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grn_bt.jpg (687 bytes) March 29, 1995 - Wednesday

Against his will, Ryan returned to the college Wednesday morning for Sociology class per Tiffany's request. The class was at nine. The reading of the will was at eleven. Webb's lawyer, Richard Goldberg had an office in what was known as the 'lawyer district.' In actuality, it was the street known as Court Street. It ran from Main Street to Center Street. All along Court Street were office buildings, and in those buildings were lawyers. And that was it. It was pretty much safe to say that every occupancy on Court Street between Main Street and the courthouse was home for some kind of lawyer. Ironically, the building after the courthouse of the county prison.

Richard's office was building number 107, which was about halfway down Court Street. There was a small parking lot behind the building where Ryan would meet Tiffany for the reading of Austin Webb's will. Where Tiffany would relinquish all right to Webb's fortune and estate voluntarily. In all likelihood, it was probably where a major confrontation between Linda Webb and Tiffany Cutter would transpire.

Ryan shook the thought from his head for the time being and concentrated on finding Alan before class. It was 8:45. So Ryan had ten minutes or so to find Alan. He was not in the newsroom as Ryan had hoped. But his car was in the parking lot, so he had to be here somewhere.

At 8:50, Ryan gave up and headed for the Sociology classroom, on the other side of campus. Halfway across the quad, Alan found Ryan. "RYAN!" Alan called out.

This took Ryan by surprise as he had not been expecting it. "Alan." he greeted. "Heard you had some trouble with Miller and Perri last night."

"That's putting it mildly." he scoffed. "They can't establish my alibi, yet."

"I can't believe they think you had something to do with this." Ryan said. "It's not right. They're barking up the wrong tree."

"What do you mean?" Alan asked.

"Let's walk to my class so I'm not late." Ryan suggested. Alan nodded as they walked. "I found some interesting thing's in Stewart's office last night."

"Oh yeah, like what?"

Ryan handed Alan the blank business cards. "Do these look familiar?"

Alan looked like he had just found out he won the lottery. "Where in the hell did you get these?"

"Stewart's office, I told you. Check this out. There's a computer there too, complete with laser printer." Ryan said, smiling evilly.

"No shit!" Alan exclaimed. "We have to tell Ron as soon as possible."

"You're gonna have to do it." Ryan said stopping at the door to the classroom building. "After class I have to go to the reading of Webb's will with Tiffany."

"Ah, I hear congratulations is in order." Alan teased. Ryan smiled and rolled his eyes. "So I can assume your together now?"

"More or less." Ryan said. "I hope to be back in the newsroom by noon."

"Okay," Alan said. "I'll see you then." Alan walked off towards the newsroom as Ryan walked upstairs to Webb's old classroom.

The man to replace Austin Webb for the remainder of the semester was Norman Tyler. He appeared to be the same age as Webb, only shorter. His hair was black and he was balding. Norman Tyler explained to the class that he was a part time instructor and that he was not going to be as easy going as Webb in terms of tardiness and other Tom Foolery in the classroom. Debates, if any, were going to be handled in a mature fashion. It was clear that Norman was a bit of a liberal.

It was going to be a long rest of the semester in Soc. class.

Norman in his obviously 'A' type personality began class with a form of role call. Ryan looked around the classroom to see how many people had in fact attended. It appeared only half were here. Jarrod was not seen either. Ryan knew he was at the library and would try his best to cover for him. Norman called out Tiffany's name.

"She won't be coming today." Ryan said in her defense. Norman looked in Ryan's direction and said nothing. The look spoke for itself. "She has, uh, things to take care of?"

"Do you know where Miss Cutter is at presently?" Norman asked.

Is it any of your business? Ryan thought. "Personal matters." Ryan replied. "I don't know where she is." There were various giggles and grunts in the classroom. It pissed Ryan off. "Real mature guys!" Ryan spat.

"You are referring to Miss Cutter's scandal?" Norman asked.

Another student piped up, "Would you show your face around campus after having a topless picture of yourself circulated around?" More grunts and giggles.

Ryan recognized the student as Gerald Lance. "Shut up Lance!" Ryan barked.

"Blow me Thomas!" He retorted.

Norman slammed his hand down on the desk. "Enough of this childish dialogue!" he snapped. "This is college, not high school. I would expect you to act as such."

"Practice what you preach." A voice in the back whispered. Norman's glance shot across the room in the direction of the voice, although he said nothing. Norman continued with role call. Eventually, he came to Jarrod's name

Ryan spoke on his behalf. "He also had an emergency situation to deal with today." Norman glared in Ryan's direction. It was Ryan's opinion that Norman Tyler was more like a drill sergeant than an instructor.

"Really?" Norman asked sarcastically glancing at the notes in front of him. "It appears Mr. Mayfield has already missed one class. Make sure he knows if he misses three total, I have the option to flunk him. Could you do that Mr. Thomas?"

Ryan was pissed. He did not enjoy being condescended to by a part time instructor with no professionalism about him whatsoever. "Yeah." he answered harshly.

"Thank you then. Are there any more absent students you'll be accounting for today Mr. Thomas?" Norman asked with a plastic smile on his face.

Ryan, glaring at the man answered, "No."

"Very good then, then I shall continue will the role call," Norman said calling out the next name.

In the past Ryan was able to take a lot of shit from a lot of people. But this guy, Norman Tyler, was just a plain out nasty, mean, hateful individual. There was something about him that was just not human. And it bothered Ryan. He was thinking that this guy should have been killed and Austin Webb should still be alive.

Ryan decided he was just going to leave class and file a formal complaint against Normie's attitude. He picked up his books and started out of the classroom.

"Going somewhere Mr. Thomas?" Norman asked.

"Yeah, outta here? Discussion?" Ryan asked with a bit of an attitude.

"None at all. You paid for this class, you may chose to utilize it any way you wish. I will warn you, if you leave now, it will count as one no show against your three. Is that understood?"

"Yeah." Ryan replied, coldly. "I understand that there is something completely wrong with you." The class started to Oooo and Ahhh at Ryan's confrontation. "This is supposed to be a learning experience, not some kind of military school. If I wanted to be condescended to like some kind of grunt, I would have joined the fucking army!" Some of the class were laughing now. "Mr. Tyler, or may I call you Norman, I will be paying a visit to Adam Jones sometime before the day is through to file a formal complaint against you and your instructing standards. Then I'm outta this class. I won't be instructed in sociology by someone who has so much to learn himself about dealing with and understanding people. Good day." Ryan walked out of the class room hearing the sound of scattered applause and a few whistles. The last thing he heard before walking downstairs and outside the building was Norman trying to regain control of the class.

Ryan marched directly to the administration building to see Adam Jones. He would go right to the top with this matter. His father was not going to shell out good money to a prestigious, not to mention expensive college to be verbally abused by a part time instructor with a military complex.

Fortunately for Ryan, Adam Jones was available at that time for a brief consultation on the matter.

"Please have a seat Mr. Thomas." Adam said waving his hand towards a chair. Ryan sat. "What seems to be the problem today."

"I'm sorry to take up your time Mr. Jones." Ryan began. "But there seems to be a problem with the instructor chosen to replace Professor Webb."

Adam looked surprised. "This isn't about the break in at the newsroom?"

"No, should it be?"

"Very well, go on then."

"I wanted to let you know that whoever this Norman Tyler character is." Ryan explained. "He's very unprofessional, and is very verbally abusive. I will not take part in that class while he's instructing."

Adam did not look pleased. "I'm sorry you have a problem with one of the instructors here Mr. Thomas. What exactly is it you would like me to do?" He asked.

"I would like to transfer to another Sociology class if possible." Ryan said. "I would just like to get my money's worth out of this experience. I don't feel I'm going to get it with Mr. Tyler."

"I see."

"Mr. Jones." Ryan began. "I'm really an easy going guy. It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers. This Norman Tyler was flat out rude and nasty. He was condescending to me like I was in middle school. I don't feel that I have done anything to deserve that kind of treatment. This is just a formal complaint. I would like to transfer to another class. Simple as that." Ryan paused for a sec, then said. "Off the record Mr. Jones, the only real use you could get out of that guy is to stick him on a wooden cross and use him as a scarecrow!"

Adam Jones's eye's widened. As if something Ryan had said scared him. Adam sat perfectly still and did not twitch a muscle as he stared deep into Ryan's eyes. For several seconds there was silence. Ryan was really uncomfortable after about twenty seconds of this earth shattering silence. He could take no more. "Mr. Jones?" Adam did not answer. He merely continued to stare at Ryan, not even moving an eyeball. It was as if Adam Jones had frozen into his seat. "Mr. Jones?" Nothing.

A full minute had elapsed.

Nothing.

Ryan stood up but Adam's gaze was still locked on the position Ryan had been sitting in. It appeared as if Adam Jones was having some kind of mild seizure. "Should I be calling a doctor?" Ryan asked out loud.

Slowly, Adam's gaze lifted so he was meeting Ryan's eyes again. "No." he said calmly, quietly. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to space out like that."

"It's okay." Ryan said unsure.

Adam stood up still studying Ryan's look. "I'll personally make sure your transferred to a more satisfactory classroom environment Mr. Thomas." He said more like his pompous self again. "Will there be anything else?"

"No, thank you." Ryan answered backing for the door. Adam was still staring at him though. Ryan thought it was scary how intense the look was.

"I'll contact you tomorrow Mr. Thomas."

"Okay. Thank you Mr. Jones." Ryan said. Adam nodded as Ryan back out of the room. It was a relief for Ryan to be out of that office.

What in the hell had happened to Adam? Ryan went to the newsroom to confer with Alan but he was not there. No one was. Ryan decided to take the extra time to catch up on his newspaper stories till it was time to meet Tiffany for the reading of the will.

This meant a return trip to Alumni Hall to see what Todd Matheny and his followers were up to. Todd's suspicious attitude towards the mention of Webb's name was curious, not to mention suspicious.

There was no one at Alumni Hall when Ryan got there. As usual, the lower level auditorium was chilly and dark, even with the lights on.

Somebody was here. Somebody not of the Earth plain.

Ryan stopped dead in his tracks on the way to the stage to laugh at himself. He was thinking crazy again. It was the aura of the place that did it to him. It was hypnotizing.

The Alumni Hall haunting was going to be one interesting story.

Ryan found nothing out of the ordinary on or back stage. No scattered objects, as exaggeratedly reported.

Ryan was just about to walk out from behind back stage when he heard people come into the auditorium. And by the tone of voice that was being used, it was Todd and his cohorts.

Jeez, doesn't that guy ever go to class? Ryan wondered, backing up to hide behind the curtain to eavesdrop.

"I don't think we should do it in here!" Bill declared.

"Why not, this would be the perfect place!" Todd insisted. The three people climbed up onto stage. Ryan looked around quickly for another place to hide fearing they might come through the curtain and discover him backstage. That would look very compromising.

"I don't know..." Bill faltered.

"Don't be such a wuss Bill!" Deborah jumped in. "We may not get a chance to do this again. We have to do it now while the spirits are here."

Ryan wrinkled his face in confusion.

"Do you really know what your doing?" Bill asked.

"Of course I do!" Todd insisted. "I have done this before!"

"We've done this before." Deborah corrected.

Todd continued, "I want to try and contact Webb while we still have a chance. He was just killed recently. We need to contact him before he moves on to another place. The other side."

Ryan wanted to belt out laughing at the silliness of it all, but refrained. Merely putting his fingers over his mouth.

"He might be pissed Todd, like the spirit here now." Bill offered. "What would you do then with two unhappy spirits on your hands."

"They want to contact us! Don't you see that?" Todd asked. "To hell with you Bill! Deborah and I are going to do this with or without you!"

Bill obviously gave in to the pressure. "Okay, when are we doing this?" He sounded frustrated.

"Thursday, at midnight." Todd replied. "There isn't any rehearsal that night and nobody should be here."

"Fine." Bill said, not very enthused. Somebody jumped off the stage.

"Hey!" Todd called out. "Make sure you bring a better attitude with you."

"Yeah." Bill uttered walking away, leaving Deborah and Todd together. There was walking around on stage. Shuffling of feet.

"Do you really want to rehearse now?" Deborah asked Todd in a seductive tone.

"We really should..."Todd began, but was cut off by something. The smacking of lips gave it away. Deborah was kissing Todd.

"All this talk of spirits and seances really gets me HOT!" She said harshly. It was almost bondage like. Ryan looked at the curtain in the direction of the voices in shocked disgust.

"Deborah, I don't think this is the best pla..." Todd began, but was cut off again. He groaned then.

"Do you like that?" She whispered.

"You know I do."

"Then shut up and take it."

