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grn_bt.jpg (687 bytes) April 6, 1995 - Thursday

Finding Beth Myers' former house didn't prove to be that difficult of a task. Besides locating the address on the deteriorating mailbox, it was the only house in the area that was not being maintained. The lawn was comparable to a wheat field. The house itself appeared to be falling apart. A few windows were broken and the paint was starting to chip and peel. In the front of a yard was a for sale sign being eaten alive by weeds and grass.

It looked like the ghost house that used to sit at the corner of Route 32 and Center Street in Westminster. The difference, the house in Westminster was Victorian and much larger than this pathetic project like dwelling.

Nobody appeared to be home.

"I guess this is it." Ryan uttered, pulling his car into the broken driveway. It used to be concrete. Now it was broken and full of spouting weeds.

"This." Alan started. "This is what happens when you don't take care of a house Ryan. Let this be a lesson for you. Treat your house with love and respect."

"What the hell are you blabbering about?" Ryan asked loudly.

"Your fathers house. It will be yours soon. I was trying to point out that if you don't take care of it, this can happen."

"Are you feeling okay Alan?" Ryan asked.

"I'm sorry. I don't know why I said that." He apologized. "I guess I was just trying to look out for you."

"It's okay." Ryan said unsure. "I appreciate it. I'll make sure that my dad's house is kept up." Ryan glanced at him one more time out the corner of his eye to make sure he wasn't going to spontaneously explode.

The two sat there in the car staring at the empty dwelling in front of them. "I remember my first house." Alan said. "It looked a little like this one. It was on Bond Street, right of Route 27. I didn't take care of it, and eventually, it started to fall apart. In the end, it looked just like this and I had to move out. I couldn't afford to keep it up.

"Eventually, it was torn down. The city had condemned it. God I miss that house. My first child was born in that house. Nora and I were so poor then. It was 'fish sticks and macaroni with cheese' for dinner every night. We had a little black and white TV with a broken antennae that only got two channels, plus whatever was on UHF. It didn't matter though. We had love. That house was filled with love. And we thought love would hold it together, no matter what happened. Even when we knew the house was not salvageable when it had deteriorated beyond repair, we didn't give a shit. We went right on loving like the outside world didn't exist."

"What are you trying to tell me Alan?" Ryan asked softly, with compassion. It was clear that something was on Alan's mind.

"I love my wife. I miss my wife, my Nora. She's lost now. These killings have pushed her top a place where I can't reach her. What kills me the most is that it's nothing I did. If it were something I did, I could probably fix it with time, patience, and love. But not this. She's genuinely scared Ryan, I don't know how to bring her back from this place of paranoia and fear she's lost in, or retreated to.

"And because she's so scared, she won't open up. She won't tell me why she's cut herself and the children off from the outside world. I know she loves me, and I know she cares. But dammit, why are we so far apart now?"

"Do you fight?" Ryan asked.

"No, its not like that kind of distance." Alan elaborated. "When I talked to her yesterday, she was so distant. It was like talking to a robot, devoid of life and emotion. Nora's scared. Really and truly scared out of her wits. I don't know what its going to do to the children seeing their mom like this."

"So go to her Alan." Ryan suggested. "Go to her and hold her. Tell her everything is going to be all right in the end. That's what I did for Tiffany. She believed it too. Right up to the end, she believed it, because someone who loved her genuinely, and who she loved back just as much, told her so."

Alan looked at Ryan with pain in his eyes. "I hear you." He said. "I may just do that the second we get back to Westminster."

"You should." Ryan said. "You might be surprised."

"I'm sorry I went off on that tangent like that." Alan said. "This house just reminded me of my first house right before they tore it down. It brought back a lot of memories that makes the present seem so painful."

"It's cool. I understand completely."

"Thank you."

"No sweat." Ryan paused looking at the house. "Well, we've come all this way. You want to take a look before the next year passes us by."

"Yeah, lets do it."

They walked gingerly through the field of grass to the front door, which was slightly ajar. Normally, one would be skeptical about a front door being ajar in the middle of the night. But this was an abandoned house. Neighborhood kids probably played here, dared each other to go in at night as this was probably North Canton's version of a 'ghost house'.

The door creaked with age when Ryan pushed on it. Alan had a hand held flashlight he retrieved out of Ryan's trunk. Ryan on the other hand had a penlight. The two did not plan to split up as there was safety in numbers. The penlight was strictly for visual augmentation purposes only.

The house smelled of age and decay. Dry rotting wood creaked and moaned with every step taken through the old house. There was even a faint musty odor from rain and other outside elements that had penetrated the building.

"This is an old house." Alan marveled. "Probably turn of the century I would guess. Maybe a couple of remodels over the years. I can tell you that this kind of decay does not come from sitting uninhabited for a couple of years."

"It looks like shit." Ryan announced. "Am I to understand that Beth and John Myers were poor?"

"They were probably not well off." Alan concluded. "The furniture is still here. I wonder if there are pictures around?"

"Maybe." Ryan said. They walked into the living room. Plant life had started to spring up from the carpet. Above them was a gaping hole in the roof where rain was able to fall through. "Although I don't see anything. The place looks like it been ransacked a couple of times."

"Probably kids with nothing better to do." Alan reasoned. "Hell, this might even be a crack house now."

"Ha, or a whorehouse." Ryan threw in.

"I doubt it." Alan said softly.

There were several creaking sounds above them suddenly, as if somebody were walking upstairs. Alan and Ryan stopped on a dime, eyes wide, minds alert.

"What the hell was that?" Ryan mouthed in a whisper barely audible.

"I think somebody else is here." Alan replied just as softly. There was sick laughter coming from upstairs. Ryan looked around the room for a weapon of some kind. There was a iron poker sitting by the fireplace. A couple of them. Ryan retrieved both by silently 'tip-toe'ing across the room and picking them up. He tossed one to Alan who caught it with one hand. Ryan pointed upstairs in question. Alan nodded.

They walked back across the living room to the front of the house where the stairway was. The laughing had turned into giggling. The two men looked at each other to see who was going to go first.

"Fuck it." Ryan whispered, starting up the stairs. The wood beneath him let out the world's loudest cry of age. Ryan stopped mid step clenching his teeth, knowing whoever was upstairs heard it.

