes." She whispered lustily. "Fuck me Tommy, fuck me hard."

Gerald felt his erection soften a little at being mistaken for another man. "Tommy?" He asked in surprise.

Carrie opened her eyes and looked at him in complete surprise. "Shit." She swore yanking her pants back up to her waist. "What the hell am I doing?"

Gerald took a step back in surprise. "Getting ready to fill one of my biggest fantasies, that's what your doing. What's up with this?"

"I have to go." She hurried, fixing her belt. Gerald reached down and pulled his own drawers back up.

"What? Why?"

"I just do." She insisted running down the service road towards the other end of the bleachers where they had just come from. Gerald did not try to stop her. There was no sense in it. The opportunity was blown.

He fixed himself up and decided to walk the other way, towards the end of the bleachers Carrie wasn't running to. When he reached the other side of the press box. He saw two men standing underneath the bleachers towards the end of the service road. They looked to be arguing.

Gerald thought this could be cool if he could hear what they were arguing about. He walked back to the other end of the press box and in towards the low end of the bleachers where the darkness would conceal him if he did not make any swift or sudden movements.

Slow and easy, that was the key. He inched his way closer to the two men and their quarrel. Eventually, the voices started to become audible and understandable. Gerald stopped and listened.

"...or I will expose you to the whole college."

"You can't do that."

"I can and I will. You'll lose your job and all respect you've earned once it comes out you've been banging one of your students."

Gerald could not see the two men clearly. It was pitch black. The man who was apparently being blackmailed had his back turned towards Gerald. The blackmailer could not be seen as he was being blocked by the other man. In fact, the only thing Gerald could make out was that the blackmailer was wearing a baseball type cap.

"You have no proof."

"I have all the proof I need." The man with the cap said. "All you have to do is come forward and confess."

"There were others involved besides me, and you know it!"

"I will deal with them in time. Look Webb, it was you and the others who brought me into this. If you had left well enough alone when you had the chance, we wouldn't be here right now. Now, make the choice. Confess, or be exposed." Gerald realized the man being blackmailed was professor Webb from Sociology class.

"Fuck you. I'll take my chances. Either way, my career is trashed. But know this, if you make me come forward, you'll expose yourself. And I know you don't want that. It'll open wounds long since healed."

"Healed for you maybe!" The man in the cap barked. "But not for me. Never for me. I'm the one who has suffered the most."

"I doubt that. There were others who suffered just the same.

"Look, how many times do I have to say I'm sorry. It happened a long time ago. You know as well as I that things were a lot different back then. Times change. People change."

The man in the cap threw his head back and laughed. "Oh no my friend. Times have not changed. The hate and anger are still the same. Society will never change."

"I'm not having this conversation with you." Webb said. "You have no frame of reference."

"Oh, but I do. I've had to put up with this hate and anger all my life. When I decided to do something about it, it got me involved. I have you and the others to thank for that." Webb turned to go, exposing the man with the cap. Gerald squinted his eyes to try and get a good look at him. The man with the cap turned him back to Gerald to face Webb.

"Do as you will." Webb sighed and started to walk away. The man in the cap pulled Webb back. Webb turned around to hit the capped man. He missed as the capped man nailed Webb in the stomach. Webb fell to the ground moaning and hitching for breath.

"Okay, I will." The man in the cap said holding up a large knife. A small sound escaped from Gerald's mouth as the knife was plunged into Webb's chest. A second and third stabs were made. Webb struggled, gurgling in his own blood. He silenced and went limp.

Professor Webb was dead.

Gerald's first thought was to run like hell. But that might attract attention. If he remained perfectly still, not even breathing, he would go unnoticed.

Gerald watched the killer with a sick awe.

The killer lifted something he reached in his pocket for. It looked to be a steel rod of some kind. He then flicked a lighter so the flame was burning the end of the rod. The flame was held there for about a minute, maybe longer. Gerald watched the killer brand Webb's forehead.

He then reached into one of Webb's pockets for something. It wouldn't come out. Finally, after using some strength, a snapping sound was heard and the killer jerked upwards with something in his hands. He put the object in his own pocket. At the same time he took something else out of his own pocket and set it on Webb's chest.

