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grn_bt.jpg (687 bytes) April 7, 1995 - Friday

The doorbell rang a little after eight in the morning. Both Ryan and Alan snapped back into reality and met each other in the hallway, dressed in sweats.

"You expecting anyone?" Ryan asked alarmed.

"No, are you?"

Ryan shook his head. "It might be Perri or Ron."

"I'm not taking any chances!" Alan declared dashing back into his room and returning with a .22 revolver.

"Jesus Christ Alan! You didn't tell me you had a gun!"

"Emergencies." he said. "Let's go."

Alan looked through the peephole of the front door to identify the guest. It was not Perri or Ron. It was a man dressed in some kind of uniform holding a large envelope. The FedEx van parked in the driveway gave him away. "It's just Federal Express." Alan said pulling away from the peephole.

"It could be a disguise!" Ryan said in paranoia.

Alan looked at Ryan doubtfully. "Ryan, the van is in the driveway. Calm down." Alan opened the door and a simple man was standing there with an envelope and a clipboard. "Ryan Thomas?" He asked. Alan stood back to let Ryan come forward.

"That would be me." He said looking frazzled.

"I have an express letter for you. If you could just sign here." He said holding out the clipboard, pointing to line 3. Ryan signed for the letter and retreated inside the house. The FedEx man bid them farewell and left.

Ryan was staring at the over sized letter box, shaking it.

"What are you doing?" Alan asked.

"Maria was killed with a mail bomb." Ryan pointed out. "I'm not taking any chances." Alan took a step back as Ryan pulled the strip across the top to reveal what was inside the cardboard pouch.

No bomb went off.

What they found inside was worse.

There was a picture of Oscar Quincy, dead. The crow burned on his forehead. His throat had been cut. There was another manila business card that read,

 

ONLY A PSYCHO WOULD KILL HIS OWN MOTHER

 

And a note from the killer. Laser printed.

I didn't want you to miss out on anything. If the FBI is involved now, you won't be able to see these things. I wanted you to know.

Ryan shook the cardboard pouch to make sure everything in there was out. Another photo fragment fell to the ground. It was a small piece that showed the torso and bottom half of the woman in the picture.

Ryan spoke. "We knew the answer to this clue even before we got it. The answer is 'Norman' from the movie Psycho. Thus Norman Miller. What a stretch!" He finished with a touch of sarcasm.

"That would clear Miller from our suspect list." Alan reasoned. "I hope wherever he is, he's far away from Westminster."

"Yeah. The guy may be a prick, but nobody deserves to die at the hands of another human being."

"We should match this with the other photo fragments at the newsroom." Alan suggested. "I'll phone Ron and have him meet us there."

The phone call was not as Alan had hoped it would be. Ron had horrible news for them that had the police, city and state scrambling.

Norman Miller was dead. Murdered in cold blood not to far from the city playground. Alan said he had more information for the police. Ron was going to contact Perri and tell him that there was another photo fragment. They would meet Alan and Ryan at the newsroom.

Alan drove a separate car than Ryan, as he had an appointment later that after noon to see his kids at his mother-in-law's house.

At the newsroom, they put the newest fragment of the photo together with the others before Perri and Ron could get there. The four piece connected the first to the second and third. The four pieces together comprised almost the entire left half of the picture. It was clearly a man and woman standing next to each other, posing for a picture with the student activities building of Western Maryland College looming in the background. The picture appeared to be taken at night, as the sky was pitch black in the background. All that was missing was the right side of the picture and the faces of the two people.

"Its probably a picture of John Myers and Beth." Alan said holding the taped picture up. It was odd looking with three of the pieces being faxed photocopies and the fourth being a true piece.

"I don't get it." Ryan sighed. "If were led to believe this picture is of John and Beth, why don't we get pieces of the picture with their faces?"

"I don't know. I have a feeling those will be the last pieces we get." Alan replied. "I hope it doesn't get that far."

"Far." Ryan repeated. "Do you think Stewart was able to get from North Canton to Dayton in under six hours?"

"Its possible. It only takes six hours or so to get from here to the Ohio state line. That distance is greater that the distance from North Canton to Dayton, I think." Alan figured. "You still think Stewart is responsible?"

"Him, or Adam, or Mike I hate to say." Ryan paused. "I guess Miller is off our list."

"I can't believe he's dead." Alan mused. "Our clever friend is now a cop killer. He's in for a world of trouble now. I wouldn't be surprised if the cops cut him down to nothing when they find him. Fuck innocent till proven guilty. The guy doesn't have a chance. Even more so now that the Feds are involved."

"I hate to say this Alan, but I hope your right. When it involves people you know, it's different than when complete strangers get murdered. Tiffany, my dad, and now Miller, even though he was a jerk."

"You forget I knew Austin. He was my friend." Alan reminded him. "But I see your point. I hope I never have to find out what your going through."

"Yeah, me too."

Perri did not look well when he arrived. And rightly so. His partner of at least twenty years was dead at the hands of a mad man.

Still there was a job to do, and he was here to do it. Ron was only minutes behind Perri.