"JOHNNY? IS THAT YOU JOHNNY?" The voice screamed. There was the sound of scrambling footsteps. It sounded as if someone was running in circles. "ARE YOU HOME NOW JOHNNY?"

Ryan took another step which completed the creak from hell.

"I HEEEEEAR YOUUUUU" The hideous voice screeched. It seemed almost inhuman.

"This house is haunted after all." Ryan whispered back to Alan.

"No shit."

"JOOOOOHNYYYYYYY. IS BEEEETHIEEEEE WITH YOU?" An incredible knocking sound started. It sounded as if someone were pounding their head against the wall. And considering the status of the crazy man upstairs, anything was possible at this point. Ryan inched his way farther up the stairs with Alan on his tail, poker raised for sudden strike.

"COME GET MEEEEEEE JOHNNYYYYY. TAKE ME HOME YOU MISERABLE FUCK!"

"I know that voice." Ryan whispered. "I swear I do." They stepped up the last step and stared down the hall to their left. The voice was laughing hysterically from the last room on the right. Ryan raised his poker to match Alan's stance and started down the hall.

"WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO US!" The voice demanded. "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!"

"Probably because you deserve it you fuck." Alan whispered. They were nervous. For all they knew, the killer could be on the other side of that door. It was ajar a few inches. Ryan looked at Alan for the approval to go. He nodded. Ryan stood back and raised his foot to kick the door open.

The door practically flew off its hinges when Ryan's foot crashed into it. The man writhing in the corner of the room screamed with utter horror. He started flaying his arms in front of his face as if a flock of birds were pecking at his eyes.

"Oh my god." Ryan whispered. "Stewart."

Stewart Boswell was crouched in the corner, tucked in the fetal position waving off ghosts that he thought were attacking him. There was actually nothing there.

"JOHNNY!" He commanded. "WHERE IS JOHNNY!"

"You tell me you crazy fuck." Ryan demanded. "What did you do to him to piss him off so bad."

"I DIDN'T DO A FUCKING THING!" Stewart screamed. "HE ISN'T DEAD! JOHNNY ISN'T DEAD."

"Who is Johnny?" Ryan asked. "And what did you do to him?"

"NOTHING!"

"Bullshit!"

"SHUT UP NIGGER LOVER!"

Ryan stepped back nearly knocking Alan over. "What is that supposed to mean?" Ryan asked. "What do blacks have to do with this?"

Stewart laughed till he was hoarse.

"Was Johnny black?" Ryan asked an obviously hysterically insane Stewart.

"NO!" He spat. "JOHNNY LOOOOVED THE NIGGERS. NIGGER LOVER. GODDAM NIGGER LOVER!"

"Where is he Stewart. Where is John Myers?"

"IN HELL WHERE HE BELONGS!"

"You just said he isn't dead." Ryan pointed out, calmly.

All of a sudden, Stewart stopped the hysterics. He was calm, cool, collected. "You don't have to be dead to be in hell Ryan." he said in his normal snotty tone. "Life is hell. Circumstances are hell. Make one small mistake, and you can live in hell for the rest of your life."

"You mean 'scarecrow'." Ryan asked.

Stewart started to laugh again, but not like before. It was a controlled laugh. "Scarecrow." He repeated.

"What is it Stewart? Tell me about 'scarecrow'."

"THERE'S NOTHING TO FUCKING TELL!" He screamed, reverting back into his Mr. Hyde self again. Ryan thought for a brief second Stewart was schizophrenic. "GET OUT OF HERE, I'M WAITING FOR JOHNNY TO COME HOME!"

"We'll wait with you Stewart." Ryan decided. "I think I would like to meet the infamous John Myers."

"NO!" Stewart insisted. "THIS IS BETWEEN ME AND JOHNNY!

"Stewart?" Ryan asked.

"NO!"

"Is your name Stewart?"

"NO!"

"Who are you then?" Ryan asked cautiously.

"I AM NO ONE!"

Alan whispered in Ryan's ear. "I think we'd better get the hell out of here. This could get very dangerous."

"YES, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"

"I want to talk to Stewart." Ryan said, ignoring Alan. "Let me talk to Stewart."

"NOOOOOO!" Stewart screamed, charging Ryan and Alan with speed that took them both by surprise. They were knocked over like bowling pins and Stewart rushed down the hall and down the stairs. He was out of the house before Ryan and Alan got back up. The clack, clack, clack sound of Stewart's shoes could be heard as he ran silently down the road into the darkness of night. Ryan jumped back up to chase.

Alan stopped him. "Let him go Ryan." Alan said. "We'll call the police. He can't get far now."

"What the hell was that?" Ryan asked rhetorically. "Stewart is GONE!"

"I know. I think he's cracked, probably suffering from some kind of personality disorder."

"No shit!" Ryan mused. "That would certainly explain one whole hell of a lot. Remember I said he wasn't acting like himself those couple of days following Webb's murder? Well, there you go."

"You may be right Ryan. He may be doing the killings. Lets say if he was the one who killed this John Myers fellow, assuming that's what happened, he might have repressed the memory. When all this shit started with the killings, it may have triggered something inside him. He might think he is John Myers somewhere inside that fractured head of his. Which could easily make him the killer. But that's only one theory."

"Sounds good enough to me!"

"We would have to be sure. If he gets captured, and the killings continue. We'll have problems." Alan said. They started to hurry out of the house and to the car.

"It would make sense." Ryan said. "The cards being used in the killing match those found in Stewart's office. Then there was his cut hand the day the newsroom got broken into. All directions lead to Stewart!"

"There's still something missing." Alan said. "And I can't quite put my finger on it."

"The knife." Ryan said getting into the car. "Remember the knife incident? And the ball cap Gerald said he saw the killer wearing. Stewart wears one all the time."

"Something's still not right though."

"Goddam Alan, what the hell do you want?"

"I don't know Ryan. Let me think on it. I'll figure it out."

They drove down the street looking for signs of Stewart's whereabouts. He was gone. Alan called the police at the nearest pay phone about the incident, saying someone had broken into the Myers' house and went ballistic.

It was an anonymous tip.

It was a quarter past two when Ryan and Alan checked into a local motel and went to sleep. They agreed to call Ron the next day and tell him what happened, as it would have been next to impossible to get a hold of him that morning.