The killer picked up the knife and started down the service road looking carefully around himself to make sure he was not being watched.

He never saw Gerald Lance hiding in the bleachers.

Gerald Lance was never able to identify the killer. The cap had shadowed his face in the darkness. After the killer had disappeared from sight, Gerald waited, just in case. He could hear the pounding of his own heart as he looked back at Webb's dead body.

In the distance, Gerald could hear the sound of an engine grinding to life. The car pulled away.

Gerald carefully walked out from the bleachers to the service road, not taking his eyes off the dead body at the other end of the bleachers. He didn't bother to investigate. Instead, he just got the hell out of there, running all the way back to his dorm.

Gerald Lance drank himself into a stupor and passed out sometime right before midnight.

 

 

"Helluva story Gerald." Ryan said with a touch of sarcasm.

"I'm not fucking around here!" Gerald snapped. "I wasn't going to tell anybody what I saw. I didn't want to be involved. Now I hear that Webb was the first in a line of the serial killings happening around town. I got nervous. I actually saw the son of a bitch."

"Who is he then?" Ryan asked.

"I didn't see his face I said." Gerald insisted. "It was dark."

Alan asked, "Did you recognize the voice?"

"No, I could barely hear either of them. They sounded the same. It wasn't like I was right next to them. I was a good piece away."

"Convenient." Ryan said dryly.

Gerald jumped up out of the seat he was sitting in. "Fuck you then. I was trying to help here. Rumor has it that the bunch of you are trying to solve this thing. If the killer ever gets wind that I saw him, I could be next."

"Its not likely." Alan assured. "Serial killings don't work that way."

"Yeah, was Tiffany on his list?" Gerald asked harshly.

"Careful." Ryan muttered in a slow draw.

"No." Alan answered. "That was something else."

"That's not what the papers are saying." Gerald revealed. "They're saying that Tiffany was a victim of the same sicko that whacked Webb and the others."

"Don't go there." Ryan advised. "Those are waters best left un-tread." Gerald retreated his comments and stood silently. He knew Ryan could kick his ass if provoked.

Alan broke the silence. "Don't worry Gerald. I'm confident if you keep what you know to yourself, unless the police come asking, nothing is going to happen to you."

Ryan remembered Miller's shady dealings with 'scarecrow'. "On second thought." Ryan interjected. "I wouldn't tell the police anything either." Alan shot Ryan a look of disapproval. "If I've learned one thing throughout this whole ordeal, some police can't be trusted. Gerald, if the police come asking you about anything, don't say a thing. Come back and tell us and we'll get one of the police officers we trust to listen to you. Until then, if it ever happens, just go about your life like nothing ever happened."

"Yeah right, easier said than done." Gerald quipped. He started to head for the door. "This is more serious than your leading on, isn't it?"

"It may be over soon." Ryan said, evading the question. "I wouldn't worry." Gerald looked as if he didn't believe, then left.

The phone rang a few minutes later as Ryan and Alan were discussing Gerald's revelations.

It was Ron.

"We found your car Ryan." he said. "It was located at a bus station in Owings Mills. Its being towed to the impound lot at the State barracks in Westminster. Perri wants to dust it down for prints and sweep for fibers and hairs. You'll be able to pick it up later today. Make sure you bring a set of keys with you. We didn't recover any at the station in Owings Mills."

"Our killer has left town." Ryan said plainly. "I wonder why."

"His next victim probably lives elsewhere in the state." Ron uttered.

"Or in another state." Ryan offered.

"We had best hope not. If that happens, the FBI will be brought into the picture. Trust me my friend, if that happens, our hands are tied. Unless the state police are called in to assist, I won't have access to any new information."

"That would suck." Ryan commented. He then proceeded to fill Ron in on Gerald's revelations.

In the end, there was really nothing there that tipped Ron of about who they were dealing with. It was more of the same worded differently.

"However. It does sound like Webb was being confronted by someone he had been associated with back in 1970." Ron pointed out.