Ryan was shaking his head. He didn't want to listen to these two go at it. They started shuffling around the stage again. Ryan looked for an alternate way out. Off to the left was a hallway, which presumably led to a door. Ryan thought he had seen one outside the building earlier.

He was about to walk away when Deborah and Todd came crashing through the curtain, completely wrapped around each other. The breezed right past Ryan, not even sensing his presence. Ryan watched the pre-mating ritual in horror as he slipped though the curtain to the stage side unnoticed. He heard Todd push Deborah up against the wall.

"Do you want it?" He hissed at her.

"Yes!" She hissed back. The last thing Ryan heard as he silently stole towards the top of the auditorium was a belt buckle being undone. He looked over his shoulder just as he walked out of the door in disgust.

"Uhh." Ryan groaned as he left the auditorium and building altogether.

They were going to have a seance. The three of them, right here in Alumni Hall. To contact the spirit of Austin Webb and whatever 'ghost' haunted Alumni Hall. Ryan decided he was going to secretly invite himself to see this for himself. He also decided that maybe Todd didn't have anything to do with Webb's murder after all. However, it would be interesting to see what lengths Todd would go to, to conjure up these supposed 'ghosts'. Hell, maybe Todd would invite him openly as media coverage?

Ryan looked at his watch, it was getting close to the time to meet Tiffany for the reading of Webb's will.

Maybe some ghosts did exist after all.

Tiffany had been waiting in her car in the parking lot behind Richard's office building. She appeared relieved when she saw Ryan pull up.

The killer could be here, Ryan thought. He looked around to survey his surroundings. There were four other cars in the parking lot, none of which Ryan recognized. Behind the parking lot was a cemetery.

"Are you ready?" Ryan asked Tiffany.

"No, but lets do this and get it over with." She replied. Ryan hugged her.

"That's my girl." He said, still taking the time to notice her breasts were pushed up against him. He was going to like this relationship with Tiffany. Spring was in the air, and so was love.

They walked to the front of the building and up to the front door. Ryan stopped to look behind him. Across the street was a car that caught Ryan's eye. It looked familiar, but he didn't know why. "What is it?" Tiffany asked.

"I don't know." Ryan said unsure. "That car across the street looks familiar."

Tiffany looked at the car which sat alone. "Never seen it before." She said. They continued into the building and down the hall to a wall directory. They found Richard's office and went inside. A secretary greeted them and said they could go right in.

When Ryan opened the door to Richard's office for Tiffany, he didn't expect to see what he did.

He recognized the car across the street just then.

The two people sitting on the other side of the room stood up as Richard Goldberg was shuffling papers across his desk. One of the two people was Linda Webb, who was glaring at Tiffany with pure hatred.

Ryan recognized Linda as the woman who was talking to Stewart at Pizza-To-Go yesterday morning. The other person was looking at Ryan appearing as if he had been caught in some heinous crime. He spoke then,

"Ryan." he said sounding falsely polite.

Ryan returned the greeting. "Stewart, nice to see you."

The tension in the room was so think, it was a wonder anybody could see through it. Stewart Boswell and Linda Webb, together. Ryan was wondering if Stewart was the person Linda Webb had been having an affair with that drove Austin into Tiffany's arms.

It certainly did appear that way.

Richard looked up from his desk. "Good, your here." He said. "We can get down to it then. Before we get started, I would like to thank you all for coming under these unique circumstances. For the record, I did have a conversation with Miss Cutter earlier this week in which she told me she would like to relinquish all rights to whatever Austin Webb might have bequeathed to her in his last will and testament. I have drawn up the necessary papers for this transaction. It would give Linda Webb full rights to whatever Austin Webb bequeathed to Miss Cutter. Is this satisfactory to all party's present?"

"Yes." Tiffany said looking at the floor.

Linda was still glaring at her. "Ya damn right it is." Linda snarled. "That bitch deserves nothing that Austin had. It's all mine." Ryan was rolling his eyes between glances from Linda to Stewart. Stewart was looking at Ryan, appearing mildly uncomfortable. As if he had been caught in the act still. Linda was addressing Tiffany now. "Pregnant? That was a good one. What better way to trap my husband into giving you everything we had together. You were praying on my weaknesses you BITCH!"

"What the hell are you talking about?" Tiffany whined. "Weaknesses! What is that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, as if you don't know, tramp!"

Richard was looking uncomfortable, and clearly out of control as Tiffany retorted. "I have no idea what you're talking about!"

"Like hell you don't" Linda growled. "You know damn well that I can't have children! How dare you sit there and pretend otherwise. My husband wanted a child so bad that he decided to go out and get someone pregnant. He didn't care who it was, just as long as he had a son or daughter to continue his family legacy!"

Tiffany looked shocked. "That's not true." She squeaked.

Linda laughed obnoxiously. "My dear child, you had no idea, did you?" She asked. Tiffany was on the verge of tears. "MY husband was using you. He didn't care about you. He even told me once, although I thought he was joking at the time, that he was going to find someone to have an affair with so he could have a child. I can see he was serious."

Tiffany was crying. Ryan interceded. "Shut up. You shut your mouth. You have no right to sit there and pass judgment on your pedestal while you were in bed with another man the whole time."

"Shut up Thomas!" Stewart hissed.

"Fuck off Stewart, this isn't about you!" Ryan said harshly. "The way I understand it, MRS. Webb, is that you were having an affair long before Austin started seeing other women. I know for fact he was trying to sue you for divorce based on those grounds. So don't sit there and preach about how upset you are about YOUR husbands actions when you have no way or right to justify your own!

"I think your just burned because your husband fell out of love with your cheating ass and decided to take all his assets with him, regardless who he was going to give them to in the event of his death. The man was clearly worth more than you."

"Shut up!" Linda hissed.

Ryan continued, "No, wait, this is starting to make perfect sense. You cheat on Austin for whatever crooked reasons they are, and shack up with Stewart, who obviously isn't worth as much as Austin was. You couldn't possibly win anything out of a divorce initiated by Austin for adultery, as you were the initial adulterer. So you figure the only way you can get your gold digging hands on his money and estate is if somehow Austin were to die before the divorce. Thus making you the main beneficiary of his estate. You get your lover, the house, the car, the money, and everything that was Austin's.

"So you killed Austin, or had him killed. Only you didn't figure him on changing his will, giving everything to the unborn child and his mother. That threw a real monkey wrench in the works, didn't it? So why not frame the mother of his unborn child, Tiffany for the murder, while contesting the will at the same time, especially now that the baby is gone. Tiffany would lose in a heartbeat. Tiffany would go to jail for a crime you committed and you would get everything, free and clear."

"HOW DARE YOU!" Linda screamed. "I loved my husband!"

Ryan chuckled and threw a doubtful glance at Stewart. "Yeah, obviously." he sneered.

"You are way out of line Thomas!" Stewart hissed. "You have no idea what you are talking about."

"Really?" Ryan asked. "Tell me again how you got that cut on your hand Stewart. A little break in somewhere near the college perhaps?"

"What?" Stewart asked in complete surprise.

"Or the knife." Ryan pointed out. "I know about the knife Stew. It disappeared from the restaurant the same time Austin was killed. Suddenly it reappears? With some bullshit story about what happened to it? I know it wasn't in the bottom of the dishwasher. Somebody looked there the night we noticed it gone. No knife. Sticking it in Tiffany's desk back at the college was a smooth move though. I haven't figured out how you did it, but it was smooth."

"What in the hell are you talking about?" Stewart asked.

"Don't pretend. I hate being condescended to." Ryan barked. "You can tell it to the police!" He stood up with Tiffany.

"Wait, I can explain." Linda said suddenly, standing up. Stewart grabbed her leg as if in a warning.

It was Richard who interrupted. "Linda, I have to advise you not to say a thing until you've spoken with your attorney. Anything you say in front of me will be admissible if any of this is true."

Linda turned to face Richard. "Well then your hired!"

"I don't practice criminal law Linda." Richard admitted. "Don't say a thing. Not another word."

Linda looked as if she were about to explode. She grabbed her purse and bolted out the door. Stewart went after her, stopping to get right up in Ryan's face for a second. "I don't know what kind of game your playing Thomas, but you've crossed the line." He left.

Tiffany was trying to regain control of her emotions and she wiped tears off her face. "Austin was using me so he could have a child?" she asked herself. "That can't be true."

"It probably is Tiff." Ryan said looking at Richard, who was obviously taken aback by what just happened. "Mr. Goldberg, I apologize for the outburst."

"Is any of this true? Do you really have evidence to suggest Austin was murdered by his WIFE?" He asked.

"Possibly." Ryan answered. "I know the detective on the case. I'll speak with him later today about this."

Tiffany asked. "Where are the papers? Let me sign them so I can get on with my life."

Richard reached for some papers on his desk and set them in front of Tiffany. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

Tiffany nodded. "I don't care about money or material items. I don't want anything to do with, or anything that belonged to Austin Webb. His wife can have it all." She said reaching for the pen in front of her. She signed the papers and set the pen back down on the desk. "Not that it's going to do her any good."

Richard picked up the signed papers and put them in his briefcase. "I'm sorry about this." He said. "I'm still glad we got this done without any real blood shed."

Tiffany and Ryan walked out of the room without saying another word. Richard's secretary watched them as they crossed the waiting area. "Is everything okay?" She asked. "Mrs. Webb and her companion looked really upset."

"Yeah, everything's going to be fine." Ryan said walking out of the office with Tiffany.

Stewart was out in the hallway waiting for them. "What the hell is your problem Thomas?" He hissed.

Ryan looked at Tiffany. "Go wait by the car for me, I'll be right there." He said. Tiffany started to walk away looking over her shoulder as she left the building. "Stewart, for once in your pathetic life, could you address me by my first name."

"Fuck you." He barked. "What the hell is up with this shit. I DIDN'T kill Linda's husband. Where the hell do you get off suggesting I did!"

"You'll find out." Ryan sneered. "I still would like to know why you killed Duncan Porter."

"You better watch your ass, RYAN!" Stewart snapped. "I didn't have anything to do with Duncan Porter's death, or Austin Webb's. If you imply as such to anybody else, I will come after you myself."

"And what Stewart? Burn a crow on my forehead too?" Ryan asked. "Answer me this, what the hell happened on May 23, 1970?" Stewart's expression changed completely. He looked more scared than angry now. "I KNEW it!" Ryan said. "What happened on that day Stewart. Why are you killing people associated with that day?"

"Stop it Thomas." Stewart warned, his voice shaky. "Last warning!"

"Oooo, that sounds familiar." Ryan said sarcastically. "You left that on one of your cards, didn't you?"

"What?" He asked in complete surprise.

"Give it up Stewart." Ryan wheezed. "I'm going to the cops right now with what I know. Your gonna fry!"

Stewart turned around to leave. Only he threw his fist around and punched Ryan square on the jaw. Ryan fell to the ground as he felt warm blood flow into his mouth. Stewart was walking away saying, "Stay away from me Thomas, just stay away."

"Does this mean I'm fired?" Ryan called out as Stewart disappeared out the front door. "Asshole!" Ryan whispered, wiping the blood off his lip. Then he remembered Tiffany was outside. Alone. Ryan ran for the front door to see Stewart's car driving off towards center street. Not enough time to see Tiffany. Ryan ran to the parking lot behind Richard's office to his car. Tiffany was not there. "TIFFANY!" Ryan called out, listening to his own echo. No response. Tiffany's car was undisturbed and locked. Ryan looked around frantically. "TIFFANY!" He called out again. Nothing. Ryan stopped at the driver's side door of his car to see a purse lying on the ground, its contents scattered about. "No, no, no, no this isn't happening. Shit!" Ryan picked up the purse and it's contents and threw them into his car.

Ryan was going to follow Stewart, who was headed for Center Street. He figured it must have been Linda who abducted Tiffany and waited for Stewart out front while he distracted Ryan. Stewart's car was no where to be seen when Ryan got to Center Street. One direction led back to Main street while the other led to Interstate 140. Either way, Stewart had the advantage of heavy traffic to put space in between them.

He drove back to the courthouse and used the pay phone in the lobby to call the newsroom back at the college. The phone rang several times. Ryan was afraid that nobody would be there. "C'mon, somebody answer dammit!"

Somebody picked up the phone. "Hello?" Alan's voice cheerfully said. "The Forum, may I help you?"

"Alan, it's me." Ryan said out of breath. "Get a hold of Ron, now. Have him meet us at the newsroom, now. Tiffany's been kidnapped."

"What?" Alan asked in complete shock.

"We were at the courthouse. I'm pretty sure it was Linda Webb and Stewart Boswell."

"Ryan, slow down, explain this to me." Alan said. "This doesn't make any sense."