Tomorrow would be a busy day at city hall

 

 

The city hall building was actually located in Canton a few miles below North Canton. Anybody could walk into the land records department and research. It was considered public domain. It didn't take Ryan and Alan long to locate the records on the house John and Beth Myers lived in.

She had bought the house back in '73. She didn't pay one whole hell of a lot for it. It had been in pretty raged shape.

Only there was no mention of John anywhere. Not once.

There was no marriage license for John and Beth Myers. Alan concluded that they had been married elsewhere. Probably Maryland by the looks of things.

Beth's death certificate turned up another mystery.

No maiden name.

According to the certificate itself, Myers was Beth's maiden name. Which didn't seem possible. She had died of breast cancer.

"Are we led to believe that John and Beth had the same last name?" Ryan asked Alan in disbelief. "Or was he porking a relative."

"No, but you make a good point." Alan explained. "We're under the assumption that Beth was John's wife. Maybe she was his sister!"

Ryan thought for a moment. "You may be onto something there." He said scratching his head and then rubbed his temples. "This could change the whole motive for the killings."

Alan was looking around cautiously as if somebody might have been listening to them. "Careful Ryan, there are official types here."

"Sorry Alan." He apologized. "But think about it for a sec. What if Beth had been the one wronged back in '70. We didn't find any records on John Myers at the college. We didn't check for Beth."

"Your suggesting that the killer IS really named John Myers?"

"Possibly."

"No." Alan said firmly. "It doesn't add up. Remember Alex West's yearbook bio. He said 'rest in peace Johnny'. I think John Myers is dead."

"Or assumed dead. I don't know why Alan, but somehow I think John was involved at W.M.C. somehow."

"Yeah, me too."

They left city hall to call Ron. He wasn't pleases with what had transpired.

"Perri is gonna shit when he finds out about this." Ron assured. "You really think Stewart is responsible?"

"He's having a personality crisis." Ryan explained. "When he was acting crazy, he thought he was someone else. If we're being led to believe a man named John Myers is doing this, I think the possibility exists that Stewart thinks he's John Myers, avenging something that 'scarecrow' did to his sister."

"His sister?" Ron asked in surprise.

"Yeah, when you told us about Beth, you assumed she was his wife." Ryan said. "According to her death certificate, Myers was her true last name."

"Unbelievable." Ron said with amazement. "I assumed she was his wife."

"And probably a student at W.M.C." Ryan added. "Think you can check it out?"

"I'll see what I can come up with. You realize I have to tell Perri about this. I'm obligated."

"Do what you have to do." Ryan said. "If nothing else goes wrong, we'll be back later on tonight."

"Are you going to look for Stewart?"

"I thought about it." Ryan admitted. "But I have a feeling he's long gone. Probably going after 'Felix's roommate'. Whoever that might be."

"Thank you for bringing that up." Ron said with enthusiasm. "You'll never believed what happened. I was watching the 'Odd Couple' last night on cable, and it hit me. Felix's roommate's name was Oscar. Oscar Madison."

"Son of a bitch. That fits in the Adam Jones puzzle." Ryan gasped. "The 'O' in Jones is for Oscar."

"What are you talking about?" Ron asked. Ryan explained how the first letters of the victim's name's in the order they were killed spelled out Adam Jones.

"You might have mentioned this to me last night Ryan?" Ron asked in a perturbed tone.

"I'm sorry. In the heat of Gerald's story, it slipped my mind. I was going to tell you today."

"Jesus, your right." Ron exclaimed. "I just wrote the names here in front of me. I'll be damned. It was right in front of us the whole time."

"So now we ask ourselves, what the hell does Adam Jones have to do with the big picture. Do we think he's trying to tip himself off as the killer?"

"No, to obvious." Ron said immediately.

"He did take off all of a sudden for some unknown reason."

"Good point. My guess is he's probably scared. If he's not involved with the murders. I think that's probably a theory as to why Miller has taken off so suddenly too. If he was involved with this thing back in '70, he is probably realizing his number may be close to coming up, and is scared silly."

"And Stewart?" Ryan asked.

"Your theory has credibility. However, it has to be proven. I realize you saw his personality shift, but we have to take into consideration that a) He may be faking it, b) If he is suffering from schizophrenia, or multiple personalities, John Myers may not be one of them, or c) He's just as scared as the other 'scarecrow' players, and is just not handling it to well."

"I see your point." Ryan said. "My question is, why did he come up here to Beth's house? What purpose does that serve."

"It's a good question. It could support your theory about Stewart thinking he's John Myers, coming home." Ron offered. "We have to somehow get Stewart into custody. It would answer a lot of questions."

"I'll tell you what scares me the most." Ryan said looking at Alan too as he leaned against the phone booth, watching Ryan. "I've seen this fucker. Twice. I recognized him from somewhere, which means I probably know him. As much as I would like to catch this asshole, I'm afraid to see who it really is."

Alan spoke. "Yeah Ryan, but consider the fact that you do know a lot of people."

"This guy was older." Ryan pointed out. "Most of the people I know are close to my age. But..." Ryan paused.

"But what?" Ron urged.

"We think the killer was wearing some kind of foundation make up the night he appeared in the hospital. He could have disguised himself to look younger than he was, or older than he was. Jesus, why do I feel like I'm back at square one again?"

"The whole Westminster City and State Police know exactly how you feel Ryan." Ron assured. "This case is a real doozy."

"I think we're gonna get going and do some more digging." Ryan said.

"Okay." Ron said. "Just be prepare to answer a few of Perri's questions when you get back. I'm sure he's gonna want to talk to you both."

"I'll be counting the minutes." Ryan smirked. "I'll call you when we get back."

"Talk to you then. And be careful."

"We will." Ryan hung up the phone.

Ryan and Alan returned to the Myers house to investigate further. Daylight would be a valuable adversary.

They spent several hours turning the place inside out, but did not find anything of consequence.

Ryan commented, "It appears John, or whoever is portraying him cleaned this place out good! We've found clothes, personal effects, even a box of fucking stale dog biscuits. But not one damn picture or letter."

"Maybe there were none here to begin with." Alan offered.

"No, I doubt it. Every house has pictures of some kind."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

"Did you find anything in the attic?" Ryan asked.