"I still think Stewart, Adam and Miller are the prime suspects." Ryan said. "If our killer has left town, it should narrow the field down. Stewart is still missing, as far as I know"

"He is." Ron confirmed.

"We found out this morning that Adam Jones had left town for a few days. We don't know why, or exactly when he's coming back. His secretary won't say. So, that leaves Miller. He's still lurking around somewhere I assume. Unless he hired somebody to do his dirty work. I've seen movies where cops would hire criminals to do their dirty work in return for favors, such as early releases."

"First off Ryan, that's the movies. I have never heard of such a thing happening." Ron said, sounding offended. "Second, Miller is gone. I found out this morning when I checked in with Perri. Miller had a family emergency and took a couple of personal leave days to go to them."

"Jesus jumped." Ryan swore. "All three of them have left town, and our killer left town. This is just to coincidental. Especially since all three are involved with 'scarecrow' somehow."

"I know. Questions have been raised about Miller's conduct." Ron admitted. "But you did not hear that."

"I'm hip. Have you found out anything about Jarrod yet. Has a body been found." Ryan asked with dull tone.

"Not yet. Miller was supposed to get the phone records. Nobody's seen them yet. And then he takes off. That's why we have an internal problem now. But again, you didn't hear that. Also, we are having a general sweep of Westminster done by patrolling officers for anything unusual.."

Ryan looked over at Alan who was listening on another extension. He was nodding in agreement. Ron continued, "I'm real sorry to hear about your father Ryan. I wish I could have been there to help out."

"Thank you Ron, I appreciate that."

"As for Jarrod, I really don't think the killer murdered him. If he truly had remorse, as screwed up as it was for Tiffany, I don't think he would make the same mistake twice. Remember, he's angry at his victims for something they did to him. If Jarrod is not part of that cycle, there would no pleasure in killing him.

"However, that doesn't exempt him from torture. Because of this, I have great concern."

"Then what about the gunshots?" Ryan asked.

"A bluff perhaps? Maybe he just did it to shut Jarrod up? I don't know. I do think Jarrod will turn up one way or another, alive."

"Barely alive." Ryan added.

"It's a possibility would should consider." Ron said bluntly. That was Ron for you. He didn't pull his punches. "Prepare yourselves, there's more."

"Are we gonna like this?" Ryan asked cautiously.

"Probably. I got a real sketchy report about the address for John Myers in Ohio. One of Perri's contacts out there got the information. The mailing address for Myers' credit card was actually a house that was in a woman's name, presumably John's wife. Her name was Beth Myers, and she died back in July of '93. Natural causes apparently. That's what her death certificate says. The house itself has repossessed by the bank for non payment on the mortgage. That's really all I have right now."

Alan asked, "The house was in Beth's name and not John's?"

"Apparently so." Ron said.

"Where's John now?" Ryan asked.

"Unknown. It's like he's fallen off the face of the planet." Ron replied. "If he's still alive, we'll find him. Especially if the Feds get involved. If they can't find him, no one can."

"Lets hope it doesn't go that far." Alan prayed.

"Well, with Miller disappearing along with Adam, and with Stewart and Jarrod missing, its apt to get worse before it gets better."

"Wonderful." Ryan uttered in sarcasm. Someone called for Ron in the background.

"Hold on." Ron said. "Perri's on the other line." There was a click as Ron disappeared.

Ryan looked at Alan. "When does spring break start?"

Alan looked at a calendar on the wall. "Next Monday, there are two full days of classes left till the weekend, then spring break starts. Why?"

"I'm going to Ohio." Ryan said. "If that's where the killers gone, back home, then I'm going too."

"Are you crazy?" Alan asked in amazement. "What can you possibly do out there?"

"It's a virtual smorgasbord of clues and leads." Ryan explained. "John and Beth Myers lived out there. I'll get the address from Ron, and then I'm gone."

Alan looked around the room in panic. "I can't let you go by yourself Ryan. I'm going with you."

"Get over it Alan. You can't go, you've got a family."

"There's things you don't know Ryan." He said with a serious look on his face. Obviously what Alan had to tell him was not in a humorous light.