"Later." Ryan said. "Get Ron down there, I'm on my way." He hung up the phone to avoid further debate. He tried to drive calmly but it was a little hard to do being as anxious as he was to see Ron. Ryan drove up to Main Street and turned right. After about two miles and five traffic lights, Main Street would split off onto Pennsylvania Avenue which would take you directly to the college.

Ryan parked sloppily in the first spot he could find and ran all the way to the newsroom. Just as he walked through the door to see Alan, Mike and Ron, the beeper in his pocket went off. The three men looked at Ryan as he checked the pager to see who it was. The display read,

05-23-70

"Who is it?" Mike asked softly as the silence hung in the air.

"The killer." Ryan answered. Ron, in uniform, reached for the pager. Ryan handed it to him. "I have reason to believe Stewart Boswell is the killer. He's got Tiffany."

Alan walked over to Ryan and put his arm around him in comfort. "It's going to be okay Ryan." He said.

Ron said, "Alan had already explained to me about Stewart's hand and the knife returning to his store. Why do you think Stewart is the killer?"

Ryan explained the scene back at the courthouse. How he suspected and accused Linda of having Webb killed and the confrontation in the hall. "Did Alan tell you about the blank business cards and the laser printer in Stewart's office?"

Ron nodded holding up the blank cards. "Do we know where Jarrod is right now?" Ron asked.

"He's at the library looking up those old newspapers." Ryan said. "Did you beep him Alan?"

"Yeah, he hasn't called back yet." Alan said. He turned to Ron. "What are we going to do about Tiffany?"

Ron looked at Ryan. "Did you actually see Stewart kidnap her?"

"No."

"Did you see her in the car?"

"No."

Ron sighed with exasperation. "Officially, there's nothing I can do through the force. We don't know one hundred percent she was kidnapped. No one saw her abducted, and the evidence is circumstantial. She could have run away in the eyes of the law. However,I believe you when you say she was kidnapped Ryan. She has to be missing forty eight hours before we can declare her missing. I'm sorry."

"So were not going to do anything?" A furious Ryan asked.

"I didn't say that." Ron reassured. "Officially, I can't do anything, unofficially, that's a different matter. If Stewart did in fact kidnap Tiffany, where would he go?" There we no answers.

Ryan said, "The assistant manager is probably running the show over at Pizza-To-Go. Stewart owns the place. If he calls out, there is a third key who works there. So it's safe to assume he would not go there." The beeper went off again. It was lying on the layout table. Alan picked it up and read the page.

"What the hell?" He asked out loud.

"What is it Alan?" Ryan asked.

Alan threw him the beeper and said. "I haven't the foggiest idea?" Ryan read the page.

1601-32

He handed the beeper to Ron who remained expressionless. He said, "The killer is fucking with us." Mike leaned forward to read the beeper in Ron's hand. "Does anybody know the significance of sixteen oh one dash thirty two?"

"A code of some kind?" Mike asked.

Ryan said, "Jarrod should be here. He's good with these kinds of things."

Alan looked at his watch. "I don't know why he hasn't called back yet. I beeped him about ten minutes ago."

Ryan chuckled. "This is Jarrod were talking about. He'll probably take his time. Did you dial in 911 after the phone number?" He asked.

"No, I didn't" Alan said picking up the phone. "I'll try it again." He dialed the number and entered the appropriate information. This included the newsrooms phone number and 911 after it.

"Lets just hang tight till we hear from Jarrod. He might be able to figure this out." Ron said. Ryan lit up a cigarette, which drew a dirty look from Ron. Alan clapped his hands together indicating he wanted Ryan to throw him the pack so he could have one too.

"What about this 'Go West' thing." Mike asked. "Do we have any idea what the killer meant by that?"

"Not a clue." Ryan said dragging hard on the cigarette. Hard enough to make him cough.

"That'll teach ya." Ron said smirking a bit.

"West is obviously the name of the next victim." Alan deducted. "If the killer is following the same MO. 'Go West' would then be some kind of riddle. Like 'Ring me a Porter'? A telephone was used to kill a man named Porter."

Ron said, "That's half true. Porter was already dead before the explosion. The killer murdered him first, THEN detonated the bomb. This tells me the killer probably like the satisfaction of doing the actual killing personally."

"Point taken." Alan said. "So we can assume the killer is going to come face to face with this 'West' person before he dies. All we have to do is find out who 'West' is and keep a close eye on him. Now, what about the 'Go' part?"

Ryan said, "The killer could be telling us to look in the direction of west, maybe?"

"West of where?" Mike asked.

"The college perhaps?" Ron said. "That would be in the direction of Eldersburg."

"'Go West' is also the name of a rock band." Mike said.

Alan offered, "It's also the name of a song by the Village People." This threw a bunch of harsh looks in his direction.

"I'm glad your old enough to tell us these things Alan." Ryan said sarcastically.

Alan was about to retaliate when the phone rang. He picked it up. "Hello, The forum, may I help you?" Silence. "Where are you man?"

"Must be Jarrod." Ryan whispered to Mike and Ron.

"Oh, okay. Look, we have a situation here. How soon can you get here?" Pause. "Okay, see you in a few." Alan hung up the phone. "That was Jarrod, he was at the library. He's on his way back here."

"Good." Ron said. "Knowing what 1601-32 means might help. It's obvious the killer is toying with us. He wants to give us enough information to get close to him without actually catching him."

"Well that doesn't make any sense." Ryan said. "Why would he want us to back off and toy with us at the same time."

"Its the psychology of the whole thing you have to look at." Ron explained. "It's really a no win situation with a quack like this. He knows were not going to back off, no matter what he does. He wants to scare you. Its a power thing you see. The killer has all of the power right now. He knows practically everything about us and we know squat about him."

"Wrong Ron." Ryan said. "The killer is Stewart."

"Unfortunately Ryan, we don't know that. True, all the evidence points towards him, but there is no SOLID proof, not yet." Ron said. "The killer likes fucking with us. It's giving him some kind of twisted satisfaction to know he has the upper hand. So you see, he tells us to back off, knowing we won't. It gives him an excuse to fuck with us even more. Like kidnapping Tiffany. He was probably planning something like this all along, and needed an excuse to do it. He tells us to back off, we don't and the killer has now justified what he's done to Tiffany.

"In cases like this, there rarely is spontaneity. Everything the killer does is planned down to the last second. To be spontaneous is to be sloppy. If the killer gets sloppy, he gets caught. Simple as that. Whoever this is, he's got his plan down from beginning to end. He probably even has a back up plan in case his first one fails."

"Lovely." Ryan barked. "Just fucking lovely. So your telling me he was planning to kidnap Tiffany all along?"

"Probably." Ron answered. "If not Tiffany, then someone else. But I would have to say the kidnapping part was probably planned. Retaliation for not backing off after we had been warned. This code he left in your beeper will probably tell us what he's going to do next."

"You mean 'Go West'" Alan asked.

"Most likely." Ron answered. "The sooner we figure out who "West' is. The closer we'll be to finding out who the killer is."

Ryan's face lit up. "Do you think 1601-32 is some kind of clue to WHEN this West person is going to buy it?" He said.

Ron's face lit up too. "Maybe." He said. "1601 in civilian time is 4:01. If 1601 is military time." Ron looked at his watch. "It's almost noon now. If were right, we have about four hours to figure this out."

Mike asked, "What does the 32 stand for then?"

"A place maybe." Alan said. "What could 32 stand for in terms of a place?" There was silence as the four men thought about it.

"An address?" Mike asked.

"Could be." Ron answered. "It's to broad a range. The killer wants us to figure it out without making it to easy. There are probably a shit load of addresses that are 32. It's got to be more specific than that." There were no other guesses.

The reality of Tiffany being kidnapped was starting to hit Ryan, hard. "Ya know guys." He said. "I'm really starting to get scared here. Tiffany could die if we don't find her."

Ron said, "I'm going to tell you something Ryan, although I don't think it will help. I don't think the killer is going to kill Tiffany. Why? Because it's not part of his plan. The victims we think all have something in common with each other. It appears to be whatever happened on May 23, 1970. Tiffany was not even born then, so I would think she had nothing in common with Webb, Porter and West. Serial killers have a pattern they follow. If the pattern is May 23,1970, which I think it is. Tiffany will not be killed. I truly believe this is the killer just fucking with us. He'll probably return her soon with another warning telling us to back off again. We won't and he'll have another excuse to do something mean and cruel again. It's going to be a vicious cycle until he's caught.

"There will be an end to this gentleman. If the pattern goes back to that date in 1970, there were probably only so many people who were involved. If he's trying to kill all of them, and succeeds. It'll be over. One way or another, this will all end. It's just a matter of time."

"There's our next goal then." Alan said. "If we can figure out what happened back on May 23, 1970, then we could probably figure out who's involved. That would be a big help. Those people might actually know who's doing this."

"Stewart knows." Ryan said. "I asked him about that date, and he looked like he was scared. I KNOW he know what happened. And it's probably bad."

"I guess so." Mike said. "Seeing people are getting killed here."

Ryan got up. "I have to go take a piss. I'll be back." He said walking out of the room. Ryan walked halfway down the hall when he saw one of the flyer of a naked Tiffany hanging on the wall. Somebody had added to the picture by drawing big black nipples over top of Tiffany's breasts. Ryan ripped the thing down to reveal another flyer. This one was an advertisement for a seminar over at the Carroll Community College on the other side of Westminster. Apparently there was going to be a lecture of some kind sponsored by the art department. The subject - Van Gogh, his life and times. It was a lot of gibberish about places and times. The thing that caught Ryan's eye was the big black print at the bottom of the flyer. It read,

THE WORKS OF VAN GOGH
presented by
ALEXANDER WEST

Ryan studied the flyer. Then it hit him. The answer to the latest riddle was right there in front of him. Van Gogh - Alexander West. Gogh - West / 'Go West'. "Fuck me." He said to himself as he ripped the flyer off the wall and ran back to the newsroom, slamming the flyer down on the layout board. "There it is gentleman. The life and times of Van Gogh, by Alexander West. Get it? GOGH West, GO West?"

Ron snapped the flyer up off the desk and studied it. "I got it. 1601 is the address of Carroll Community College. 32 is the road, Route 32. Holy shit!"

"That's where he is right now." Alan exclaimed. "Or where he's going."

"Or where he's been." Ron said grabbing his hat. "Let's go, I've got a police cruiser outside."

Jarrod walked into the room just as they were about to go tearing out of the building.

"What in the hell is going on here?" Jarrod asked.

"We know where he is Jarrod," Ryan said. "The killers at Carroll Community. C'mon, I'll explain on the way."

They ran outside and piled into Ron's Westminster City issue Cruiser, which was actually a 1995 Chevy Caprice. The siren and lights went off as Ron pulled out onto Pennsylvania Avenue. Carroll Community College was just on the other side of town. Seeing the group was in a police cruiser, traffic was not going to be a problem. Ron was calling for backup on the police radio while Jarrod was brought up to date on the situation.

They pulled into Carroll Community College's parking lot five minutes later. The college itself was set down in the valley off Route 32 out of Westminster on the west side of town. To the left of the college was the county vo-tech center and Westminster High School, where Tiffany hailed from. To the right, nothing but empty fields. In front of the college was a circular walkway that could accommodate a vehicle, but was used mostly for student traffic. Ron parked the cruiser on that walkway right smack in front of the doorway to the main hall of the college. The light and siren were attracting attention from the students and faculty.

The five men jumped out of the car and ran into the college. The hoopla was cause enough for one of the administrators to come walking out of the office, not looking very happy. "What in the HELL is going on here?" He snapped.

"I'm Officer Blake with the Westminster City Police department." Ron said holding his badge. "I would appreciate you full cooperation in this matter. We need to see Alexander West immediately please."

"The art instructor? Why is there a problem?" The administrator asked.

"I have reason to believe he may be in some kind of danger sir. Could you please direct me to where he might be please." Ron asked sternly.

"I would think he would be in his office right now."

"Could you take us there please?" Ron asked.

"Follow me." He said as he started to walk towards the back of the great hall. The great hall of the college resembled something between a mall and a prison. It was a two story building with classrooms that surrounded a huge lounge type area. That's what gave it the 'prison' effect. However, there were plants, trees, tables and benches scattered throughout the great hall, which gave it the 'mall' effect. From a architectural standpoint, it was very uniquely built. There was a wing of room to the rear and right of the great hall. This was where the group was being led. "What exactly do you mean by danger officer?" The administrator asked.

Ron said, "I can't say a whole lot at this point Mister..."

"LaPorte. Howard LaPorte." The administrator finished.