"Nothing that resembled a picture." Alan replied. "Just a bunch of shit that you would see at any goodwill store."

"How about the garage?"

"Just a bunch of tools and a car."

"A car?"

"Yeah, it looked like a Nissan. Mid seventies I think."

Ryan asked, "Did you look inside the car?"

"Of course, I'm not a complete idiot!" Alan defended. Ryan was not satisfied. There was a tickling in his gut. Alan could see it written all over Ryan's face. "Why, You look like you know something?"

"I'm curious, did you look underneath the sun visor?"

"I don't think so, why?"

"When I was dating a girl named Jenny in high school, I used to keep a picture of her in my car. I didn't know where to put it, so I stuck it underneath the sun visor with my insurance information. It had a clip so you could use it for such things."

Alan tightened his lips in a thin line. He was thinking. "Yeah, I think I might have done that once myself." Alan led him to the garage and they investigated the car once more.

They found a picture. It was a wallet sized picture of a man dressed in graduating attire. It looked like a picture one would find in a yearbook."

"I've seen this man before." Ryan stated confidently. "I swear I have."

"The man in the hospital?" Alan asked with fervor.

Ryan looked up with wide shocked eyes. "Son of a bitch, I think it was. I mean I can't say for a hundred percent as I didn't get a clear look to begin with. But I think that's it."

"The make up was for age reduction then." Alan figured. "John Myers is alive."

"And Beth was wronged. So what did 'scarecrow' do to Beth?"

"Rape perhaps."

"A good start." Ryan said. He jolted suddenly. Alan looked concerned. "Wait, I've seen this picture somewhere else."

"You mean this actual picture?"

"Yes."

"It looks like one of our yearbook pictures." Alan said. "Did you see this in one of our yearbooks?"

"I think so, doesn't this picture ring a bell to you?"

"No, sorry."

"S'okay." Ryan took the picture into the house where there was more light. The garage had been dark with only the light through one curtained window to illuminate the place. "Let's find a 7-11. I have a theory."

Ryan drove back down a road that ran parallel to Interstate 77. They did not find a 7-11. They found a Farm Store, which was comparable to a 7-11. There was a phone, and more importantly, a fax machine for public use.

"What do we need with a fax machine?" Alan asked intrigued.

Ryan looked at his watch to check the date. "Today is a Thursday. My dad has a house cleaner who comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I haven't discontinued her services yet, so I'm assuming she'll still be coming to work to collect a paycheck."

"So, I don't get it?"

"Wait and see." Ryan said, calling his fathers house via calling card.

The phone rang four times before someone picked it up. "Thomas residence, may I help you?"

"Thank God, Rebecca? It's Ryan."

"Mr. Thomas." She greeted. "I'm glad its you. I wasn't sure if I should still be working here with everything that's happened. I'm sorry about your father."

"Thank you Rebecca." Ryan said. "We'll need to discuss your employment later, although you don't have anything to worry about just yet. I'll be living at my fathers house until I figure out what is going to happen to it. In the meantime, I would hope you chose to stay aboard."

"Thank you Mr. Thomas, I would appreciate that."

"Call me Ryan. Mr. Thomas was my dad."

"If you insist sir."

Ryan chuckled. "Listen, I need you to do me a favor. In my fathers office, there should be a yearbook on the desk. Would you go get that please, I need you to look something up for me."

"Certainly, I'll be right back."

Alan perked up. "You think John Myers did go to W.M.C., don't you?"

"The thought crossed my mind. I don't remember which class roster you looked at back in the newsroom when we were looking for John Myers originally, but I think we missed something. Either a wrong year, or somehow the killer found a way to delete that

information from the school mainframe."

"Yeah, I get it now."

"If I'm right, I'll need the fax number to this store."

"I'll get it for you." Alan offered and ran into the store.

Rebecca returned. "Ryan? I found it."

"Okay, listen to me carefully. Flip through the senior pictures. See if there's anybody there named John Myers."

There was silence as Rebecca flipped through the pages. Ryan could hear the individual turning of each page after the flipping stopped. Rebecca had found the 'M's'. "I think this is it." She said. "John R. Myers."

"Goddammit, I fucking knew it!" Ryan hissed.

"I'm sorry?" Rebecca asked as if not hearing Ryan clearly.

"Nevermind, would you photocopy that page for me?"

"Certainly."

"Do you know how to use a fax machine Rebecca?"

"Yes, I used to be a secretary a couple years ago."

"Okay, I want you to photocopy that page and fax it to me here." Alan walked back outside with a phone number hand written on a piece of scrap paper. He handed it to Ryan. "Okay, the number here is area code 216-5J5-0900. Got that?"

She repeated the number and asked. "Your in Ohio?"

"Yeah, long story. I need that page."

"Okay, it should be there in a few minutes."

"One more thing Rebecca, see if there is a Beth Myers there too?" Ryan asked

Rebecca replied almost immediately. "No, there are no more Myers' in here."

"Okay, thank you Rebecca. I'll contact you as soon as I get back. We'll figure out what's going on then."

"Very good. Thank you Ryan."

"Your welcome, gotta run." Ryan hung up the phone.

Alan looked massively curious. "Well?"

"He was in there."

"Son of a bitch! What do you know about that!"

"Rebecca is faxing us a copy of the picture now." Ryan said. "Lets see what were dealing with here."

The fax came five minutes later. With a service charge of two dollars.

It had been worth it.

The picture on the fax was blurred and distorted, however, it was obvious that the picture from the yearbook was the same as the picture found clipped to the sun visor in Beth's car.

Alan and Ryan read the fax in complete amazement.

JOHN R. MYERS
John, Johnny
FUTURE PLANS: To marry Beth and live happily ever after.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Will be when we live in a world without hate.
CAN BE HEARD SAYING: I seem to get in trouble for everything I say these days, so I chose to say nothing.

The picture was the exact same one found underneath the sun visor in the mid-seventies Nissan in Beth Myers' garage.

"Jesus, he was right in front of us the whole time." Ryan said in wonder of the whole thing. "I must have looked through this yearbook a hundred times as a child. I knew I remembered this picture from somewhere. I guess it's safe to say now that Beth was John's wife. They conceivably could have the same last name."

"Still think its the guy you saw in the hospital disguised as an orderly?" Alan asked.