Ryan handed them the newest photo fragment, taped to the copies of the other three. Perri nodded his head immediately. "Yeah, this is the college all right. I need to take this fragment with me. The Feds will be in town later this afternoon to inspect the parking lot by the playground."

"I'm truly sorry to hear about Miller." Ryan offered. "Even through all our differences, the guy didn't deserve to die."

"Thank you." Perri said, putting on his 'Detective face'. "I guess I truly know how you feel Ryan. When it hits this close to home. I can understand your persistence now. I won't try and discourage you any further." Perri looked off out the window at the bright blue sky filled with puffy cotton clouds. He was holding back his sadness, his anger. "It's such a beautiful day outside." Perri marveled. "Spring will be here soon. This shit shouldn't be happening!"

"Detective?" Alan asked. "Are you going to be okay? Maybe we should do this another time."

"No." Perri insisted. "I want this guy NOW!"

"Okay." Ryan said. "Now what happened with Miller, what's the story?"

"Some of it I don't get." Perri admitted. "He was found in the alley that connects the playground parking lot to Main Street with two bullets in him. One in the chest and one in the head. He was dressed in civilian clothes and his wife's car was parked on the street across from the post office. In my professional opinion, I think he was watching the post office for the killer, hoping he would use his PO box or something. He must have succeeded in his vigilante under cover operation. And now he's dead.

"If he had only come to me with his plan, I would have assisted. But NO! He had to lie about going to his family due to some emergency and go out on his own. If I had been there, he might be alive now!"

Ron jumped in. "Or you would be dead Ian. Don't forget that. This guy is clever. he probably was anticipating this move, and was ready for it. You probably would have been killed two."

"Yeah." Ryan agreed. "And we would have two dead police instead of one, pardon my bluntness Detective. There was nothing you could have done, don't blame yourself. Trust me when I say that. I have to struggle with it every day, in two different cases."

"Your right, I'm sorry." Perri apologized. "I'm not acting professionally."

"It's okay Ian." Ryan said with sympathy. "I know what your going through. It's okay to hurt, as someone once told me." He glanced at Alan.

Perri continued, "The brand on the forehead was there. I saw it myself. And the card, it was there too."

"And what did it say?" Ryan asked.

Perri struggled with the answer knowing he was violating police policy by giving out official information to civilians. But what did it matter now? This whole thing had gotten way out of control. Maybe they could help now. What was left to lose?

"It said, 'Ah, look at all the lonely people."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Alan asked, knowing he had probably said that in the past about these awful cards.

"It's a different type of clue." Ron said. "Think about this. The first four clues actually used the name of the next victim in the clue itself. The next two were different. The clue, if asked in question form would give an answer. The answer of course being the name of the next victim."

"Three." Ryan said tossing Ron a card out of his pocket. It was the card mailed to Alan's house.

Ron and Perri looked at it in amazement. Perri asked. "How in the hell did you get this?"

"Would you believe the killer mailed it to us FedEx? Along with that photo fragment and this note." Ryan finished, handing the slip of paper to Perri.

Alan commented. "The sick fuck is teasing us. He wants us to know what he's doing, and where he's going."

Perri read the note and tossed it on the table next to him. "To hell with the Feds." Perri smirked. "The killer will tell us everything we need to know, won't he?"

Ron answered. "Your absolutely right. Ian, I think you should tell them what you told me." Perri looked at Ron as if he had let some cat out of a bag.

"Okay." He sighed. "Officer Blake had told me about his little 'deal' with you guys. Official information in exchange for the killer, assuming you discovered who he was before we did. I should turn him in for such a breach of security. It certainly did explain how you knew so much. However, in light of recent events, I'm willing to look the other way this time and let it go. It would serve no purpose except to complicate this case even more. We need all the manpower we can get at this point.

"With that in mind, I'm willing to do the same thing. In police work, you go on hunches sometimes. My hunch says you two should have been detectives. You seem to be cut out for the work."

Ryan poked his elbow in Alan's side. "Great idea's are born every minute, huh Alan." Alan shook his head in frustration.

Perri continued, "For whatever your reasons, you are intent on seeing this thing through to the bitter end, and as I said before I'm not going to try and stop you anymore. Now, I'm not going to come out openly and say I'm working with you two, however I'm not going to do all this sneaking around, like somebody else I know." Perri shot a look of notability towards Ron. "I would consider it cooperation on your part. As you two are not officers of the law, you can do certain things without fear of losing your badge, as you have none. I could not just pick up and go to Ohio on a whim, although I would have liked to. It's things like that, that make me think you could be a help, and not an interference." Perri chuckled. "Norman would not have approved."

Ryan knew it was a hypocritical faux pa on Miller's part. That is to be part of some kind of hate group way back when, and then adhere strictly to police policy. It had been strictly to cover his ass.

"I have the feeling I'm going to be pulled off this case soon anyway." Perri said with suspicion. "I'm supposed to have a meeting with my superiors later. I think their going to insist I take an impromptu vacation, effective immediately. If that happens, which I think it will, you can count me in all the way to the end. And Ron, he can do whatever he wants, I'm not going to break his confidence."