"...Mr. LaPorte. I need to establish Mr. West's safety first." Ron concluded. The group turned out of the great hall into the right wing of classrooms.

"Safety? Are we all in danger here?" Howard asked.

"Sir, I really can't say just yet." Ron repeated. "If you could just be patient please." They stopped in front of a door that read FACULTY OFFICES.

"Look." Howard began. "I've got a college full of tuition paying students here. If any one of them is in any kind of danger..."

"Mr. LaPorte, I understand your concern." Ron explained. "As soon as I speak with Mr. West, I'll brief you in full."

Howard glared at Ron as he opened the door. "End of the hall to the left." Howard said, clearly not liking the position he was in. They ran to the end of the hall and found a door with West's name on it. Ron opened the door. The room was empty.

"Damn." Ron swore. He looked back at the rest of the group. "He's not in here."

A head popped out of another one of the offices. It was an older woman. "Are you looking for Alex?" She asked.

"Yes." Ron piped up. "Do you know where he went?"

"He got a call about a half hour ago." She said. "Said there was some trouble in the art supply room. He was supposed to bring me back coffee. I don't know what happened to him."

Ron turned to face Howard who was starting to look concerned. "Where is the art supply room?"

"Downstairs, in the storage area." He replied. "You'll need a key. C'mon, I'll take you there." This time Howard ran out of the office and back into the great hall. They went down a flight of stairs which led to the cafeteria. The entire back wall of the college was comprised of windows. You could see all the way across the field to Interstate 97.

Howard led the group down a hall which was under the right wing. It appeared to be unused in terms of classrooms and more like a storage area. They came to a double door which was locked. Howard fumbled with his keys to unlock the door. The corridor they entered was dark with the exception of a small light at the other side of the hall. It appeared to be coming from some kind of window.

"That's not right." Howard said immediately. "That door shouldn't be open." Alan took it upon himself to run down to the end of the hall to investigate. There was a door on the right side which was propped open by a stone. The window, which was blacked out by paint was broken, giving the culprit enough access to reach in and open the door.

"It's a break in all right." Alan shouted back.

"Don't touch a thing!" Ron ordered. "There may be prints." Alan heard Ron say 'although I doubt it.' under his breath. "Which one is the supply room?" He asked Howard.

Howard flipped a switch on the wall by the double door which turned on the light. Florescent light split through the darkness. "Second door on the left." He said walking towards it. Alan walked back towards the group, meeting them at the door. Howard reached for the doorknob.

"No." Ron said. "There might be prints." Ron pulled his gloves out of his belt and put them on. He withdrew his gun from the holster and opened the door.

They didn't need the light on in the room to see what was in there. Howard turned away holding his gut as if he were about to puke. "Jesus Christ." Ron swore looking at the body which was leaning over a sink filled with paint.

Alan poked his head through the door to see what Ron was seeing. "Oh my God." He whispered. The group, with the exception of Howard, walked into the room.

Ryan took one look at the body and said. "This is grotesque. I mean this is really sick." Jarrod simply stood, looking as if he might be sick also. Mike left the room to actually be sick. He ran for the back door, but it sounded like he didn't make it.

The body of Alexander West was hanging over an industrial sized sink, top half submerged in a sink full of paint. It appeared West had drowned in it. The killer had taken several can of paint, which were strew throughout the room, and dumped them all into one of the three sinks.

"What about the crow?" Alan asked. "Is there a crow burned on his forehead?"

Ron answered, "I can't move the body to tell you. This just became a crime scene. We can't touch or move anything till the forensics people get here. But, my guess would be yes."

"What's that?" Ryan asked pointing at a card half sticking out of West's back pocket. Ron re-holstered his gun and walked over to the body to removed the card from the back pocket. He read it.

"Our next clue." Ron replied holding up the card for all to see. It read,

TAKE A LETTER, MARIA.

"Where will this end?" Alan asked himself running his fingers through his hair. Suddenly, Ron held his hand up in the air as if he wanted silence. For several seconds they heard nothing. Then there was a muffled shifting sound from behind one of the stacks in the middle of the room. Ron immediately drew his pistol again, holding out his hand to the group to stay back. He slowly walked to the edge of the stack, gun in position, and jumped out in front of the area on the other side. He lowered his weapon.

"Ryan." he said motioning towards him. The whole group walked over, Ryan first. He saw Tiffany tied up lying on the floor, struggling to make noise. The killer had taken duct tape and blindfolded her with it. There was also a piece of the tape wrapped around her head to cover her mouth. She could neither speak nor see and her hands were duct taped together behind her back as were her legs. She was completely immobile and helpless.

Ryan ran to her immediately. "Tiff, it's me, Ryan. Don't struggle baby, I'm going to take this tape off your face. Do you understand?" Tiffany nodded her head furiously. "Okay, I'm going to start to undo the tape around your eyes. If you can, close them. When I get to the part of the tape that's adhered to your skin, I'm going to have to yank it off real fast. It might sting a bit, but its the easiest way to do this. Do you still understand." Her head bobbed back and forth again. "Okay, here we go."

Ryan knelt down over top of her and propped her up against the shelf. He started to peel off the tape, yanking when he got to the skin. It came off with one try. Tiffany was trying to scream, but couldn't. The pain was in her eyes. He did the same for the tape around her mouth.

Eventually, Howard walked back into the room to see Ryan undoing Tiffany's hands and legs. She was crying. When he hands were free, another business type card fell out and fell to the floor. Ron picked it up as Ryan undid Tiffany's legs. "What in the hell is going on here?" Howard demanded. Ron took Howard by the arm and led him out into the hall to explain. Other police officers were beginning to arrive as Ryan led a shaken Tiffany out of the supply room and outside the building via the backdoor at the other side of the hallway. He held her till her crying subsided.

Mike eventually showed his pale, sickly looking face out the door where Ryan and Tiffany were sitting. "Is this a private party? Or can anybody attend?" He asked.

"Have a seat man." Ryan said. Mike sat down next to Ryan who was holding Tiffany. She was staring off into space.

"I don't suppose you have any smokes on you?" Mike asked timidly.

"Yeah." Ryan said handing him the pack, with matches. "I didn't know you smoked."

"I don't" He replied lighting up a cigarette. Mike coughed on the first drag. But by mid cigarette, he was doing okay. The pack was returned to Ryan, who lit one up for himself. "How's she doing?"

"I'm okay." Tiffany answered not moving her head.

Ron stuck his head out the door. "Your not going to like this." He said. "Miller and Perri are on their way."

"Fuck!" Ryan swore. That's all they needed right now. Another episode of keystone cops featuring Detective 'Dumb' Perri and Detective 'Dumber' Miller.

"I know, I know." Ron sympathized. "This is a necessary evil. All of you are going to have to give statements as all of you were here. There's no way around it this time."

"This isn't good." Ryan said. "They're gonna know were been doing our own investigation. Plus, how are we going to explain your involvement."

"The thought crossed my mind." Ron said stepping fully out onto the pavement. "If anybody asks, I was on campus investigating the break in of the newsroom. I just happened to be there when you made the discovery. You should know that Miller and Perri can't stop you from doing your own investigation as long as it doesn't interfere with theirs. Capishe?"

"Doesn't this count as interference right here and now?" Ryan asked.

"No." Ron replied. "I was with you. If anything, I'll catch shit for not calling them as soon as I discovered what was going on. I'll just say there wasn't time and we had to act fast. Remember, this is Miller and Perri were talking about here. They'll buy practically anything you tell them." Ryan chuckled a bit. "I'll let you know when they're here."

"Thanks." Ryan said as Ron disappeared back into the building. Soon after Jarrod appeared out of the door and sat down next to Mike who was staring at the ground, trying to smoke the remainder of his cigarette.

"That's no way to die." Jarrod said flatly. "To drown in a pool of PAINT? That's really morbid."

"No shit!" Mike added. The four of them sat there, contemplating what they had just seen.

A few minutes later, Ron poked his head out the door again. "They're here." He said mocking the line from the movie Poltergeist. "You guys should come inside and get this over with so you can go home." They got up and re-entered the building, walking back towards the art supply room. Perri was the first to see them as he was talking to Alan.

"Well, well, well. Where there's one, there's the others." He said. "We've got to stop meeting like this." Miller looked out from the supply room at the group.

"Figures." he commented disappearing back into the supply room. It was getting busy in there now. The hall was swarming with cops.

"You all up to answering some questions now?" Perri asked them. Ryan looked at Tiffany who nodded.

"Yeah." Ryan answered. "Let's get this over with."

Perri nodded and addressed Howard. "Is there a private room we could go to?"

"There's a conference room in the faculty office wing." Howard said. Alan rejoined the group.

"Take these five up there please." Perri asked. "We'll be up in a minute." Howard looked over at them and motioned his head in the direction of the cafeteria. They slowly walked back upstairs into the faculty office wing where they had just come from.

The conference room was rather large and had windows that over looked the cafeteria. Howard waited there with them not saying a word until Miller, Perri, and Ron arrived. "Would you mind waiting outside?" Miller asked Howard in his usual unfriendly tone. Howard left the room silently as Ryan looked into the cafeteria. A mob of students were gathering around the stair well to see what was going on. The three police officers sat down at the table, facing the group. Ron winked at them as Perri brought out a miniature tape recorder.

"I would like to tape this inquiry for the record, if no one objects." Perri asked. There were no objections. Perri reached into his coat pocket for a tape while Miller was looking at Tiffany.

"I see our infamous disappearing Miss Cutter has decided to join us today." Miller cracked,

"Back off Miller!" Ryan snapped.

"Shut up punk!" Miller spat. "Your in enough hot water as it is!"

"You don't scare me at..." Ryan started to say. Perri cut him off.

"Enough of this!" He said harshly. "This IS going to be a civil conversation, as this IS on the record. I'm only going to say it once, is that clear?" No one said anything. Perri put the tape inside the recorder and set the recorder in the middle of the table. "For the record, all parties have consented to this recording. Presently in the room are myself, Detective Ian Perri, Detective Norman Miller, Officer Ron Blake of the Westminster City Police department, Ryan Thomas, Tiffany Cutter, Jarrod Mayfield, Alan Kittridge, and Mike..." Perri stopped as he did not know Mike's last name.

"Wagner." Mike said.

"Mike Wagner." Perri finished opening up a notebook he carried in with him. "I would like to start with Miss Cutter."

"Okay." Tiffany said nodding her head.

"Tell us if you would, in your own words, what exactly happened to you." Perri said. "Start with where you were right before you were abducted."

Tiffany began. "Ryan and I went to the reading of Austin Webb's will this morning. When we got to Richard's office, that Austin's lawyer, Linda Webb and her lover were already there. I was going to sign some papers turning over all right's to Austin's estate over to Linda. I didn't want anything to do with any of Austin's possessions. Before I could actually get to signing the papers, Linda and Ryan were having words with each other."

"What kinds of 'words?'" Miller asked, looking at Ryan.

Tiffany answered, "Ryan had accused them of killing Austin for his money, and trying to frame me for the crime."

Perri and Miller looked at Ryan. Perri asked, "You have reason to believe as such?"

"Possibly, I'm not one hundred percent sure." Ryan replied. "It looks that way though."

"You have solid evidence?" Miller asked. Ryan shook his head.

Perri: "We'll come back to that later. Continue Miss Cutter."

"Linda got upset over what Ryan had been saying, so she left the room all bent out of shape, ya know, like pissed off?" Tiffany said. "Stewart followed her. I signed the papers and got the whole mess over with. I was free.

"We walked outside of Richard's office where Stewart was waiting for Ryan. He said he had something he wanted to talk with Ryan about. Ryan asked me to wait outside by his car. So I did. I was leaning against the side of the trunk of car, when someone came up from behind me and wrapped a piece of duct tape over my eyes. I started to scream, but this person pushed me to the ground and wrapped another piece of tape over my mouth."

"Did this person say anything to you?" Miller asked.

"No." Tiffany answered. "I didn't hear one sound from him."

Perri looked up from his notebook. "Him?" He asked. "Was this person a him?"

Tiffany paused, thinking about the question for a second. "To tell you the truth." She said. "I don't know. I never even saw what happened to me coming. I didn't see this person. Not once."

Perri: "Go on."

Tiffany continued, "The next thing that happened was that he pushed me down...I'm going to use the word 'he' in reference to this person, okay?" Perri nodded. "He pushed me face down into the parking lot and duck taped my hands behind my back. I tried to struggle, but whoever it was, was stronger than me.

"I was then forced to walk to a car, quickly, and pushed into the back seat. We started to drive away."

Perri asked. "Did this person say anything then?"

"No, he never said ANYTHING. Not once during the whole trip." Tiffany replied. "No radio, no nothing. Just road noise."