"I think so." Ryan said. "That memory has become so blurred, it's real hard to say anymore."

"I understand." Alan said. "What do you want to do now."

"I don't know what to do. I don't think were going to find Stewart. And I don't think were going to find John. It seems like kind of a wasted trip, doesn't it?"

"I wouldn't say that." Alan said. "We learned a few things about Stewart that could be useful. Lets not push our luck. If you ask me, I think we should start heading home. We still have to report to Perri."

"Yeah, I guess we can't avoid the inevitable."

Alan took the fax out of Ryan's hand. "Yeah, but we have something now. Did you keep that little photo of John?"

"Yeah, its in my wallet."

"Good, lets get the hell out of here."

 

 

They took they're time getting back to Westminster, Maryland. It was close to dusk by the time they arrived at Alan's house. They took a break from the investigation during the trip, deciding to talk about themselves some more. Where they had gone, what they had done, how they felt about certain things.

They bonded some more.

Now, back home, there was going to be hell to pay. Alan's machine was chuck full of messages. A tired Alan groaned as he reached for the play button, preparing himself for the worst.

The messages began, the first one from Nora. "Alan, where are you? I need to talk you about something important. Please call me at mom's when you get home." BEEEEEP.

"Alan, Ryan." It was Perri. "I know your not there, your in Ohio, or en route home. You took a big risk. I hope I have the pleasure of speaking with you when you get back. I don't care what time it is. Call the barracks and tell them to get a hold of me, and I'll call you where you are. Good luck." BEEEEEP.

"Guys, it's Ron. I left a message on the newsroom machine as well. He struck again. The victims name was Oscar Quincy. He lived in Ohio, but not in North Canton. It Dayton, on the other side of the state. It happened this morning about seven or so. That's all I really know. As I predicted, the Feds stepped in. I couldn't even tell you what the latest clue card said, although I know there was one, and that the crow was branded on the forehead. I'm curious what time Stewart took off from the Myers house. If he had enough time to drive across the state and stage this murder. It looks like a possibility, doesn't it? Anyway, the other thing I know is that there was a transaction on John Myers' credit card yesterday evening. It was a cash advance for three thousand dollars. I suspect he may have bought some kind of transportation with it. If that's the case, he might come back to Maryland, so keep your guard up. It's about to get worse. I'll talk to you soon." BEEEEEEP.

"Hey Alan! "It was Mike. "Still can't find you guys. Just thought I'd check in to see how things are going. I've decided to come back after my brother leaves. I'll spend spring break in Westminster with you boneheads! If I don't catch up with anyone, somebody leave a message on my machine in my dorm letting me know where you all are and what's going on. I'll retrieve the message later." There was a pause. There was a noise in the background just as Mike started to speak again. "I guess that's it. Later."

"Stop!" Ryan snapped. "I want to hear that message again."

"Why?" Alan asked rewinding the tape.

"That noise in the background. I heard that same noise when Jarrod called my dorm after he had been kidnapped. He paused after he had been..." Ryan stumbled. "...hurt, or something. And then I heard that exact same noise."

Alan replayed the message. He stopped it right after the sound. "What is it?" Alan asked.

"I don't know, but that's it. I heard that sound when Jarrod called." Ryan walked away to concentrate on what the sound could be. Alan continued the messages. There was one more from Nora asking Alan to call, and that was it.

Ryan looked back over at Alan. "They're coming more quickly now." He said. "The murders. I suspect the next one will happen within forty eight hours unless he's caught."

"Its obvious the killer knows were onto him." Alan reasoned. "Not just us, but the police too. I think he's doing them as fast as he can before he gets caught. In his haste, he's getting sloppy. This will be his undoing."

"I'm hip."

"Did you recognize the sound?" Alan asked.

"No. I'm gonna have to think about it. This isn't good. You know what this means don't you?"

"Mike Wagner could be our killer too." Alan replied. "It certainly would explain the picture of Tiffany that was circulated. His little trip home, wherever that is would put him out of town at the time of Oscar's murder. Plus, he was the last one seen with Jarrod."

"I wonder if his car is still at the college. Why would he steal mine?" Ryan asked.

"Probably to cover his tracks. I doubt you'll find his car at the college. If we were led to believe he was going home, he would have taken it with him. In reality, if he was the killer, he would have stashed his car, made his way back to the college, and kidnapped Jarrod using your car. Jarrod probably would not have seen it coming if he trusted Mike."

"God this sucks." Ryan hissed. "What possible motive could Mike have. How would he tie in with 'scarecrow'? And if it is Mike, where would his ‘war room’ be?"

"Think back to the orderly at the hospital. Did it look like Mike in disguise?"

Ryan pondered the question, recalling the memory as best he could. It was fading to mere images now. "I don't know anymore, it's hard to say. I think he was Mike's size. But lets face it Alan, a lot of guys are between five-ten and six feet. It doesn't mean a damn thing."

Alan threw up his hands. "This is really starting to get on my nerves. Sometimes I feel like we're never going to catch this guy."

"I know it."

"I should call Nora. After that, we'll call Perri and get it over with."

"Okay. I'm gonna lie down for a bit. I need to think about this sound I heard. Let me know when your ready."

"Will do."

Alan's phone call to Nora lasted only two minutes, tops.

She wasn't there.

Alan was beside himself. "She left." He said to Ryan right after he had gotten comfortable on the couch. "She took the kids and went into hiding, I think."

"Why? What did her mom say?"

"Nothing. She doesn't know what the deal is. Nora left her a note saying she had to leave and would call when she could."

"Ron was right. It just got worse."

"I can't ignore the fact that I think Nora was involved with 'scarecrow' anymore Ryan. This just isn't like her to pick up and leave. She really, really scared. I don't think she would be doing this if she didn't believe her life was in some kind of real danger." Alan said. "Maria's yearbook bio said 'Ask Nora'. I'm convinced it was my Nora. It certainly would explain why she needed to talk to me so damn bad."

"Maybe this is a good thing Alan." Ryan offered. "Lets just say if she WAS involved, he going into hiding with your kids would be a good thing. It would make finding her harder. Besides, we know Norman Miller is definitely involved with 'scarecrow' somehow. He would probably be the 'N' in Jones. There is no other 'N'. That would put Nora in the clear, wouldn't it."