"How unlike you Detective." Ryan mused, but not in an obnoxious way. "When I first met you, you seemed like a 'by the book' kind of guy. What happened?"

"'The world has moved on', as they say." Perri replied. "I truly believe this is the way to catch the killer. Call it a hunch. Besides, with Federal involvement now, my hands would be as good as tied. Now, lets figure this 'Ah, look at all the lonely people' thing before somebody else dies."

Ron jumped back into the conversation, picking up where he left off. "Okay, as I was saying. The first four clues were a giveaway. The next three were simple puzzles. The victim's name being a kind of answer to the clue. This is different. 'Ah, look at

all the lonely people' is a statement. The name of the victim is not a kind of answer here. Instead, the name is inside the clue. All the lonely people could mean that there could be several victims in the next killing. If Miller's story was correct, there should be three left now. It would not be inconceivable, however improbable that he plans on taking all three out at the same time. It is just a theory."

Ryan remembered a question he had meant to ask Ron a while back. "Ron, how is it you know so much about the psychology of serial killers?"

"A fair question." Ron said. "It was my subject of study in college. I wrote a paper on the subject, documenting several cases. In each case, there was a common pattern of thinking. In this particular case, my theory's are derived in comparison to other cases and studies. Bear in mind that my theory's are nothing more than that. I could be completely wrong. I do know they have one pattern they like to adhere to and that is the cycle. He's after the people who wronged him. When he's done, he will have completed, in his mind, his greatest work. In every case I've studied, the killer believed he would not get caught. As I believe here.

"Although these killings are horrible and wrong, I am fascinated by the psychology behind the whole thing. What it takes to do such a thing, and why. I've never investigated a serial killer and his work. I had hoped never to have that opportunity because it would mean unwarranted death and hurt to innocent people. But seeing that its happening, I'm glad to be involved. I think with our combined efforts and talents, we'll catch this guy. It's one of the reasons I sought you out.

"When all is said and done, I plan to write a documentary on this case."

"Well, I don't see how, but I hope some good can come out of this tragedy." Ryan offered. "I would just like to get through alive."

"I think we are all safe here from being potential victims. It's not in the cycle. We were not involved in 'scarecrow' as of May 23, 1970. At least I don' think so.'"

They all replied 'no' in turn.

"Now." Ron started again. "The next clue card, as I emphasized earlier, is a more complex puzzle. What lonely people are we looking at. The obvious answer, the remaining victims. They are lonely because the rest of their comrades have been murdered. If this is the case, how can he take all three out at once?"

Perri answered. "He could set all three up to be at one place at the same time. As unlikely as that is."

"Maybe." Ron said. "Who are we dealing with? Adam Jones, Stewart Boswell, who we suspect is the killer due to some kind of personality conflict, which is possible, and the third person whose name we don't recall."

"Elaine is what I think Norman said." Perri supplied. "But I can't be one hundred percent positive."

"We have a start." Ryan offered. "If the name is going to fit in the Adam Jones puzzle, it would begin with an 'E'."

"With Adam Jones being the last victim, as it was his name that was spelled out." Alan added.

Perri interjected. "Unless he's the killer, spelling out his own name."

"To obvious." Ron said. "Although possible. I personally think Adam Jones was a key figure in 'scarecrow'. As one of those yearbook biography's of one of the victim's pointed out. 'Good shot A.J.'. A.J. being a named Adam used in college."

"The victim was Duncan Porter." Ryan said filling in the blank for Ron.

Alan had a question for the police. "If we suspect Stewart was responsible, then Linda Webb would know something. So what did she have to say on their disappearance."

"Not a whole lot." Perri answered. "Either she is covering for him. Or she just doesn't know. Remember that cut on his hand, the one you thought she got from breaking into the newsroom? Well, Linda claims he did that the night he found out Duncan Porter had been killed. He had seen it on the news and flipped completely out. Linda claims he went after he in a fit of hysterics. She grabbed a knife from the kitchen and told him to stay back. He grabbed for it and cut his hand. After that he snapped back into his normal self, apologizing, not knowing what had happened."

"It's almost believable." Ryan said. "If he really does have a personality problem, he might have killed Porter and not remembered it. When he saw the newscast, it might have freaked him out, cause deep down he knew. He knew he killed Porter."

"Credible." Ron said with approval.

Perri's beeper went off. He looked at him an winced.

"Who is it?" Ryan asked.

"The barracks. May I borrow your phone?"

"Certainly." Alan replied holding his hand out to the phone on the desk at the other end of the room. Perri made the call. Alan was about to make conversation with Ron when Perri exclaimed "WHAT?"

Shit, Ryan thought. Somebody else has bought it.

Perri said. "Yeah, he's right here. I'll tell him. We're on our way." Perri hung up the phone and looked at Alan.

"What is it?" Alan said with fear.

"There's trouble." Perri said with regret in his voice. "There's a problem with your wife, we need to leave right away."

"WHAT!" Alan asked in panic grabbing his hair. "What's happened to Nora?" Alan stopped in mid sentence as his jaw fell agape. "Oh my sweet Jesus." He whispered. "It's Nora. Nora is next."