Miller asked, "Did you recognize the sound of the engine?"

Tiffany shook her head. "No. I'm not very good at those kind of things. It did sound a little bit like my car. That's a Honda."

Perri made a note and said, "Continue."

"We drove for what seemed like forever." Tiffany explained. "Eventually we stopped. He got out of the car and walked away. A few minutes later, I heard glass breaking. He came back and pulled me out of the car and into a building."

"Pulled?" Miller asked. "You weren't carried, or forced to walk?"

"No, I forgot to add that this person taped my legs together after he pushed me into his car. I was completely immobile. When he dragged me out of the car and into the building, he was holding me from underneath my arms, ya know, by my armpits?

"Anyway, I was dragged for a little bit down a hall I think. He took one hand off of me to open a door, and then I was dragged inside. He left me in what felt like the middle of the room. But the sound was muffled, so actually I guess I was left behind that stack." Perri was nodding again.

Ryan looked at Alan and said. "This person was by himself. How could it have been Stewart?" Ryan looked at Tiffany. "Tiff, when this person drove away from Richard's office, did he make ANY stops along the way to pick someone up?"

"No." She replied. "We only stopped a few times. Probably for stop lights."

"It wasn't Stewart." Ryan said to Alan. "He and Linda must have taken separate cars."

"Doesn't that seem kind of risky?" Mike chimed in. "To have a tied up person in your back seat while driving around with other traffic nearby? Somebody could easily look over into the back seat of another car."

Miller looked over at Perri. "It's hard to say." Perri replied. "Where you covered by anything Miss Cutter? A blanket perhaps?"

"No, nothing like that. I was just THERE. In the back seat. It felt like a back seat." She said.

Miller asked. "Are you sure it was a car? Maybe it could have been a van? Or a truck?"

"No, I know it definitely was NOT a van. My head was pushed down as I was being pushed. It felt too confined." Tiffany answered. "Do you know what I mean?"

Miller leaned back towards Perri again and whispered, "Tinted windows maybe?"

"Possibly." Perri replied. "Okay Miss Cutter, what happened after you were dragged into the room."

"The guy slipped something in between my hands. It felt like a card of some kind. Then he left the room for about five minutes or so." She said. "He came back and started making a bunch of racket. It sounded like he was emptying something into the sink and then throwing the empty cans around. When he was done, he left again. Probably for another five minutes. Its hard to say exactly how long he was gone. When he got back, he just stood in the room and waited.

"Eventually, somebody came into the room and said 'Who in the hell are you?' Then there was a loud crashing sound and something fell to the floor. The door to the room closed again. Okay, this is where it gets weird. It sounded like someone was trying to light a disposable lighter, ya know, like the sound of a Bic? After a few minutes I heard a hissing sound, like something was being burned. The man started to scream, but then there was that loud crashing sound again. It started to smell really bad then, like burning hair, or something like that. Really sick.

"Then I think I heard a body being dragged and thrown up against the sink. It sounded like the guy who got knocked out was submerged in what ever was in the sink. Was that paint in there?" Tiffany asked looking at Ryan. He nodded. "Oh, that's really disgusting. It sounded like someone was drowning in that. I could hear the muffled cry for help and the sloshing of the paint." Tiffany didn't look well. She was pale.

"Are you all right Miss Cutter?" Perri asked.

Tiffany paused, then said. "I heard somebody being drowned in PAINT? No, I don't think I'm all right. That's not human at all!"

"I know." Perri sympathized. "It must have been terrible for you. Do you think you can finish here? Were almost done with you."

"Yeah, I just want to get this over with so I go see a therapist!" She said. Ryan couldn't tell if she actually meant that or not. All of them were going to need a therapist by the time these murders were over and the killer caught.

"What happened next." Miller asked, without emotion.

"Not much. Whoever was being drowned must have died, because the struggle stopped. The guy sounded like he was walking around for a sec, then left. The next thing that happened was that Ryan found me."

Perri was making more noted in his notebook then said. "Okay Miss Cutter, I just want to clarify for the record, you did NOT see this individual, correct?"

"Right."

"The perpetrator did not speak, or make any sounds, correct?"

"Right."

"Is there anything else that sticks out in your mind about what happened to you that you didn't include in your story?"

"He, or she was not very strong." Tiffany added. "They were struggling with me when I was being dragged."

Ryan leaned over to Alan again. "It could have been Linda." He said. Alan nodded.

Miller interrupted. "Is there something you would like to add Mr. Thomas?"

"Not really." Ryan said. Alan buried his face in his hands knowing what was about to happen. Ryan and Miller were going to go at it again. Perri was looking at Miller as if he were being silently warned.

"Lets move on." Perri suggested. He was looking at Ryan and Alan now. "I'm curious, what led you all here in the first place?"

Ryan quickly glanced at Ron who ever so slightly nodded his head in approval. "A chain of really weird events actually." Ryan said.

"I can't wait to hear this." Miller smirked. Perri slapped his hand on the table in front of Miller as if to say 'Stop it!'.

"After I noticed Tiffany was gone." Ryan began. "I started to look for her. Stewart had been in a big hurry to leave, and I thought he might have had something to do with Tiffany's disappearance."

Perri asked, "This has something to do with your theory about Stewart and Linda being part of a conspiracy to have Austin Webb killed."

"Something like that."

"Explain this to me if you would." Perri said.

Ryan explained to the room his newest theory about Webb's murder. Why he thought Stewart and Linda were involved, citing the cut hand and disappearing knife. The only thing Ryan didn't include was the date, May 23 1970. He decided that secret should stay with him, still believing that Miller and Perri could not be trusted completely. There was still something about them that didn't click right.

Ryan finished his story by saying he had run into Ron on campus, thus the involvement with the city police. "After that, I started getting weird pages in MY beeper." Ryan said, lying about the true ownership of the pager.

"Like what?" Perri asked.

"It read one-six-oh-one dash three-two." Ryan replied. "At first we had no idea what it meant." Then Ryan started to lie. "Ron here was the one who figured out that 1601 was the address of Carroll Community. Thirty two meaning Route 32. We figured then that the killer, Stewart or Linda, was screwing with me about nabbing Tiffany. We knew about the 'Go West' clue. It was all over the Internet, as Jarrod could tell you. We knew about Alexander West's lecture on Van Gogh. When you put it all together, it made perfect sense. Gogh and West together equaled 'Go West'. West, as we knew it, was an instructor here at Carroll Community, add that with 1601-32, and you have it. The killer was going to strike here, today. Only we were too late."

Perri glanced at Miller and chuckled. "We have a bit of a detective among us." He said. Miller was not laughing. He didn't even look amused.

"A lot of it was fast thinking on Mr. Thomas's part." Ron said returning the 'complimentary' favor. "1601-32 was the easy part. I see those numbers all the time in regards to the college. Ryan was the one who put Gogh and West together. I was impressed."

"I'm glad you approve." Miller said sarcastically turning to Ryan then. "Look, you are not a professional detective, you have no business investigating this case. Or any case for that matter. If you insist on interfering with official police business, I'm going to have you arrested. Do you understand? Just BACK OFF!"

Ryan was pissed. "I'm not a professional detective?" Ryan asked practically mocking Miller. "Then explain this to me, Norman! What's your excuse for working on the case then?"

Jarrod started to laugh as Miller jumped up from his seat, ready to reach across the table and punch Ryan in the face. "IV'E HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR SHIT YOU SNOT NOSED PUNK!" He yelled. Alan jumped in front of Ryan and Perri held Miller off.

"Get him out of here." Perri told Alan nodding in Ryan's direction. Alan pulled Ryan out of his chair and out the door. Ryan offered no resistance.

"Ryan, you shouldn't have done that." Alan scolded. "Although that was pretty good." He finished, chuckling as they walked out of the faculty office wing.

"Sorry Alan, that fat fuck was pushing me!" Ryan justified. "I really don't understand what his problem is. It's almost like he doesn't want us to solve this case."

"Well, it is his job were doing." Alan reasoned. "Maybe he just doesn't like being showed up by someone way younger than he is."

Ryan laughed but insisted Alan was wrong. "It feels like more than Alan." He said. "He has the right to be upset if he wants to be. But what we just saw was complete loss of control. He REALLY does not want us to fuck with this case. You heard him Alan, he said 'Back..." The two men looked at each other with fear in their eyes. The other knowing exactly what the other was thinking. "...off'." Ryan finished.

Alan took a deep breath and sighed it out. "Ryan, don't even go there." Alan warned. "If your gonna say what I think your gonna say, then DON'T!"

"C'mon Alan." Ryan said persuasively. "Where have you heard that before? 'Back off'. Sounds like a word our killer would use."

"Ryan, those are very dangerous water your about to sail into." Alan said. "A crooked cop? You had better hope that isn't the case. If it's true, and Miller is on to you, he could make you life a living hell and you couldn't even touch him. He's the law. Everybody will believe him before they believe you."

"We should look into it Alan." Ryan said. "Just you and me. If we keep this to ourselves and not let it get out, the killer will never know."

Alan looked at Ryan as if he were seriously considering the offer. "We would be betraying the group."

"In essence, I know." Ryan admitted. "But it seems like every time we have a conversation in that damn newsroom, the killer knows everything we said. I just don't get it. This way, we have this conversation now, nobody knows, and maybe we'll have the upper hand this time if it is in fact Miller."

"I don't know Ryan."

"What if he has Ron working for him." Ryan blurted out. "That would easily explain how Miller, if he's the killer, has the upper hand all of the time."

"Jesus." Alan swore. "Now your the one sounding paranoid. Do you realize what your saying? I thought you trusted everybody in our group with your life?"

"I did, until this new twist came along." Ryan said. "Wait, what if Miller and Stewart are in on this together?"

"I think you need to rest Ryan." Alan said. "Your going to be accusing me before to long."

"Oh Alan, stop it, I would never accuse you. I know you to well."

Alan paused to think. "Okay Ryan, I'll tell you what. Off the record, YOU investigate whatever you can dig up on Miller. We'll sit down later today and make up something about our investigation that's not true. We won't tell the others about it and then we'll feed the mis-information to Ron and see if the killer finds out. If that happens, we'll deal with it then. Okay?"

Ryan looked over Alan's shoulder to see Ron approaching them. "Okay." He agreed. "Speak of the devil." Alan turned around to see Ron walking up towards him.

"Perri and Miller want you to come back in Alan." He said.

"Okay." Alan replied. "Ryan, I'll talk to you later." Ryan saluted him as the Alan and Ron walked back into the office wing.

Ryan made his way back to the art supply room. The police had already put up that yellow 'DO NOT ENTER - CRIME SCENE' tape they use to block off crime scenes with. Students all over the place were trying to get a peek. Ryan crossed the line and looked into the supply room.

The body of Alexander west had been retrieved out of the sink and was being cleaned up.

Truly, it was a gruesome sight. Most of the paint had been removed from West's face and mouth. As Ryan had feared, and probably already knew, the symbol of the crow had been burned on West's forehead. Murder number three in the series had been confirmed. By definition, they could officially call these murders serial killings. Also on West's head, specifically the left side, was a series of cuts and gashed that formed a rectangle. In a reflex action, Ryan scanned the room. In a corner among the empty paint cans was a brick. A standard maroon brick used in building houses.

"Uhhh." Ryan moaned in disgust. It appeared the killer had used the brick against West's head to knock him unconscious. It would have done the trick. Ryan could only assume the crashing sound was West's body falling into the pile of empty paint cans. No one would ever know, except the killer. And he wasn't talking.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" A voice barked out, specifically at Ryan. He turned around, coming face to face with a state trooper.

"I'm just looking." Ryan said. "I was one of the people who found the body in the first place."

"I'm sorry sir, your going to have to wait behind the police line." The officer said. "I appreciate your help in this matter, but this is a crime scene now. No civilians allowed in a crime scene. It would be considered interference."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to cause trouble." Ryan said backing away from the room towards the yellow tape. The police officer nodded and went about his business. Ryan walked back upstairs into the great hall where he saw Jarrod, Mike, and Tiffany waiting on one of the sofa's.

"There you are." Jarrod said as Ryan approached them. "We were wondering where you went."

"I had a look at West's body." Ryan said. "It was the same killer. The crow was burned on his forehead."

Tiffany cringed. "You mean that's what I smelled burning? Human flesh?"

"Apparently so." Ryan said sitting down next to her. "Are you gonna be okay?"

Tiffany nodded. "This is just so gruesome." She said. "Why me? Why was I chosen to have to listen to all of that?"

"I don't know Tiff." Ryan said. "Whoever this psycho is, he's getting a huge kick out of fucking with us. You were just a pawn in this whole sick game."