Alan cocked his head in a curious fashion. "Yeah, I guess that would be true, wouldn't it."

"If she calls, explain that to her, maybe it'll calm her down a little."

"Let's say Miller is the killer after all. We can't verify his whereabouts right now either. He could have been the one in Ohio whacking Oscar. That could put Nora in the Adam Jones puzzle."

"Yeah, it could." Ryan said doubtfully. "But somehow, I just don't think so. My gut feeling say's that 'N' is reserved for Norman Miller. We know he was involved. We don't know Nora was. It's conceivable that maybe she's scared for her life because of her involvement with Alex West."

"Maybe." Alan said with a small modicum of hope.

"All right." Ryan said, forming a plan in his head. "We'll wait here for Nora to call you. In the meantime, lets get a hold of Perri and see what he wants. We'll ask him to come here if he wants to talk."

"Agreed." Alan stated and made the call.

Perri, was actually at the barracks.

He didn't want to have the conversation on the phone and said he'd be over within the hour. In forty seven minutes, it would be nine p.m.

Perri arrived at eight fifty.

He was dressed in civilian clothes without his badge and gun. Ryan couldn't remember ever seeing Perri dressed like a normal person. Alan invited him into his house and offered him a drink.

Perri accepted as he was off duty. The three men had a beer together.

"I'm not here as a Detective tonight." Perri explained. "I'm here as a person. Just a regular guy. There's an old saying that goes 'if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em'. We can't work together. It would be an unprofessional conflict of interest. However, I'm willing to put my badge aside for one night and listen to you as a concerned friend, ant not as an officer of the law. Anything you tell me tonight will not be used against you in any way and your names will not be brought up at any time to any of my colleagues or superiors. If you have information I don't, I will consider it an anonymous source." Ryan looked cautiously at Alan. Perri saw this and continued. "We are obviously striving for the same goal here. Catching the killer. Even if it is for some common reasons and some conflicting personal ones. Your trip to Ohio has told me you are following different leads than I. I'm curious to know what exactly you are going with your 'investigation'. I can only assume it was to see what you could dig up on John or Beth Myers."

"And what of you?" Ryan asked. "Are you going to return the favor? Are you going to tell us what you know?"

Perri chuckled. "I have the feeling you know more than us at this point. And although I can not offer you official information, even off duty, it doesn't mean you can't ask the right questions. We'll have an open forum here tonight."

Ryan experienced a wave of deja vu. Didn't Ron make this same kind of an offer a few weeks ago? He looked over at Alan for some kind of facial approval. Alan gave him the same look.

"Okay." Ryan said. Alan nodded.

Perri took a swig from his beer. "Okay." He began. "What happened in Ohio?"

"We found Stewart at the Myers house." Ryan began. "He was acting insane, or rather he was insane. When we found him there, he was screaming for Johnny, asking if he had come home. We approached him, tried to question him. He was off his rocker, then all of a sudden, he reverted back to his usual snobbish self as was unnaturally calm. He had screamed before that 'Johnny was alive. Johnny wasn't dead'. I asked him who Johnny was. All he did was laugh at me and called me a 'nigger lover'. It took me for a complete loop. I asked him what blacks had to do with this and if Johnny was black. He said 'no, Johnny loved the blacks'. Actually, he kept using the 'N' word. I asked him where Johnny was and he said in hell. I told him that he had told me Johnny was alive, so how could he be in hell. It was at that point that Stewart turned back into his old self and told me you don't have to be dead to be in hell. Life was hell, circumstances were hell, make one mistake and you can live in hell for the rest of your life. After that, he went bonkers again and took off. We didn't see him again."

"What time did this happen?" Perri asked.

Ryan looked at Alan and shrugged his shoulders. Alan answered. "Sometime between midnight and one."

"What then?"

"We looked around for a bit and slept at a hotel." Ryan replied. "The next day we checked out records at city hall. There wasn't much there. The house was in Beth's name only, not John's. There was never a mention of any John. Also, Beth's death certificate indicated that her true last name was Myers. We thought she might have been John's sister, or some kind of relative. But it doesn't look that way now. We were thinking maybe this 'scarecrow' thing did some kind of wrong to Beth, and now John is avenging her now that she's dead. Why? It's anybody's guess. I was thinking maybe she was raped."

"Interesting theory." Perri said with some surprise. "You'd be interesting in knowing we can find almost nothing on Beth Myers. It's almost like she's been erased from existence. With the exception of the land records on Beth's house, we can't find a damn thing."

Alan spoke up. "My guess would be that the killer has somehow erased her from existence. I say this because when we were looking for information about John Myers, we checked the mainframe computer at the college. There was no record of a John Myers. Now we find out there was one."

"Really?" Perri asked. "We didn't find a John Myers there either. What makes you so sure?"

Ryan handed him the fax of the yearbook picture from out of his wallet. Perri read the senior bio on John Myers. Alan continued. "We think the killer probably deleted him from the system somehow to cover his tracks."

"Looks that way." Perri said. "Can I keep this?"

"If you want it, I have the original yearbook at my dad's house." Ryan said. Perri promptly put the folded fax in his back pocket. "What about this killing in Ohio? What's the story with that?"

"The honest truth?" Perri said. "I don't know very much at all. The FBI has stepped in now as the killings went across the state line. I know very little about what happened. I can tell you the victim's name was Oscar Quincy. He was forty seven, no wife, no kids. He was a manual laborer for some warehouse. From what I can tell, the guy didn't have much of a life. It was definitely related to the other murders. He had the crow burned on his forehead and a card was left with him. I don't know yet what the card says. I hope to find out before to long. The Feds haven't asked for State assistance yet. All we have done is turn over all the information we know about the case. However, I do believe the Feds are going to ask for assistance. My gut feeling says the killer is coming back to Maryland."

"You mean he might go after Miller." Ryan translated.

Perri looked him in the eye. "That's what I believe."

"So what's Miller's involvement?" Ryan asked. "That's been one of the questions of the week around here."

Perri was obviously stuck between a rock and a hard place now. "It's complicated. Detective Miller may have made some mistakes in his college days with some people who tie into this string of murders."

Ryan: "Which are?"