"Why Alan?" Ryan asked harshly grabbing Alan's shoulders. "Why do you think that?"

"Nora is short for Eleanor, which is my wife's legal name."

"My God." Ryan whispered. "It was a lyric from a song. 'Ah look at all the lonely people'."

Alan was nodding, fear all over his face. "Eleanor Rigby."

 

 

The Westminster barracks of the Maryland State Police knew Perri had gone to question Alan Kittridge, which is why Perri had been contacted when the call came in that Nora Kittridge had been in a car accident. The Ellicott City barracks could not reach Alan at his house. It had been sheer coincidence that one of the other officers researching the 'scarecrow' murders had heard the call come in on the police radio. Officer Heinle was familiar with Perri's research and was aware that he was going to the college to speak with Alan about Miller's murder. After all, Kittridge had been a suspect in Webb's initial murder.

Details were sketchy about Nora Kittridge's accident. She had somehow run off the road into a telephone pole. A man on a motorcycle had been seen trying to assist Nora right after the crash. An elderly woman who lived across the street from the telephone pole which was hit had seen this. She had walked outside to see what happened. The man with the motorcycle yelled at her to call an ambulance. She made the call. But when she went back outside to say help was on the way, the man on the motorcycle was gone.

That was what Perri relayed to Alan as they drove to the Columbia Medical Center where Nora was being taken. Much to Alan's relief, Nora had been the only passenger in the car. The kids had not been involved.

Ryan followed Perri in his car as Perri drove his police cruiser to make the best time possible. Ron was not able to go as he was on duty in Westminster.

With the location Perri described to Alan, the accident happened only miles from Nora's mother's house in a suburb of Ellicott City. The direction she had been going in suggested she was driving away from the house. Perri made a few calls from his radio and got in contact with Nora's mother. The kids were safe at the house. Nora had left to avoid contact with Alan, as he was too dangerous.

Alan was hurt to discover this, but in Nora's state of mind, it was understandable. Nora had been in a simple car accident. Her condition at the time of the phone call was unknown.

But what the police were not saying over the radio for security reasons was that Nora was dead, with crow burned on forehead, and card left on her lap. What the police did not know what that she had been run off the road by the man on the motorcycle, who stopped only to finish the job with a gunshot to the heart.

Alan would find out when he was only blocks away from the hospital via police radio. The call had come in Code Alpha-Omega. This was what the code the State police were using to describe victims in the 'scarecrow' investigation. Dead victims. If Nora had been alive, the code would have been Alpha-Alpha.

It broke Perri's heart to tell Alan his wife was dead moments before they arrived at the hospital.

Ryan would not find out until Alan had already broke.

 

Perri and Ryan were sitting in the waiting room of the hospital while Alan was with his wife, doing what he needed to do.

"Not even twenty four hours this time." Perri said, head buried in his hands as he was running his fingers through his hair. "We're running out of time, and fast."

"Stewart and Adam are the only two left now." Ryan said softly. "Now it's a process of elimination."

"Ya know Ryan, I think that we may have to come to terms with the fact that the killer may not be either one of them. John Myers could be alive and well and enacting his revenge. I really want to talk to this Gerald guy. There is something about his story that just doesn't sit right with me. And Mike, I would like to talk to him too."

"Tell me about it!" Ryan said. "That buzzing sound may be the key. It may tell us where the killer is hiding himself. This so called ‘war room’." Ryan stopped to think. "And Jarrod."

"I'm afraid of what the killer might be doing to Jarrod in retaliation for not backing off. He could be dead now."

"Ron doesn't seem to think so." Ryan said. "He's the expert on serial killers."

"Yeah, but you heard what he said, what he thinks are only theory's"

"Yeah, I know. Don't remind me."

The two men did not talk anymore as a heavy sorrow hung in the air. Everybody they cared about, their friends, loved one's, relatives, even complete strangers were being murdered in cold blood, and there was nothing they could do about it.

"Okay." Ryan finally said. "Assuming Stewart and Adam are going to be victims, I would say we concentrate on finding Adam. Stewart is obviously a lost cause, and who knows where the hell he could be. We could probably find Adam if we tried hard enough. His secretary won't tell me shit about where he went. You on the other hand could probably get it out of her."

"It's worth a try. But be prepared that she may not know. If Adam took off to go into hiding, or to commit murders, the location he may have given would be false. He would not want to be reached for any reason. In fact, he would want to deter people from his true location. On the other hand, if he really had a legitimate reason for leaving town, we could find him in a heartbeat."

"Then that's what we'll do when we're done here. We'll go see Adam's secretary."

Another police officer signaled for Perri to come over and talk to him alone. He went leaving Ryan alone with his thoughts. They were of his father and Tiffany, the two people he lost to this brutal killer. Ryan knew how Alan was feeling. All was lost now.

Perri returned with a photocopy of the latest clue card.

 

EAT SOUP. LOOK AT PICTURES

 

"I'm not even going to try and decipher that one." Ryan declared. "And who needs to, the next victim is either going to be Stewart or Adam. It's just a matter of which one. You know what I think Detective. Find Adam. If we can keep an army of men around him twenty four-seven, the killer doesn't stand a chance."