"Yeah, but why ME?" She insisted.

"I really don't know Tiff," Ryan said again. "A convenient target maybe. Ron thinks it could have been any one of us." Tiffany cuddled up against Ryan as they waited. "Where's Alan?" Ryan asked.

Jarrod answered, "Tweedle dumb and Tweedle dumber are questioning him privately." He said. "We were told to wait out here."

"Jesus." Ryan said. "Isn't this harassment of a sort?"

"Yeah, really." Mike added.

"Did you see anything else while you were down in the supply room?" Jarrod asked.

"Not much." Ryan admitted. "It looks like the killer used a brick to knock West unconscious with. He had cuts and gashes on his face that looked rectangular. Plus, there was a brick lying on the other side of the room that the cops haven't found yet."

"Typical." Mike said, not really having much faith in out criminal justice system.

"What about you Jarrod?" Ryan asked. "Did you find out anything over at the library?"

"Well, I checked out all the major local and state headlines in the Carroll County Times back from May 16, 1970 to May 31, 1970." Jarrod explained. "They were all on microfilm. There was nothing there that really grabbed me as abnormal, with the exception of one thing. Back in 1970, there were a lot of protests against the war in Vietnam. There was one at Western Maryland College the week of May 20, 1970. I think the protest was on a Friday, which would have been the day before the 23rd. May 23rd was a Saturday, I think. The notes are in my car, I'll have to double check. But I'm pretty sure those were the correct days. I do know the protest happened on the 22nd though."

"Was anybody killed or hurt?" Ryan asked.

"It didn't say. I would have to guess not." Jarrod replied.

"Well, it's a place to start." Ryan figured. "I want to see a roster of students who were attending W.M.C. in the year 1970. Would the college mainframe have that?"

"I would think so." Jarrod said.

"Get it, as soon as you can. We have to find out who Maria is in regards to 'Take a letter, Maria.' She's going to be the next victim whoever she is. I have a feeling she was also probably a student at W.M.C. I think we'll probably find Alexander West's name there too." Ryan said.

"Okay." Jarrod said. Alan and Ron came out of the office wing and approached the group.

Alan looked dejected. "I'm back." He said not looking happy.

"What happened?" Ryan asked.

"Same shit, different day." Alan sighed. "They wanted to know where I was this morning, what I was doing, who I was with, all that shit. I think I'm off the hook though. Apparently they did question the bartender's down at Champs Bar. I was seen and accounted for."

"We never had any doubt's Alan." Ron said. "Although Miller and Perri aren't the brightest guys in the world, they leave no stone un-turned."

"Hey." Ryan said, getting Ron's attention. "What about that card that was in Tiffany's hands. You have that don't you? I saw you pick it up when it fell out."

"Yeah, I have it." Ron admitted.

"What did it say?" Ryan asked. Ron pulled the card out of his breast pocket and handed it to Ryan. It read,

NEXT TIME SHE GET'S RAPED.
BACK OFF, NOW.

"Miller and Perri don't know I have this yet." Ron informed them. "I wanted you to see it first. As a matter of fact, why don't you keep it. Put it in your wallet or something." Alan was behind Ron nodding his head furiously. Ron could not see him.

"Okay." Ryan said unsure reaching for his wallet.

"What does it say Ryan?" Jarrod asked.

Ryan put the card in his wallet. "It said 'Next time I come after one of you. Back off, now!" He lied. This was a temporary measure to protect Tiffany. Ryan figured if he had told them the truth with Tiffany present, it would just freak her out even more. Ryan could see Ron nodding slightly, knowing that he understood why Ryan had fibbed. The truth would be revealed to the group at a later date, when Tiffany wasn't around. Telling Tiffany was going to be a whole different task unto itself.

"One of us?" Jarrod squeaked. "I don't think I like that sound of that."

"Calm down Jarrod." Ryan said. "We'll figure something out."

"Your up Ryan." Ron said. "They want to talk to you again." Ron did not look pleased about having to deliver that information. "I think Jarrod will be next. Alan, Tiffany, Mike, you can leave if you want to."

"We drove here in your car." Alan pointed out. "We'll have to wait for you."

"That's right." Ron said. "I'll tell Perri I have to take you back."

"Do this." Ryan instructed. "Take them to get Tiffany's car. It's still at Richard's office. Then you two can come back here and get me and Jarrod, okay?"

"Will do." Alan said.

Ryan turned to go with Ron back to the conference room. "Alan." He said turning back to face him. "Don't leave Tiffany alone. Please."

"Hadn't planned on it." Alan said reassuringly.

"Thank you." Ryan said. "Okay Ron, take me to hell." Ron chuckled as they walked back towards the conference room.

Perri was waiting there alone. No Miller. "Detective Perri, I'm going to take Miss Cutter and Mr. Kittridge back to Mr. Goldberg's office. Miss Cutter's car is still there. They came with me in the cruiser."

"Okay." Perri said. "Make sure you come back though. I have some questions I need to ask you too."

Ron looked unsure but agreed anyway. He left the room. Ryan looked around to see if Miller was hiding in the back. "Where's Miller?" Ryan asked.

"I asked him to leave the room considering your last episode with him." Perri explained. "This'll probably go a lot quicker without the bickering."

"Okay." Ryan said as Perri reached to turn his miniature tape recorder back on.

"Presently in the room are myself, Detective Ian Perri and Mr. Ryan Thomas." Perri said to the device. "Okay Mr. Thomas, Tell me some more about Stewart Boswell. He does in fact own the business Pizza-To-Go at the 140 Village Shopping center?"

"He does."

"And how long have you known Mr. Boswell?" Perri asked.

"Since I started working there." Ryan answered. "That would have been sometime last year during the summer. It was before college started up again. I would have to say sometime in July."

"Were you aware of Mr. Boswell's involvement with Mrs. Webb?"

"No, not at all." Ryan replied. "I saw her there once yesterday when I went to pick up my check. I didn't know she was Webb's wife."

"Do you get along well with Mr. Boswell?" Perri asked.

"Occasionally." Ryan replied. "He was your typical boss. Sometimes he acted like a complete jerk. Other times he was cool to get along with. After Webb's murder, I noticed the kitchen knife was missing. I asked Stewart about it and he said he didn't know what happened to it. Jokingly I asked him who's back he stabbed it into. He got irate after that and threatened to fire me if I ever said anything like that again. Since then, Stewart, in my opinion, has gotten very distant and irate. He used to laugh at my sarcastic jokes. Now he's serious all the time and you can't say two words to the man without getting your head bit off."

"After you pointed out the knife was missing, Mr. Boswell became unsociable, correct?"

"Yeah, that one way of putting I guess."

"Just with you, or with everyone?"

"He snapped at Jarrod a couple of times." Ryan answered. "But to be completely honest, I never bothered to observe. I don't know. Stewart was getting to be a pain in the ass. So when I was working with him, I was concentrating on leaving. I didn't want to be there. I guess I should have quit, anybody can find a part time job."

"The knife returned after the break in at the newsroom?" Perri asked.

"Yep." Ryan lied. The knife had actually disappeared before the break in. But to explain that would also have to involve Ron, and the fact that they had the knife to begin with. And that was not an option. "I asked Stewart about it. It was the same day I went to pick up my check. He said that the knife had been found in the bottom of the dishwasher by one of the high school kid's who worked there. I would have bought that. It happens all the time. Utensils get stuck underneath the rotating washing arm constantly.

"When I mentioned about the returning knife to Jarrod, he said that he checked the dishwasher the day we noticed it missing. It wasn't there. Stewart lied."

Perri asked, "Jarrod Mayfield knew about the missing knife also?"

"Yeah, he was there with me the night I noticed it missing." Ryan said. "Like I said, he checked the dishwasher that night. Nothing there."

"Who was the kid who said he found the knife in the dishwasher?"

"Stewart said Donald found it, which would have been possible, if the knife had actually been there." Ryan explained. "Donald goes to Westminster High. He's a sophomore I think. The thing about Donald is this. He kisses Stewart's ass twenty four hours a day as he wants to be a manager someday. I personally think if Stewart told Donald to say he found the knife in the dishwasher, should anyone come asking, he would do it without question."

"Donald would lie for Stewart you think?" Perri asked.

"Yep, I do."

"What's Donald's last name."

"Honestly, I don't know." Ryan replied. "The kid is a pain in the ass most of the time. All he does is talk about how much he wants to be a manager and how much he likes Stewart and his job. I avoid him when necessary."

"Does Mr. Mayfield know Donald?"

"I would think so. I don't know if Jarrod knows him personally." Ryan said. "I doubt it though. Donald keeps mostly to himself and Stewart. Detective Perri, had anybody told you about the cards and printer yet?"

"No," Perri replied. "Do you have some more information for me?"

"Well, when I went to work last night, I found something in Stewart's office that looks pretty incriminating." Ryan explained.

"Which was what?"

"Okay, Stewart didn't work last night. The assistant manager did. His name is Jerry Parks." Ryan began. "Jerry left the building for a little while to go to Stewart's house for some papers, or something like that. I took the liberty of peeking into Stewart's office, just to see what was in there."

"Being a little nosy, don't you think Mr. Thomas?" Perri asked.

"Hey, I had suspicions about Stewart, his cut hand, and the knife. I wanted to check it out. Anyway, I didn't really find anything except a box of blank business cards, like the one's the killer is using. Also, there was a laser printer on the desk. I know these cards are being printed with a laser printer. Two and two equals four detective."

Perri looked suspiciously as Ryan. "How are you so sure these cards are being printed with a laser printer. Have you actually scene one of these cards?"

"Yeah, the one downstairs on West's body."

"I see." Perri said. "You shouldn't have disturbed that card."

"I didn't." Ryan answered. "Ron picked it up, he had gloves on. He said that it was evidence and that nobody could touch it. I just happened to get a look at it before he put it away. There is a distinct difference between a typewritten message, and one made with a laser printer. I do work in a newspaper office ya know."

Ryan was lying through his teeth. He wasn't about to tell the police he had been holding evidence all this time in reference to the card he found in Webb's office. 'It's a tangled Webb we weave'. He would just have to hope that no one else mentioned to Miller or Perri that they had that card.

"Okay." Perri said seeming satisfied with that last answer. "So Mr. Boswell has a computer in his office then, capable of word processing?"

"He has a computer." Ryan said. "I don't exactly know what programs Stewart had for it."

"Does anybody else know about this?" Perri asked.

"Jarrod was there. I don't know if he told anybody." Ryan replied.

"Okay, that about does it for now." Perri said. "I'll get a hold of you if I have anymore questions for you." Ryan sat up and watched Perri fumble through his papers. He said nothing more to Ryan, so Ryan left. Jarrod was still waiting out in the great hall.

"Well?" Jarrod asked.

"He wanted to know about Stewart. I had to tell him about the cards in Stewart's office."

"Oh boy."

"I said you were the only other person who knew." Ryan said. "So remember that in case you get asked. There were questions about the disappearance of the knife, so, stick to the truth about that. Also, I haven't said a thing about May 23, 1970, so don't let on about that, even if you get asked, okay?"

"Will do."

Perri appeared out of the office wing, motioning towards Jarrod. "Your up." Ryan said. "Good luck."

"Thanks, I'll probably need it." Jarrod said walking into the office wing.

It was another ten minutes before Ron, Alan, Mike and Tiffany returned to the college. Jarrod was still in the conference room with Perri and presumably Miller. Ron walked off into the office wing as Alan, Mike and Tiffany stopped in front of Ryan. "What's going on?" Alan asked.

"Jarrod's in there now." Ryan said. Tiffany sat down next to him. "I had to spill about the cards I found in Stewart's office. The police know about the knife now. I never mentioned it showed up in our desk, but I did talk about it disappearing and reappearing at Pizza-To-Go."

"Is that it?" Alan asked.

"I haven't said word one yet about the date back in 1970." Ryan replied. "Did you?"

"No." Alan said. "Not yet. I'm afraid if we tell them about that, anything more we do in regards to it will be interference. We'd be in hot water then."

"Were not withholding information in regards to the date are we?" Ryan asked.

"I would assume not." Alan answered. "It's not really evidence of anything. It's a clue, and an assumed one at that. We really need to find a yearbook from '70 or '71. If West has that date by his picture to, we'll have established a true pattern, as opposed to an assumed one. Right now, although we both know it's not, it looks like a coincidence. If we get a third victim tied to that same date, we'll have something more solid. Understand?"

"Yeah." Ryan said. "So where do we get another yearbook. The killer has pretty much gotten rid of all of them."

"When Jarrod gets out, we'll stop at my house and see if Nora has one." Alan said. As if one cue, Jarrod came strolling out of the office wing with Ron.