"I don't have all the details, most of them I opted not to hear." Perri looked carefully at Alan and Ryan. "If nothing else, what I'm about to tell you cannot leave this room, ever! Miller's story involves a group of people, most of them who have been murdered, who formed their own private club. As you probably already know, it was called 'scarecrow'. According to Miller, they discussed and debated political issues as a hobby. Personally, I think it goes deeper than that, but Miller won't say. One night, they got together during a protest for Vietnam, and somebody got hurt. That person mysteriously disappeared the next day, never to be seen again. Miller thinks this person was murdered, but it was never proven. 'Scarecrow' remained a secret after that and nothing was ever reported.

"This person to this day had never been seen again."

"Until now." Ryan said. "The day you speak of, is it May 23, 1970?"

"It was."

"And the person who disappeared, was it John Myers?"

"That's what I think."

Ryan was stumped. "What do you mean that's what you think. Your telling me you don't know who the person was?"

"Miller never named names. After West was killed at Carroll community, I got the names of some of the people who were in 'scarecrow'. He never told me who was hurt and who disappeared."

"There was more than one person hurt?" Ryan asked.

"That's what I'm led to believe."

It was Alan who asked the question that had been not been asked till now. "Detect...Ian, do you think there is some remote possibility that 'scarecrow' was racially motivated?"

Perri was silent for several seconds, struggling with the answer. "Yes." He finally said. "There have always been racial problems here in Westminster. Especially back in the seventies. It was in the late sixties that Western Maryland College allowed blacks into their facility. It caused quite an uprising among the white students, and the local chapter of the KKK." Perri chuckled. "To this day, we still have problems keeping the local chapter of the KKK under control. It’s still a very active organization that likes to cross the line sometimes. As for ‘scarecrow’ being racially motivated? I don't know for sure, but I think that's the piece of the puzzle Miller is not sharing with me. Miller has been my partner for a LONG time. I've never know him to be racist. Not to blacks, Jews, Hispanics, anybody. If 'scarecrow' was a hate group, then Miller and his principles will be serious compromised. Legally, I would be obligated under law to turn him in, especially if it has anything to do with these serial killings. The silence I keep now it kind of a Code of Honor among our colleagues. This is a bad position for me to be in. I'm stuck between my duty as an officer of the law and my friendship, my bond with Miller.

"When I took this case, I had no idea that Miller was involved, or that things would turn out as they have. I shouldn't be involved with this investigation, but if I drop it now, it would arouse suspicion. It could compromise both Miller and myself. I really don't know what to do."

"I can appreciate you position." Alan sympathized.

Ryan asked, "I guess I don't have to ask if Stewart was one of the people Miller listed off as involved."

"He was." Perri admitted. "The cycle is nearly complete. If Miller was honest, which I think he was, about how many people were involved, there are only four more left. What happens after that, I know."

"We catch the fucker, that's what." Ryan quipped. "We see who disappears. He'll probably get relaxed after his work is done. That's when he becomes vulnerable, especially with how much we have on him at this point." Ryan continued to tell Perri everything he and Alan discovered in Ohio, plus Gerald's story of actually witnessing Webb's murder.

Perri listened with fascination about how they had discovered names of 'scarecrow' members though the date in the yearbooks.

Now they had to figure out where Miller, Adam, Mike, Stewart, Nora, and most of all John Myers were. Where they found John, Jarrod wouldn't be to far behind.

Then there was the unsolved issue of the mystery sound Ryan heard in the phone call from Jarrod under the killer's control and the phone call from Mike.

Perri and his detective's instincts kicked in. "What did the sound resemble?" He asked Ryan, trying to isolate the possibilities.

"It sounded a little bit like the seat belt alarm in older cars. The one that buzzes, only more fake."

"More fake?"

"It didn't sound like a real buzzer. It sounded, I don't know, synthesized maybe." Ryan chuckled. "You ever see those old game shows where the contestant would answer a question incorrectly, and this awful buzzing sound would go off? It was like that. But done electronically, not with a relay."

"What could that be do you think?" Alan asked Perri.

Perri was shaking his head rubbing his chin as he thought. "I'm not sure. It could be an older alarm clock maybe."

"No." Ryan jumped in. "The duration of the buzz was to short. It wasn't even a second long, but at the same time, very attention getting."

"Do you think Mike will call again?" Perri asked.

"I think so." Ryan said. "If he's involved, not calling would draw suspicion. When he calls, I'll ask him about it and see what he says."

"Good." Perri sighed. "The sooner this whole thing is over with, the better."

"So where did Miller say he was going?" Ryan asked.

"He said he had a family emergency." Perri replied. "He was too evasive in his message he left me before he went. There is something not right about that whole thing."

"You think he ran?"

"I don't know. I only hope where ever he went, and what ever he's doing. He remembers to be careful. And remembers he's a police officer."

 

 

Norman Miller was scared. These killings of his former acquaintances, which came without virtually any warning was enough to cause him to take matters into his own hands. If it came down to a choice between his job and his life, his life would win out every time.

He felt less of a cop when he thought that way. However, he had never been put into a position like this one. He had been part of the conspiracy, and if was not the next to be killed, then he would be soon.

Ian would not be able to help. He didn't want to drag his partner, his friend in any more than he already had. Norman had a plan to catch this psycho once and for all, before that punk Ryan and his pretentious friend Alan could.

He would go undercover.

Norman told Ian and his superiors there was a problem in his family and he needed a couple days off to take care of it. In reality, he borrowed his wife's car and started staking out the Westminster City post office. There, the killer had a PO box registered under John Myers.

Norman knew this was not possible. Or was it?

Oscar Quincy had told him John was dead. Although Norman never actually saw the murder with his own two eyes, he did help ‘scarecrow’ dispose of the body. It had been sheer luck that Myers had no family to report him missing. Nobody ever asked any questions. After May 23, 1970, John Myers was never seen again.

And then Beth disappeared too. That had been unexplained.

Now it appeared she had been living in Ohio all this time. Probably with John, plotting this whole time. It looked like John was going to get revenge for what happened twenty five years ago. He waited all this time to get even.

Why did Alex say John was dead? Did he lie?

"Fuck it." Miller said in the middle of his thoughts. He looked over at the post office from out the window of his car parked across the street. The lobby of the post office was accessible twenty four hours for PO box access.