"Maybe." Perri said with doubtfulness.

Alan sauntered out into the waiting room, the life sucked out of him. "She's gone." He said emptily. "I want to see my children."

 

 

Ryan took Alan to his mother-in-law's house where the scene of sorrow and mourning was tenfold worse than the hospital. A parent should never outlive his or her child. Nora's parents were in shock.

Perri drove back to Westminster to play twenty questions with Adam's secretary, Grace over at W.M.C. Ryan said he would catch up with him there, possibly without Alan.

Nora's parents wanted details. Alan tried to explain the best he could. But how does one explain to his in-laws that their daughter was murdered by a serial killer that wants revenge for something bad she did in her college days.

It was not an easy task. They didn't know how to react. There was blame, there was anger, there was crying, there were hints, allegations, and things left unsaid.

For now, Alan was concerned about the safety of his children. Even though it was unlikely the killer was going to go after them, Alan wanted them clear of the whole ugly ordeal.

Don and Selma Gordon agreed to take an impromptu vacation to their winter home in Florida with the children. It would get them out of the state. And no one would know.

Alan would call when a killer was caught. It ripped his heart out not to be with his children in this time of suffering. He needed their unconditional love and support. But, their safety came first, and Maryland was not a safe place for anyone even remotely involved with 'scarecrow'. Past, present, or future.

It was done. The Gordon's and the Kittridge children left that afternoon.

Alan insisted on staying involved with the investigation. It put him on the same page Ryan and Perri were on. A loved one killed. He would not stop until the killer was caught or killed himself. Like Ryan, Alan would not let himself feel the shock. There would be time to mourn when the whole thing was over, no matter how long that took. Yet, like Ryan, the razor sharp teeth of the emptiness would start to gnaw away at his very existence until he acknowledged it and accepted it.

Fortunately, it would be a slow process for both of them.

 

En route to the college, Ryan and Alan happened to come upon a broke down car on the side of the road. Route 27 towards Main Street, by the railroad tracks and the old loading warehouses, long since un-used.

It might have been nothing, and the car would have gone ignored. Except Ryan recognized it.

The car belonged to Todd Matheny and was sitting half on and off the rocky gravel road off Route 27 that went down to the warehouses. It looked as if Todd might have had an accident.

Ryan stopped the car to investigate.

"What are you doing?" Alan asked.

"This is Todd Matheny’s car." He replied. "Remember Todd? The spirit man I was investigating in the Alumni Hall haunting before this ‘scarecrow’ thing got out of hand?"

"Oh, yeah. Geez that was a million years ago." Alan mused quietly.

"Actually, it’s more like a week." Ryan interjected, half smiling. "But who’s counting."

"Not me."

"I just want to see if Todd’s okay." Ryan said. Alan nodded as Ryan stepped out of the car. Alan waited inside.

Ryan walked over to the car to discover it had a flat tire. Todd was no where to be seen. "Todd?" Ryan called out.

No answer.

Ryan surveyed the car for damage and found none. Off in the distance, someone was running. It was coming in the direction of the warehouses. Ryan looked off in that direction to see Todd running furiously towards his car.

"Ryan!" He shouted in panic. "You have to get out of here! The killer is down there!"

"What?" Ryan asked in shock.

"The Westminster serial killer, I saw him! He’s down there. We have to get out of here!"

Alan overhearing Todd’s hysteria jumped out of the car as Todd jumped into his own. He was going to drive away with a flat tire.

Something scared him.

"Who is it Todd." Alan asked.

Todd was shaking his head furiously as he geared his car to life and sped sloppily away. The flap-flap-flap of his flat tire filled the air.

"He can’t be serious." Ryan said, looking Alan in the eye. he glared back, the look of revenge in his eyes.

"What if he is." Alan said harshly. Monotone. "Lets finish this now!"

"We should call Perri."

"Call Perri then. I’m not waiting!" Alan barked and started off for the warehouse. Ryan ran after him.

"I’m not letting you do this by yourself." Ryan insisted, trying to keep up with Alan who was practically running now. They stopped in front of the huge warehouse and looked at each other.

No words.

"Let’s do it!" Alan hissed and kicked in the door which was already slightly ajar.

The warehouse itself was empty, and at first glance, was unoccupied. At the far end was a kind of workshop, with a desk light burning dimly. Ryan and Alan walked carefully to the workbench. It was littered with wires and electronics. There was a bag of fertilizer on the floor nearby.

But this is not what got Alan and Ryan’s attention.

On the wall in front of them were pictures sloppily taped up. Black and white yearbook pictures with the bio’s. They had been ripped out of W.M.C. yearbooks.

Newspaper articles from the Carroll County Times about the serial killings taped here and there along the wall, and next to the various pictures.

Austin Webb, Duncan Porter, Alex West, Maria Hayes-Hogan, Geoffrey Thomas, Oscar Quincy, Norman Miller, and Eleanor Gordon-Kittridge.

The ‘Scarecrow’ Hall of Fame.

"My God." Ryan whispered. "The ‘war room’."

Alan was ready to tear the place apart, but Ryan stopped him.