"Like what?"

"I'll tell you on the way to Ohio."

Ron came back on the line. "Ryan, Alan?"

"Yeah." Ryan replied.

"That was Perri, I've got something else."

Ryan asked, "Does he know your talking to us?"

"No, don't worry, I've got it covered." He assured. "They found a photo fragment in your car. It fits the second piece on the bottom. Perri is faxing me a copy right now."

"Was there anything distinctive there?" Alan asked.

"Perri didn't think so, wait, it's coming through." Ron paused. "You have a fax machine there, correct?"

"Yeah, KL5-2323."

"Standby, I'm sending you a copy. Perri faxed all three."

Ryan and Alan received the fax of the three fragments. The third fragment had actually been nothing to write home about. It merely completed the far right side of the picture. It showed the complete tree and right side of the student activities building. You could also see part of the right arm and breast of the woman. The first fragment seemed to represent the bottom left corner of the picture, extending towards the middle. It did not fir with the other pieces. Not yet.

"Not much there, is it?" Ryan asked.

"No." Ron replied

"Did you say Myers lived in North Canton, Ohio?" Ryan asked out of the blue.

"Yes, why?" Ron asked in return.

"Curious." Ryan evaded. "Do you have anything else Ron?"

"No, do you?"

"Not just yet."

"Perri should call you when he's done with your car." Ron reiterated.

"Okay, I'll talk at you soon."

"Good enough." Ron said hanging up the phone.

Alan looked at Ryan in question and asked. "Are you leaving today?"

"I was thinking about it. Do you still want to go too?"

"I'm not letting you go by yourself." Alan insisted.

"Very well." Ryan sighed. "When I get my car back, we'll go."

 

Ryan cleared his absences with rest of his classes due to his fathers untimely demise. He had been excused with the clause that he would have a shitload of work to make up when he returned from spring break.

Perri called Ryan at Alan's house around three that afternoon. Ryan had his car back by four. He and Alan were on the road by five.

The Ohio state line was about a six hour drive if one did the posted speed limit. Ryan did it under five. He and Alan packed enough clothes for an overnight stay. They agreed to stay only one night, two if circumstances prevailed.

Alan had explained his troubles at home with his wife Nora. She was scared. More than normal.

"I could understand being a little scared and paranoid." Alan explained as Ryan drove. Ryan nodded not looking away from the hypnotizing road. Interstate 70 out of Maryland was a long and sightless thing. Miles and miles of endless brown concrete with trees and un-cared for shrubbery.

The miles dragged by as Alan continued. "But the way Nora is acting, you'd think she was going to be the next victim."

"I guess woman are like that." Ryan mentioned.

"That was a sexist thing to say Ryan!"

"I don't know Alan!" he retorted. "I don't know how Nora is. You know her better than anybody."

"Yeah, I do, and I don't know why she's acting so paranoid. She practically will not leave her mothers house. The kids haven't been going to school. Nora's not letting them out of her sight."

Ryan replied, "I could see a mother protecting he children like that."

"Ryan, her mother lives in Ellicott City." Alan said harshly. Ryan looked over at him from the road with disbelief. Ellicott City was real far away from Westminster. Thirty or forty miles at least.

"That is weird." Ryan said. "Do you think she knows something?"

"God I hope not."

"I'm hip."

Alan didn't say anything else for several miles. They passed a road sign telling them that Interstate 77 was eighteen more miles. If the map was correct, North Canton would be sixty one more miles or so.

It would be nightfall when they got there.

 

There was not much to North Canton itself. It was actually a large suburb of the city of Canton. Ryan was burned out on driving when they pulled into a Denny's to get something to eat. It was after eleven p.m. and they were both tired and hungry.

Ryan order the usual grand slam breakfast while Alan chowed down on a western omelet.

"What's your plan?" Alan asked through a mouthful of egg.

"I want to find the Myers house." Ryan stated, pushing his English muffin through the left over syrup on his plate. The muffin disappeared into his mouth with one bite.