"Those guys are real PRICKS!" Jarrod said with a smile on his face. Ron was shaking his head in apparent frustration of the whole matter.

"Did they get to you too?" Ryan asked.

"Miller shouldn't be a cop." Jarrod said. "He had all the personality and charm of a dead skunk." There was assorted laughter.

Ron said. "You all can leave if you want to. There's really nothing more you can do here. I'll contact you later about whatever I know or can find out."

"Are you going to be okay?" Ryan asked in reference to Miller and Perri wanting to talk to him.

"Yeah, I'm probably going to get reamed for not calling them earlier." Ron explained. "I'm not really worried about it. It would be a good idea if you laid low for a little while though. Let all of this hoopla die down a little bit."

"Probably a good idea." Alan agreed. "We'll talk at you later Ron." Ron nodded and walked back into the office wing.

The group left Carroll Community College. They had brought back Tiffany's car along with Alan's and Mike's. As Alan had proposed, they drove to his house to see if his wife, Nora, had a yearbook from her days at W.M.C.

Nora herself was not home, but Alan knew exactly where to look. He went into the attic and was there only for a few minutes. He came back down with a box full of memorabilia. "This is Nora's college stuff." Alan said. "Her yearbook should be in here."

True to Alan's guess, the yearbook was there. But it was not a '71 yearbook. It was a '73. They tried looking up Alexander West, but he was not there.

Ryan offered, "He must have graduated by '73."

"Probably." Alan said.

"Is there another yearbook?" Jarrod asked.

"No, this is it." Alan said. "Nora only bought the one from her graduating year."

"We should see if there's anyone in there with the May 23, 1970 date by their picture." Mike said.

"Good idea." Alan said starting through the pictures. They found nothing. Eventually, Alan came to the picture of his wife.

"That's your wife Alan?" Mike asked. "Check out the hair." The picture of Nora Gordon was clearly something from the seventies. Her hair was done up like Marilyn Quayle's. It was straight down to her shoulders where it curved out and up.

"That was a long time ago." Alan defended. "That sort of thing used to be hip. She looks a lot better now."

"I would hope so." Mike commented. Alan threw him a harsh look and put the yearbook away.

"Another dead end." Ryan mused. "We have to find another yearbook from 1971."

"I know." Alan agreed. "I don't know where to look."

"How about the public library?" Jarrod asked. "Would the branch here in Westminster carry something like that, with the college so nearby?"

"Maybe." Alan said. "I'll check." He picked up the phone and dialed the number for the library on Main street. They had nothing there like that and suggested they try the library at W.M.C. Alan informed the group as such. They had already tried there. The yearbooks for that year and the ones surrounding it were gone.

Alan looked at his watch. "Okay." He said. "I've got an idea. This is what were gonna do. I know that Austin had a yearbook. I remember signing it. I'll go see Linda, if she's even home these days, and see if she'll let me borrow it. She doesn't know I'm involved with you Ryan, sop she might not be so hostile. Meanwhile, I want you to take Tiffany back to her parents house. It's better they hear what happened from her than the police. I'm sure that they'll be poking their heads around there soon enough. Ryan, I want you, Jarrod, and Mike to procure some kind of class list from W.M.C. for the years '96 through '71. Get the name of every student who was there between those three years."

"Way ahead of you Alan." Ryan said. "I thought of that already."

"Good, were on the same wavelength then." Alan said. "If West was a student at W.M.C during that tenure, then it's safe to say this Maria person was too. At least this way, we can narrow the field down. If we find out who Maria is, and get to her before the killer does, she might know what the hell is going on here. It's obvious were not going to get anything out of Stewart."

Ryan held up his hand for silence. "Wait. Alan, let me see your phone." Alan handed Ryan the phone. Ryan called Pizza-To-Go while looking at the clock on the wall. It was a little after three. Jerry would still be running the show.

Someone picked up the phone. It was Jerry. "Pizza-To-Go, may I help you?"

"Jerry, this is Ryan, has Stewart shown up there yet."

"No, he called out." Jerry said. "What in the hell is going on here Ryan. Stewart said he was taking an indefinite leave of absence. He wants me to work his schedule and get the key holder to work mine."

"What?" Ryan asked surprised.

"No shit dude." Jerry said. "I can't do that. Work Stewart's schedule that is, I have another job. Oh, he also said you were fired and not to let you in the store again. I'm supposed to call the police if you try. But I wouldn't do that to you man."

"Thanks." Ryan said.

"So what's going on, do you know?" Jerry asked.

"It's a long story man." Ryan said. "I think the police are going to be by there soon asking you where Stewart is."

"Why?"

"Don't ask Jerry, it's better you not know. Besides, I'm sure you'll hear about it soon enough." Ryan explained.

"Ryan, I can't work Stewart's schedule. I don't know what to do?"

"Stewart called and said he wasn't coming in, at all? For how long, did he say?"

"Indefinitely." Jerry answered. "He didn't say. But if I know Stewart, it could be a long time. I don't know what to do."

"Don't open the store Jerry." Ryan suggested.

"What, you mean close up, and not open to do business?"

"Something like that."

"I can't do that?"

"Why not?"

"This is my job!" Jerry insisted. "Stewart would lose money."

"Who cares Jerry." Ryan said. "The store and everything that goes with it belongs to Stewart. He can't just dump all that on you and reap the profit. It's not your responsibility. Besides Jerry, it's just a 3rd rate pizza joint, you could get a much better job."

"I don't know Ryan." Jerry pondered. "That wouldn't be very professional."

"Jerry, trust me on this. I don't think Stewart is coming back for quite a while. And when he does, the cops are going to be all over him." Ryan said. "If I were you, I would get the hell out of there as soon as I could, and not come back."

"Is it that bad Ryan?" Jerry asked. "Is Stewart in that much trouble?"

"Let's just say it ain't good." Ryan replied. "Look, pay yourself what you worked since the last pay period, leave a note in the safe and just leave."

"Am I in trouble Ryan?" Jerry asked. "Am I gonna catch hell for whatever he's done."

"It depends on how much you know." Ryan said. "The less, the better."

"Okay, I'm outta here then." Jerry said, voice shaky. "This is scary Ryan."

"I know Jerry." Ryan said. "You have my dorm number. Give me a call later on and let me know how your doing."

"All right, bye."

Ryan hung up the phone and looked at the group. "Stewart's gone. Looks like he ran." Alan reached for the phone and dialed another number. He waited. After several seconds, he hung the phone back up.

"No one at the Webb household either." Alan said. "Linda might have gone with him. How long did Stewart say he was going to be gone Ryan?"

"Indefinitely." He replied.

Jarrod laughed and said. "Indefinitely to Stewart means forever. We know about that, don't we Ryan."

"Yeah, I guess we do."

"What are you guys talking about?" Mike asked.

Ryan answered. "Every time Stewart came up with a new rule or policy, he would say something like, 'this will be implemented indefinitely'. The rule or policy became law that never changed. Get it?"

"Yeah, your boss ain't coming back." Mike reasoned.

"Bingo." Ryan said.

"Okay, change in plans." Alan said. "Ryan, I want you to come with me Webb's house. We'll take Tiffany home. Mike and Jarrod, go back to the college and get that list. We'll meet back the newsroom at four. Agreed?"

"Agreed." They replied in unison.

Mike and Jarrod left in Mike's car to return to the college. Tiffany drove her car, with Ryan in the passenger seat back to her house. Alan followed in his car.

When Tiffany got to her house, she expressed her displeasure with having to be left alone with her parents.

"You'll be okay." Ryan assured her. "If you need me, I still have your beeper, so go ahead and beep. I'll call you back when I can. If I don't hear from you by tonight. I'll call here."

"Okay Ryan." She said and looked into his eyes. "I love you."

Ryan felt chills go down his spine. "I love you to Tiffany." He said. They kissed briefly as Tiffany's mom came running out of the house in an obvious frenzy of worry. Somebody had obviously gotten to her with the information about the kidnapping. Ryan walked back to Alan's car as Tiffany's mom was making a fuss. Ryan could see why Tiffany didn't want to be here alone.

Ryan got into Alan's car and they drove away while Ryan watched Tiffany walk into her parents house. "Okay Alan." He said. "What false information are we going to tell Ron?"

"It has to be something incidental, and not monumental." Alan explained. "We want to send Ron astray. We want the killer, if its Miller, to know what we've told Ron."

"This is complicated." Ryan said.

"No Ryan, this is crazy. Do you really think Miller is involved?" Alan asked.

"I don't know. It looks that way a little bit." Ryan said. "What were doing now is just weeding out the possibility. I still think Stewart is involved in a major way. I think maybe Miller is helping, or knows something.

"When I first met Perri and Miller, Ron was with them. Even if he was acting in an off duty capacity." Ryan explained. "All of a sudden, he wants to help? It would make sense if Miller planted him in our group to get inside information. It explains how the killer knows everything we say and our every move."

"Your assuming of course that Miller knew of our investigation before he even questioned you." Alan pointed out. He had Ryan. There was no retort for that one.

"Okay Alan, maybe I am being paranoid about Ron's involvement." Ryan admitted. "But that doesn't exclude Miller's possible involvement."

"Okay, I can accept that." Alan said. "Do you still want to pass false information on to Ron."

"I guess not." Ryan said. "But we should still keep an eye on him when we can."

"All right." Alan agreed. They drove about a mile out of Westminster, turning on a road to the left. Nicodemus Road specifically. "We're almost there." Alan said, not looking comfortable.

"Are we going to BREAK into Webb's house?" Ryan asked.

"I hope not." Alan said. "Maybe one of the doors will be unlocked."

"That's not what I meant Alan, and you know it!" Ryan said harshly. "Were going to break the law, aren't we?"

"Stop it Ryan." Alan said. "We've been breaking the law left and right since we started this investigation. Your little escapade with Tiffany in Webb's office was breaking and entering."

"That's a little different Alan." Ryan reasoned. "Dealing with campus security is one thing. Being arrested by the Maryland State Police is another."

Ryan saw the twitch in Alan's eyebrow. He knew Ryan was right. Activity outside the property of the campus was a little more serious. "We really need that yearbook Ryan." Alan justified. "It could be a big step in finding more people involved together back on May 23, 1970. I don't ever condone breaking the law Ryan. But this could save lives if were right. We'll be real careful and if we get caught, we'll tell Perri and Miller everything we know. It might be enough to save our butts."

Ryan didn't like the idea, but he agreed. Alan parked his car down the road from Alan's house at a church parking lot. There was no one around. They walked quietly down the road to Webb's house. "Do you know what your doing Alan?" Ryan asked when they got there.

"It doesn't look like anybody's home." Alan said. "Wait here, I'm going to knock on the front door just to be sure."

"Okay." Ryan said as Alan walked around to the other side of the house. Ryan was facing the garage, which was on the right side of the house. Alan came back a minute later shaking his head.

"No one home." He said. "The front door is locked, but I don't think the basement door is." They walked around to the back of the house. Alan walked down a flight of stairs that led to the basement door. It was unlocked. Ryan followed Alan into the house.

"Do you even know where to look?" Ryan asked.

Alan answered. "If things haven't changed since the last time I visited, Austin has an office upstairs where he works. All his personal things are in there. I think he keeps his yearbook on a bookshelf with other books from his college days." They walked upstairs. The house looked fairly undisturbed. A little messy, but on the whole, fairly normal. Alan led Ryan to Austin's office, which was a complete mess. "This isn't right." Alan whispered. "Austin was not a messy person. Linda must have been looking for something."

"Lets just get the yearbook and get out of here." Ryan said nervously. "I don't want to have to be here longer that possible."

"Okay." Alan agreed starting for the shelves behind the desk. "Found it! Son of a bitch that was easy."

"Too easy. Lets get the fuck out of here." Ryan whispered. They started back across the house when Alan noticed a car pulling up the driveway. It was an unmarked police cruiser.

"We got trouble Ryan." Alan said rather loudly.

Ryan looked out the window too. "Oh shit, the cops." They looked at each other. "What the fuck do we do now?"

"Don't panic." Alan said. "We'll hide in the basement." Alan led Ryan back into the basement. Underneath one of the windows along the edge of the roof was an armoire. It was big enough to hold two people. Alan and Ryan hid in there, keeping the door open just a crack to hear was going on in the basement. There was a muffled sound of someone knocking at the door upstairs, then a doorbell. Ryan snickered. "Shhhh" Alan warned. "What is it?"

Ryan answered, "They weren't even smart enough to look for a doorbell before knocking." Alan rolled his eyes and told Ryan to shut up. There was silence for several minutes. "Is it safe?" Ryan whispered. Alan held up his hand and concentrated on the silence. Very faintly, one could hear the sound of footsteps crunching dead leaves outside the house. Then the voices. The policemen were standing outside the basement window.