Earlier that day, Miller had a conversation with the manager of the post office. He said that if someone tried to access PO box 2237, the box in John Myers' name, Miller wanted a phone call, immediately.

There had been no activity within the last two days. Miller was going to be around the vicinity of the post office until someone showed up, cellular phone ready to receive the phone call.

It was close to ten o'clock when Miller looked up from the dash panel of his car to see someone disappear into the post office lobby. He didn't see who it was initially, but when this person came out. Miller would be ready.

The plan was this. Miller had the manager of the post office lock 'John' out of his box, so he could not access it. When 'John' complained to the manager, an identification could be made. The manager would then stall 'John' so a call could be made to Miller, who would be close by. The killer would then be busted.

Only now it was after hours, and Miller would have to investigate for himself. 'John' would try to access his box and not be able to. Miller would be able to see this from across the street. The confusion and possible frustration of a man not able to get into his PO box.

Miller got out of the car and walked slowly down the sidewalk so he could fully see the brightly lit lobby of the post office through the glass windows. A man shrouded in a trench coat was standing in front of a box. He stood there for several minutes fidgeting.

"Aw, what'sa matter? Can't get your box open?" Miller jeered quietly to himself. The man in the lobby quickly started to look around as if in panic. Like he was being watched. Miller immediately turned away and started to walk, slowly, looking inconspicuous.

The man left the lobby of the post office left in a big hurry and started to walk very quickly up the sidewalk. The man looked around nervously.

"I've got you now you fuck!" Miller hissed and started across the street towards the post office. He kept a considerable distance behind the man until he disappeared down an alley that would lead to a public parking lot.

Miller bolted for the alley. There was no one there. He ran for the other side of the alley, hoping he would at least be able to get a tag number from the car that would be driving quickly away.

There was no activity in the parking lot. The man had disappeared into thin air.

But then there was a snapping sound behind him. Miller whirled around to came face to face with the man from the post office.

"Hello Detective Miller!" He said snidely. "You're early, I wasn't expecting you so soon. I'm afraid I'm not quite prepared for you yet."

Miller squinted to see the face of the man, which was hidden under the baseball cap. "Who are you?" Miller demanded.

"A sin from your past my friend." The man said taking the baseball cap off.

Miller practically jumped out of his skin. "Johnny?" He asked in a squeak.

The man smiled. "At your service Norman!" He said gleefully.

"Is it you, you son of a bitch?" Miller asked.

"Is that anyway to greet an old friend Norman?" The man asked. "I'm hurt! We haven't even had a chance to catch up yet."

"Wait a minute." Miller said, slowly trying to inch his hand behind him. Where his gun was. "Your not Johnny! You look like him though."

"Appearances can be deceiving! Things, are not always as they appear. Please take your hand away from your backside please. I know there is probably some kind of gun back there. That would make things, well, unpleasant."

Miller froze as the killer pulled out a gun of his own with amazing speed. "Complements of Oscar Quincy!" He gloated. "He won't be needing it anymore!"

"Who are you really?" Miller demanded. The man threw back his head and laughed, but did not answer the question. "Know this whoever you are. I was NOT there when you were killed, if you were killed."

"I am aware of that." He said grinning. "But you see, that doesn't matter. You were involved! That makes you just as guilty in my book. You knew the law! And how to get around it. So, you must pay, like the others. Still, I didn't expect to see you so soon. This complicated things."

"Yeah, I hope so you chicken shit fuck!"

"Tsk, tsk Detective. Make your last thoughts happy ones why don't you." The man said. "For you see, I'm going to have to kill you now!" The man was no longer laughing, or playing around. He stared deep into Miller's eyes with raging pure hatred. The killer started to back away from Miller pointing the gun at his head.

Miller laughed. "What are you going to do friend? Fire a gun a block away from the City Police station? I think not!"

"It's not your problem, FRIEND!" The killed hissed and fired a shot into Miller's chest. He flew back with the force of the bullet, blood flying in all directions. Miller tried to scream, but the pain in his chest when he inhaled was to extreme. Writhing and twitching, Miller started to grab at his throat as blood poured out of both sides of his mouth.

"Help!" He whispered hoarsely, gasping for air.

"Now YOU know how it feels to be on the receiving end, don't you!" Miller reached out for his murderer.

"I...not there...didn't...anything." Miller pleaded in broken gasps. The killer looked around carefully. People would come soon. He had to get out of here.

"I have one final memory for you my friend." The killer said, pulling his wig off and wiping his face on his shirt. Miller's eyes widened open as far as they could go without falling out of his head.

"Johnny!" He hitched. "My God, its YOU!"

The killer smiled and put a bullet through Miller's head. Very quickly, the mark of the crow was left on Miller's forehead, and the next card left on his blood stained shirt.

Miller was dead.

The killer smiled at him and laughed quietly glancing up at his motorcycle a few feet away. "Ah, look at all the lonely people!" He smirked tapping the card on Miller's chest.

The killer escaped the city of Westminster unscathed.

 

Nora Kittridge called a little after ten, five minutes after Perri left Alan's house. The meeting had gone well, each side knowing what the other did. The Adam Jones puzzle blew Perri out of the water. Like Ryan and Alan had felt, the clue was right in front of him the whole time and he felt like an idiot for not seeing it sooner. When asked the other names involved with 'scarecrow', Perri could not remember them all. Stewart Boswell was one of them. Norman Miller, obviously. The other two were hazy. Perri seemed to recall the name Adam Jones coming up. But as for the 'E', Perri couldn't remember. It was an uncommon name. He thought it might have been Elaine, or something along those lines. Perri said he would find out if Miller ever came back.

Sadly, he would not.

Alan tried desperately to get through to Nora, but she remained firm. She was not going to come out of hiding. She said she felt safe where she was, and would return after the killer was caught.

Alan asked her about 'scarecrow'. She said she didn't know what he was talking about. When he asked about Alex West during his college days, Nora mysteriously said she had to go. Alan pleaded with her to let him at least see the kids. After much pleading, Nora said she would drive herself and the kids to her mothers house tomorrow so Alan could see them for a little while.

But just a little while. She wasn't taking any chances with the lives of their children.

Alan marveled later how Nora had said 'their' children instead of 'her' children. Somewhere deep down, Alan's wife was still there, buried under the horror of the 'scarecrow' murders.

Both men slept restless that night.

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