"Don’t do it!" Ryan exclaimed. "There could be serious clues here, fingerprints. fibers. We could fuck this up. Let’s just call Perri and get him down here."

Alan glared at Ryan in anger. Anger that he wasn’t going to have his way with the killer. "I want him Ryan."

"I know you do. So do I. But we need to do what is right. Perri is back at the college somewhere. Lets just go get him."

Alan closed his eyes in frustration. "All right." He whispered.

 

When they arrived back at the college, they discovered something that they didn't think they would see.

It was Ryan who opened the door to the newsroom to see two people there. One was sitting and one was standing.

"Look who came home." Perri said standing over the man in the chair.

It was Jarrod.

Or what used to be Jarrod.

He was badly bruised. Badly beaten. But no gunshot wounds.

"Jarrod?" Ryan asked cautiously. "How are you. Are you okay?"

Jarrod rocked back and forth, glancing up in Ryan's direction. "Ryan?" he asked.

"Yeah brother, it's me."

"I saw him Ryan."

Ryan looked up at Perri who was shaking his head in disgust. "Who is he Jarrod?"

"I don't know. He wears disguises. He looked different every time I saw him. He looked familiar, when I saw him. He was usually gone most of the time. Gone for long periods of time."

"Was it Stewart?" Ryan asked as lightly as possible.

"I don't know."

"How did you get out?"

"I got lucky." Jarrod said harshly. "The fucker screwed up. I managed to break free of that duct tape he wrapped around my wrists." He held up his wrists. "And then I ran like hell. The college was only a few miles away, so I came here and waited. I didn't want to go back to the dorm. I needed to be out in the open."

"Yeah, we found the ‘war room’." Alan said quietly.

"The old warehouse building along the railroad tracks by Route 27?" Jarrod asked.

Perri replied, "I asked Ron and some of the city police to go check it out and mark it off for forensics to go through. How did you find out about it?"

"Long story. We stopped to help a friend of mine with a flat tire. he wasn’t at his car. Suddenly he comes running up from the warehouse screaming he saw the killer. he was hysterical. Then he jumped in his car and took off. Flat tire and all." Ryan sighed with exasperation. "He's hiding out right here under our noses. Jarrod, how did he get you initially?"

"I didn't see it coming. He came disguised as a police officer, city police. I let him in and it was all over after that. He pulled a gun and I tried to fight him. He said if I didn't go with him, he would kill me and that would be the end of it. So I went. I wanted to scream out to someone when we were walking to your car, but he had that damn gun jammed in my side. I didn't want to die Ryan. I didn't want to fucking die." Jarrod started to get upset.

"It's all right Jarrod. You're safe now." Alan said. "The killers not going to fuck with you anymore."

"I know." Jarrod said, regaining his composure. "I'm gonna find that fucker and bring him down personally."

"Did you tell him anything?" Alan asked Perri.

"The basic gist of it. The details can wait for later." Perri replied. "Ryan, who saw the ‘war room’. Which friend of yours?"

"Todd Matheny."

"Do you have an idea where he went? Did he say who he saw?"

"No, he was obviously scared." Ryan replied. "He’s probably hiding somewhere." Ryan hunkered down in front of Jarrod. "Bro, do you remember any kind of buzzing sound when you were in the building?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Are you sure?"

"It's hard to say bro. There were so many weird sounds and things going on. I don't think I would have noticed a buzz. I'm sorry. Why?"

"When the killer forced you to call, I heard this buzzing sound in the background. Now, Mike Wagner left college early to go home and see his brother before spring break started. He left us a message on his machine. During that message, I heard the same noise in the background that I heard when you called."

"Your telling me the killer is Mike?" Jarrod asked in complete shock.

"Possibly." Ryan said. "When, and if he gets back. He has some things to account for."

"It could have been Mike." Jarrod said. "But it's hard to say. Whoever it was, was so well disguised. I don't know."

"Don't force yourself son." Alan said. And although it was said with sympathy, there was something missing from Alan's voice. Life. Spark. It was as if Alan was talking through a wind tunnel and his body was the other end. Very hollow and empty.

Alan, was going to need some time off.

The call came in from Ron. It was confirmed. The ‘war room’ was officially found. Also, they had found something. A clue.

A computer diskette.

Ron, against his better judgment, took the diskette from the crime scene so they could see what was on it first.

Ron was back at the newsroom within five minutes, asking Jarrod if he could access it.

Jarrod was uneasy about wanting to do it. "I really don't want to know anymore." He said. "I've had enough of this whole thing."

"I understand you completely." Ryan said. "But none of us here are as learned about computers as you are bro. If not for us, do it for Tiffany, or my dad, or Nora."

Jarrod pondered this thought for a moment and held his hand out for the disk.

He loaded it into the newsroom computer and switched it on.

The disk booted, and instantly, a message appeared on the screen.

 

THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR.

 

The message was replaced with a computer generated image of the next photo fragment. It was the top right piece of the photo.

"We were meant to find this." Ron said looming in the background. "He's toying with us some more, sick fuck."

"Can that be printed?" Perri asked immediately.