"Via the phone book I assume?" Ryan nodded staring Alan in the eyes and chewing largely to break up the food in his mouth. "What if the number is unlisted?"

"I dunno." Ryan replied, mouth still full. He chewed some more and swallowed. "I could always call Ron and ask I guess."

"You could. Or we could find a courthouse around here and see if they have land records. Who knows what we might turn up?"

"I was thinking the exact same thing." Ryan agreed. "Ya know Alan. If we get through this thing in one piece with our sanity intact, we should open our own private investigative business."

Alan threw his head back and laughed, attracting attention to himself.

"What's so funny?" Ryan asked. "I was almost half serious."

"Ryan, we'd be so broke, if it took a dime to shit, we'd have to borrow a nickel just to fart!"

"Whatever."

"With the exception of the serial killer running around Westminster, there really isn't much call for private dicks!" Alan explained.

"Who says we'd have to practice in Westminster?" Ryan asked. "I had planned on leaving after college was over. You told me Nora wanted to move to Pennsylvania. So? Maybe there's more crime in Philly."

"Your right Ryan. Lets just get through this thing alive first. We'll see what happens next."

"Okay. Speaking of Nora, you never told me what excuse you made up to come to Ohio with me. I'm anxious to hear this one."

"I didn't lie, if that's what your getting at." Alan defended. "I told her that I was going to hang out with you for the night and I wouldn't be home till tomorrow."

"That's it?"

"I might have added you needed companionship, in lieu of your dad and what not."

Ryan chuckled, almost forgetting his fathers death. It troubled him so that he couldn't grieve the passing of his father. It was still like nothing had happened, and that Geoffrey was away one some business seminar. "Yeah, I guess that's not a lie."

"I wouldn't lie to my wife unless I had a justifiable reason." Alan said. "And it had better be a damn good one at that."

"I'm hip. That's probably a good policy to live by."

Alan stared off into space for a brief second. "I only wish Nora could say the same thing."

"You think she's lying to you about something?"

"Not necessarily lying." Alan reasoned. "I think she's not telling me a complete truth. And what really scares me is that I think it has something to do with some of the killings. You see, Nora used to date one of the victims."

Ryan was taken with surprise. "Really, which one?"

"Alex West."

"No shit? Did you know that when we found him?"

"Not at the moment." Alan said. "I knew Nora dated him in college. It was just one of those trivial little things you push to the back of your mind. When we figured out who 'Go West' was, the name rang a bell. I just didn't remember it was one of Nora's old flames until she reminded me.

"The fling didn't last long. A couple of months I think."

Ryan chuckled again. "Did she fuck him?"

"Ryan! What kind of question is that?"

"That's what guys my age talk about when were hangin' like this." Ryan said. "I didn't mean to offend, by any means. Sorry Alan."

"No, it's okay." He assured. "Its been a while since I was twentysomething. I guess I haven't gotten into the groove lately."

Ryan looked up with disbelief. "Groove?" He asked.

"Nevermind. No, I don't think Nora did him. At least she said she didn't. If she says it, then I believe it."

"That's cool." Ryan said. "Or should I say 'groovy' so you'll understand."

Alan grinned. "Fuck you Thomas. Are you done with you food?"

"Yeah."

"Lets get outta here and get to work."

 

 

There was no Beth Myers in the phone book at the pay phone outside of Denny's. Ryan immediately became discouraged.

"It's a new phone book." Alan pointed out. "Beth passed away in '93. She might be listed in an older phone book."

"Where are we going to find one of those at this time of night?" Ryan asked in a huff. Alan walked back into the restaurant. Ryan followed.

Alan approached the cashier/manager behind the counter. Her oversized name tag informed them her name was Barb. She was an older obese woman who had her hair up in a net. Her customer service had obviously been a facade. Clearly, she didn't want to be here.

"Do you have a phone book available?" Alan asked her.

She looked at him dryly. "There one in the lobby."

"That one's to new. I need an older one?"

She looked surprised. "An older one?" She repeated.

"Yeah, say, '92 or '93?"

"Are you kidding?" She was obviously not in a good mood.

"No."

"Why?"