"It's possible." Jarrod said without enthusiasm. Truly, he sounded as if he really didn't want to be involved anymore. As he was scared. "I would need a laser printer for accuracy. I think we have one here."

"We do." Alan said clearing space on the table next to them. He carried the laser printer over from another computer terminal in the room and hooked it up to the one they were using.

"Here goes nothing." Jarrod said hopelessly pressing the PRINT SCREEN button. The laser printer hummed with life and started to spit out a color picture of the image on the screen. "That was to easy." Jarrod commented.

"He probably wants us to have a copy of this." Ron figured. "I want to know what else is on the disk."

"Could be nothing." Jarrod offered. "Why would he give us information about himself?"

"True." Ron said. "But I still have a hunch something else is there. Can you access it?"

"I can try." Jarrod said, typing at an amazing speed, trying to break the program. He explained as he worked. "This is really nothing more than a frozen screen saver program. The key is to unfreeze it. Even if I manage to do that, screen savers are usually protected with a user password. That could take longer to break through."

"Couldn't we just turn it off and turn it back on and break the program before it freezes?" Perri asked.

"It doesn't work that way." Jarrod said. "It would take a while to explain why, but it just doesn't. I think I might be able to get through this."

The screen with the photo fragment disappeared and a set up screen with numbers and letters appeared. It was Greek to most of them. Jarrod continued to type at an alarming rate using various commands and symbols. "This is a keystroke file." Jarrod informed them. "I'm following the keystrokes used to write this file. I should be able to break... oh shit."

"What?" They asked in unison. The screen blanked out. It was replaced with a user identification entry screen. Just as Jarrod had predicted, a password entry box was underneath.

"End of the line boys." Jarrod said, wincing from pain as he turned around. "Unless you know the user identification number and password, this is it."

Ryan asked, "Doesn't the keystroke program tell you what they are?"

"No, the program itself activated this screen just as I was about to find out. It's a loop. A safeguard if you will that prevents the user from identifying the number and password. It's standard with newer programs. I would have to go through lines of code to figure it out."

"How long would that take?"

Jarrod chuckled softly. "It would be like dropping a sewing needle out of an airplane hundreds of thousands of feet in the air and trying to figure out where it landed."

"Fuck me." Ryan wheezed.

"It would be easier just to randomly type in numbers and words until we found the right ones." Jarrod explained.

"There are millions of possibilities." Perri muttered.

Jarrod: "Exactly." He winced again.

Alan saw this. "We should get you to a hospital to be checked out." He suggested.

"I really don't want to go." Jarrod insisted. "I'll be okay."

"No argument!" Alan snapped. Jarrod didn't protest this time.

Perri grabbed his jacket. "I still have an appointment with Adam's secretary." He said. "I don't want to be late."

Alan said, "I'll take Jarrod to the hospital."

"Wait." Jarrod said turning the computer off. He removed the disk in the drive and booted up the Windows program on the hard drive. He took a blank disk and successfully made a copy of the killer's disk using a disk copy program. He handed the copy to Alan and the original to Ron. "Let the police have the original, maybe they know some tricks I don't." Jarrod said. "Alan, lock this one up in your safe."

Alan did as Jarrod requested.

Ron tucked the disk away in his jacket pocket. "I'll make sure the appropriate people see this. I'm going back to the warehouse to see what the progress is. I'll be in touch soon." He left.

Perri was on his way out too.

"Perri, wait." Ryan called out. Perri stopped as Ryan turned to Jarrod. "Bro, would it be okay with you if I didn't go to the hospital with you and Alan. I don't think I'm ready to go back there yet."

"Your dad?" Jarrod asked.

"Yeah."

"It's okay Ryan. I understand."

"Thank you." Ryan said. "However, I am going to go with Detective Perri to see what we can dig up."

"Lets do it then." Perri instructed.

The two parties went their separate ways.

 

Grace was not happy to see Ryan had brought official back up this time. She would have no choice but to talk now. Her job was definitely not worth police harassment.

"Good morning Grace." Ryan sneered. "Where is Adam Jones? I'd like to have a few words with him?"

"He's out of town on business Mr. Thomas. I explained that to you before."

"Where did he go?"

"I told you, I am not obligated to reveal that information." She said, standing her ground.

"Detective?" Ryan asked, standing aside.

Perri stepped forward flashing a badge. "Good morning Ms. Atkins. I'm Detective Perri with the Maryland State Police. I would like to ask you a few questions if you don't mind?"

"Do I have a choice?" She asked snidely.

"Not unless you'd like to come over to the station under arrest and answer some questions Ms. Atkins." Perri advised. "Your cooperation now would be much appreciated. And it would make all of our lives easier. So, do you want to do this the easy way, or the hard way?"

She glared at Perri with anger and defeat. "Mr. Jones, on the advise of his attorney has taken a temporary leave of absence." she reported.

"Advise of his attorney?" Ryan asked. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"I'm not answering your questions Mr. Thomas. YOU are not a police officer."

"Fine." Perri said. "Any question Mr. Thomas may ask, I will ask too. So please answer the question Ms. Atkins."

"I don't know." She replied. "Mr. Jones has been on edge this last week or so. He had a meeting with his attorney a few days ago. He told me he had to leave for a few days. He didn't say when he would be back."

"I see." Perri said. "Thank you for you time Ms. Atkins." Perri and Ryan promptly left the office. They started to walk back to the newsroom.

"We have to draw Adam to us." Perri stated as they walked across the quad. "I may have an idea how we can do that."

"I'm listening."

"I will have to get with my superiors on this one. It's a potentially risky move, but it could work. Lets assume that Adam is the killer. We feed mis-information to the press that a suspect in the 'scarecrow' case has been taken under custody. We can even say that he has been charged with the crimes. Adam might come back thinking he won't get caught, as somebody else has taken the fall.

"If Adam is a potential victim, as Ron seems to think. He would think everything is safe, and might come out of hiding. Then we could get to him and put him somewhere safe, leading the killer to us."

"Your right. That is risky." Ryan agreed. "But it could work."

"We should see what the others think. Then I'll talk to my superiors. If it's a go, we'll finish this thing up once and for all!"

 

 

Perri left W.M.C. to return to the State Police barracks. He requested a meeting with the higher ups to pitch his idea.

Ryan waited in the newsroom for Alan and Jarrod. Mostly he thought about his father and Tiffany. The two biggest empty spots in his life right now. To kill some more time, he took a copy of the newest photo fragment, (Perri had the other) and reduced it on the copier to make it fit the rest of the picture.

By the time he succeeded, Alan and Jarrod had returned.

Jarrod had been roughed up a bit, but there was no serious or permanent damage. Rest and recovery time was the diagnosis. Plus a few pain killers on the side.

Jarrod did not want to fuck with 'scarecrow' anymore. He expressed fear that the killer might try to kidnap him again. Maybe kill him this time.

Ryan explained to Jarrod everything that had happened since his kidnapping, right up to Nora's death.

Jarrod expressed deep sympathy for Alan and Ryan. He said he would break the computer program on the diskette for them, if it would help them avenge their loved ones.

After that was up in the air.

Finally, Ryan pitched Perri's idea to them. "It might even draw Stewart out of hiding one way or another." Ryan finished.

"It sounds to me like he's responsible for the whole thing." Jarrod said. "But the person holding me did not act crazy like that. He was very calm, collected, almost tranquil."

"Stewart could very well have a personality like that." Alan offered.

"It blows my mind that Stewart had that kind of a problem." Jarrod said. "I always thought he was a little weird with his mood swings and all, but this? No way."

"I know it." Ryan agreed. "It seems Pizza-To-Go will be no more."

Jarrod laughed, but winced as his did. "Don't make me laugh dickhead, it hurts."

"Sorry." Ryan uttered. Jarrod continued to try and break the program. He had made yet another copy so Alan and Ryan could work on it on another terminal. Ryan was trying random numbers and passwords in the appropriate boxes after Jarrod accessed that screen for them. Jarrod on the other hand was trying more deep and complicated procedures that involved equations and commands that Ryan didn't even remotely understand.

Alan made plans for Nora's funeral. He was going to have her cremated immediately and would then hold a memorial service for her when all was clear in Westminster. It was clearly a painful decision for him to make. But there was no other option at the time.

Perri called them late that afternoon.

"Hold onto your pants boys. It was a go." He told Ryan on the phone. "It'll be on the evening news and in tomorrow mornings paper. The suspected killer has been caught and charged. There will be no names or pictures used. He will be described as a white male in his late twenties, and that's it. We'll see what happens next. Be extra cautious and alert from now on. We made the bluff, lets see if it gets called."

"Jesus, this is way risky." Ryan reiterated. "This had better work."

"No shit it better work." Perri agreed. "It's my ass if it doesn't. How's Jarrod doing, is everything going to be okay?"

"Yeah, he was just roughed up a little bit. Somebody stepped on his dick. That was probably the most serious injury." Ryan jested.

"Fuck you whitebread!" Jarrod yelped. "The fucker slip and fell on my dick is more like it."

"Okay." Perri said ignoring the mud slinging. "We sit back and wait now. I will contact you tomorrow, unless something else transpires. Remember, be extra careful, what were attempting is very dangerous. People are going to let their guard down."

"Okay, talk to you later." Ryan said.

He hung up the phone and told them the news. The operation had begun.

It was only a matter of time.

They all stayed at Alan's house that night and waited. That was all that was left. The waiting.

They played trivial pursuit for a good portion of the evening, trying to relax, knowing the killer was probably not far. And probably pissed off that Jarrod had escaped.

They had no luck trying to access the information, if there was any, on the disk. The process had been given a rest. It was a trying frustrating task with no results.

The eleven o'clock news had roughly touched on the subject that the police had a suspect in the Westminster serial killings. He was being questioned tonight and charges were pending. Also, the police had discovered his ‘war room’. An abandoned warehouse in Westminster.

That was all that was said.

The three men, in Alan's living room held hands and prayed for safety and luck. And peace for the nine victims who had fallen prey to the killer.

May God rest their souls.

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Scarecrow   Copyright İ 1995 - 1999  C. Kevin Provance.   All Rights Reserved
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