"Long story. The number I want wouldn't be in a new phone book." Alan explained. Barb eyed him up and down suspiciously.

"Hold on a sec." She said disappearing into the back. She returned a few minutes later with a an old beat up worn book. There was no front cover and the white of the pages had faded to yellow. There was also splotches of food and grease scattered throughout the top page of the sad looking directory.

Somewhere, a tree was turning over in it's grave.

"Here." She said throwing the book down on the counter. "It's a '91. Will that be okay?"

"Perfect." Alan said carrying the book over to the end of the counter as not to block other customers. Barb glared at him for a bit and walked away.

Ryan looked over Alan's shoulder as he flipped through the Myers' section. There was a few pages worth. However, there WAS a Beth Myers listed.

1721 Applegrove Street. Phone number LJ5-0991.

"Bingo." Alan exclaimed. "See Ryan, that wasn't so hard, was it?"

"Where's Applegrove Street?" Ryan asked.

"How the hell should I know?" Alan retorted.

Barb walked back out, obviously eavesdropping from somewhere. "It's up the road about a mile or so, on the right. You ain't from around here, are you?"

"I guess you could say that." Alan said, not wanting to give to much information about himself.

"It shows. We don't get to many tourists around here. Where you from?"

"Maryland." Ryan offered. Alan kicked him in the shin in front of the counter so Barb couldn't see.

"Really?" She asked. "I had a guy come in here early this morning from Maryland."

Ryan through Alan a look that said 'Are you thinking what I'm thinking?' "Well, what a coincidence." Alan marveled. "How early this morning?"

"I guess about eight or so. I was just gettin' off to go home. I wouldn't have known he was another out of state customer if he hadn't of paid with check. Why you want to know anyway?"

"Oh just curious." Alan said with a smile. "You know what a small world it can be sometimes." Barb looked at him with questioning eyes. "A relative of ours was coming up to his summer house here in North Canton." Alan improvised. "I forgot his address, that's why I had to look it up."

"And it ain't in the new phone book?" Barb asked harshly.

Alan stumbled for an answer. A pint of blood was lost for each second that passed.

It was Ryan who spoke up. "He had his number changed to unlisted back in '94. Obviously it would only appear in an older book."

"Well I guess you were in luck then." Barb declared, praising herself.

"I guess so." Alan said turning to Ryan. "C'mon son, your Uncle John will be waiting for us, we're going to be dreadfully yet." Ryan was looking at Alan with confused exasperation.

"Okay dad!"

"Did you say your relatives name was John?" Barb asked poking her nose deeper into their business.

"Yes, why?" Ryan asked excited. Probably too excited.

"Well then that guy from Maryland who come in here this morning wasn't your relative." Barb informed. "His name wasn't John."

"You saw his name?" Alan asked.

"Of course I did." Barb bellowed. "I had to ID him for an out of state check. It company policy. It don't matter none if Maryland is right next door."

"What was his name?" Alan asked.

The suspicious look came back. "Why?" She asked harshly.

"You brought it up." Alan said in his defense. "I was merely curious."

"I really don't remember. It wasn't John though. It began with an 'S' I think."

"An 'S'" Ryan asked with suspicion of his own.

"Yeah, Stanley, or Stephen, or something like that."

"Stewart?" Ryan asked instantly.

Barb's face lit up for a sec, but quickly resumed it's suspicious demeanor. "Yeah, that was it. Stewart. Stewart Boss-well. I remember now. What a silly last name. Boss-well. That's exactly where I'd like to drop my boss. In a well."

"Son of a bitch." Alan whispered to Ryan.

"I knew it." Ryan said in disgust. "I knew he was involved. He's old enough to assume an older identity."

Barb stuck her nose in again. "Involved with what? Who has an older identity?"

"Nothing." Alan said quickly. "Thank you for your help." He and Ryan started to leave at a hurried pace.

"Hey, wait a minute!" Barb snapped. "You can't leave me hanging like this. What's going on here? I have a right to know. I gave you the information didn't I?"

She was still trying to plead her case when they walked out the door. Applegrove Street was only a few miles away.

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