Ryan and Alan listened carefully to hear what was being said.

"She must have fled too."

"We'll get a warrant. I've already put out an APB on Boswell. If she's with him , they won't get far."

"That's three this week Ian. All three had the crow burned on them. If this is what I think it is, this has only just begun."

Ryan looked at Alan and whispered in his ear, "It's Miller and Perri." Alan nodded as they concentrated on the conversation.

"Relax man. Nobody's going to get to you." Perri said.

"That's what I said to Alex. And look what happened. Nobody even saw it coming." Miller pointed out. "Why Boswell would be doing this is beyond me. He was part of the whole thing. He was there."

"Maybe the guy has finally fallen off his trolley." Perri said.

"Or maybe he's fled because he's scared." Miller said. "He should be. If he's not the one killing us off one by one, then his number is bound to come up sooner or later."

"I wasn't with you man." Perri said. "What you did in your youth is your business. It looks as if the sins from your past are catching up with you my friend. I'll back you whatever you decide to do, but I'm not going down for something you were involved in twenty five years ago."

"I'm not going public!" Miller insisted. "If this ever got out, it could ruin several lives, mine included. 'Scarecrow' needs to remain a secret Ian."

"Scarecrow." Ryan whispered. "Son of a bitch!" Alan looked at him unsure.

"Your story is safe with me man." Perri said. "It will go to my grave with me. Lets just not let it come to that. We'll catch this psycho Norm. Whether it's Boswell, Kittridge, Thomas, or whoever, we'll catch them." Their voices became inaudible as they were walking away. In the far off distance, Ryan and Alan heard a car being started and driven away. They stepped out of the armoire.

"What the hell is 'scarecrow'?" Alan asked.

"I have no idea." Ryan said enthusiastically. "I can tell you that if you were to say that word to Adam Jones, he would go catatonic on you."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Alan asked.

"I had a meeting with Adam the other day to file a complaint about the new Soc. instructor. Adam told me to chill basically, and I said no, saying I wanted a transfer to another Soc. class. I mentioned that I thought Norman Tyler, the new Soc. instructor was unprofessional, and that the only thing he was good for was to stick him in a field and use him as a scarecrow. Adam spaced out on me after that. He didn't come to for a few minutes. I was about to call an ambulance for him. Adam came out of it and said he was okay. Then he told me he would personally oversee my transfer to another class."

"That's really weird Ryan." Alan said. "Adam doesn't cater to students like that. Whatever 'scarecrow' means, it must have scared the shit out of Adam."

"Well, its obviously scaring Miller. Apparently he's involved with the thing back in '70. Stewart is scared, and we both know he knows something about May 23, 1970. Jesus Alan, what in the HELL happened back then?"

"I don't know, but were gonna find out." Alan said authoritatively. "Lets get the hell out of here."

Ryan and Alan left the house of the late Austin Webb and jogged all the way back to the car, anxious to get a peek in the yearbook. They got in the car and immediately lit up cigarettes. Alan opened the yearbook. "Who do you want to see first?"

"Stewart Boswell." Ryan answered. Alan flipped through the pictures till he came to Stewart's. "Jesus, it doesn't look anything like him." Ryan commented, reading on about Stewart's college career.

STEWART B. BOSWELL
Stewart, Stew
FUTURE PLANS: To bed as many women as possible before I die.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: 5-23-70
CAN BE HEARD SAYING: So many women, so little time...Also I promise never to live May 23, 1970 over again, once was enough guys.

"I fucking knew it!" Ryan shouted. "If Stewart isn't doing it Alan, then he's a dead man."

"I know, who next?"

"See if West is in there."

Alan flipped through the pages until Alexander West came up. It read,

ALEXANDER A. WEST
Alex
FUTURE PLANS: To die a happy man.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Something that happened in 1970 that I wish I could forget.
CAN BE HEARD SAYING: We can put a man on the moon, but we can't cure herpes, go figure...God rest your soul Johnny...What else is there to say really?

"To die a happy man." Alan mused. "I guess it's safe to say he didn't fulfill his life's destiny."

"Sick Alan." Ryan returned. "Really sick. I suppose your going to tell me West's life didn't paint a pretty picture either."

Alan made a face like he was savoring something. "Nice Ryan. Points for creativity."

Ryan continued, "Well, obviously its safe to assume West was talking about May 23 by his most memorable moment line. Something he wants to forget. What do you think it could be Alan?"

"Who knows. It could be anything."

"You know, I was talking with Jarrod earlier." Ryan explained. "He said he checked out the newspapers at the library and didn't really find anything out of the ordinary. However, Jarrod says that according to the Carroll County Times, there was a Vietnam type protest going on at the college May 22nd, the day before whatever happened back in '70."

Alan was lost in thought. "Ya know Ryan, I remember that protest now that you mention it. It was a big event, and as far as I can remember, it was peaceful. I don't remember any violence coming out of it, not to say there wasn't any."

"How long did it last, the actual assembly." Ryan asked.

"I don't know, I didn't hang around to find out."

"Maybe after midnight? That would count as May 23rd wouldn't it?" Ryan asked.

"You might be on to something there." Alan said. "So why would somebody here in 1995 be upset about something that happened back in '70, at a Vietnam protest?"

"Good question, I wish I knew." Ryan said. "Then we would have a motive. See if anybody else in there has a reference of any kind to May 23, 1970."

Picture by picture, Alan and Ryan searched through the yearbook looking for references made to May 23, 1970, or any event back in 1970. Eventually, they came across the senior picture of their own Detective Norman Miller. "What do you know about that?" Alan whispered. "Miller was a student at W.M.C. I can honestly say I don't remember him."

"It makes sense if he's involved in this 'scarecrow' thing." Ryan figured. They read the caption next to Miller's picture,

NORMAN K. MILLER
Norm, Miller
FUTURE PLANS: To pursue a career as an officer of the law.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT: Please refer to the 5th amendment of our Constitution.
CAN BE HEARD SAYING: Watch you behind Wally, the first ticket I give will be yours....Alex, some things are better off forgotten, remember that...Next stop, City Police!

"What do you think?" Ryan asked.

"Well, he doesn't right out and say it like the others." Alan pointed out. "But he is definitely making an indirect reference to May 23rd."

"When we get some time, we should read every one of these and see just how many hidden references there are." Ryan suggested.

"Agreed." Alan said looking at rest of the pictures. At a first glance, they could find no more references. Looking at the clock on the dash of the car Alan said, "We should get back to the college, it's going to be four soon." Ryan nodded taking the yearbook from him as Alan started to drive.

Ryan re-read the senior pictures on the way back to the college not finding anymore references to May 23, 1970. They had exhausted that source.

Back at the newsroom, Mike and Jarrod were anxiously awaiting Ryan and Alan. Alan did most of the explaining about what they had discovered. Jarrod and Mike listened in awe as to what they heard.

"This is really hard to swallow." Jarrod said. "Miller was a student here back in '70, AND was involved with wrong doings? No shit his life could be ruined if this 'scarecrow' thing was ever made public."

Mike added, "It would definitely explain why he wants us to back off so bad. We could inadvertently expose him."

"Good point." Alan said. "We suspected for a short time Miller might actually be involved in the killings. It doesn't look that way now."

"Maybe." Ryan added. "Or maybe not. This is a stretch, but, the possibility of Miller lying to Perri about everything he said exists. If Miller is in fact our killer, then he's not going to tell Perri. He's going to make up whatever story he has to, to cover his ass."

Alan sighed. "Your right, it is a possibility. Maybe Miller has gotten to a point in his life where he realizes if 'scarecrow' ever became public, it could ruin him for good. So maybe he's just getting rid of everyone who was ever involved with 'scarecrow' so nobody will ever come forward. He would definitely know his way around the law and where the loopholes were."

"What about Stewart?" Jarrod asked. "Is he still a suspect?"

"More or less." Ryan answered. "At this point, it could go both ways. All the evidence we know of still points to Stewart and Linda. Now they've run away. Are they running for fear of their lives, or fear of getting caught. As for motive? Well, its hard to say. We still don't know specifically what 'scarecrow' is. If we go by what Miller said, Stewart was involved. If Miller is lying, then who knows what the truth is. We still don't know enough about this whole thing to point an accurate finger at anybody. Once we find out what 'scarecrow' really is, we'll have a better handle on the situation."

"Lets examine this for a sec." Mike suggested. "'Scarecrow'. It could be a code word for something."

"Very good Mike." Jarrod said sarcastically. "You've just now graduated detective school."

"Fuck you Jarrod, you didn't let me finish." Mike retorted.

"Please, do." Jarrod smirked.

"As I was saying," Mike continued. "What if 'scarecrow' is a code for a place, an event, a group of people protesting something."

That caught Ryan's attention. "Protest." He interrupted. "Jarrod, remember you said something about that Vietnam protest back in '70? The day before the 23rd?"

"Yeah?"

"Alan and I were figuring, what if that protest lasted after midnight." Ryan explained. "Theoretically, it would be the 23rd then. If something happened at that protest after midnight, say by a group of people called 'scarecrow', would that not explain half of what was going on?"

"Okay." Jarrod agreed. "What did they do that can't be revealed?"

"That's the part we haven't figured out yet." Ryan admitted. "But I can tell you this new piece of information. Whatever happened that day, or night. Adam Jones knows what it is. I had a conversation with him about our new Soc. teacher, comparing him to a scarecrow. Jones flipped out, he went catatonic. Then he was anxious as all hell to help me. Ya know, now that I think about it, maybe Jones thought I was silently blackmailing him by using the word scarecrow. He did look a bit scared there for a minute."

"Shit." Jarrod quipped. "If Adam Jones knows what 'scarecrow' is about, you can bet that last dollar that whatever 'scarecrow' pertains to is not going to get out. Not if it means Adam Jones losing his job. He would kill before he would let that happen."

"Exactly." Ryan said planting the new seed in everyone's head.

"Wait a second Ryan." Alan said holding his hand up in the air. "Now your saying Adam Jones is our killer? Do you think you could make up your mind?"

Mike added, "It would certainly explain how the killer knows so much about what's going on around here. If somebody farts on campus, Jones is the first to know about it!"

"Yeah." Jarrod agreed. "He was poking his nose around here a few days ago looking for information about Tiffany."

"Jesus," Alan swore. "It looks like everybody is doing it."

"Our killer is no dummy." Ryan said. "He could very well be setting everybody up to look like they did it. Remember Alan, we heard Perri and Miller say our names as suspects. We need to concentrate really hard on what we know for fact now. This way, the killer can't send us around on false leads."

"True, very true." Alan agreed. "Now, lets see this list." Jarrod reached behind himself for a stack of paper about four inched thick.

"Christ." Ryan swore. "This could take all year."

"No, it won't." Alan said. "There should be three years worth of students there, each of us will take a year. Jarrod, I want you to go get back on the school computer and see if you can find anything on 'scarecrow'. I don't care how small or insignificant it is. If there's something there, I want to know about it."

"Okay." Jarrod said grabbing his hat and leaving the room.

"Now," Alan instructed the other two. "Take a highlighter and highlight anybody with the name Maria in their name."

The three men went to work. It actually went faster than they anticipated. When they were done, they had a page and a half worth of Maria's.

"Jesus, why couldn't more parents have named their little girls Bertha, or something like that?" Ryan mused. Alan chuckled.

"Now what?" Mike asked. "Are we going to call everyone of these people and ask them if they'd ever heard of 'scarecrow'?

"It might be a little harder than that." Alan said holding his chin in his fingers studying one of the lists. "You have to remember, most of these ladies are probably married now, with different last names. These last names are their maiden names."

"Are you sure?" Mike asked in a whine.

"Pretty sure." Alan replied. "I saw my wife's name on this list, and it read her maiden name of Gordon."

"Shit" Mike barked.

"Hey Ryan." Alan said. "Your dads name is Geoffrey, right?"

"Yeah, so?"

"He went here the same time I did, according to this list." Alan said. "Apparently he graduated a year before I did"

"Hey yeah, that's right." Ryan exclaimed. "I damn near forgot about that. I wonder if my old man knows something about 'scarecrow'.

"Give him a call." Mike suggested.

"I can't. He's away on business." Ryan explained. "He should be back Saturday. I'll ask him about it then. To be completely honest, I would doubt he knows anything about it. My dads always been real straight and narrow. He's the kind of guy to call the police if you spit on the sidewalk. But I'll ask him anyway, who knows?"

Jarrod walked back into the room then, empty handed. "Well?" Alan asked.

"Not a damn thing about 'scarecrow'." He said. "But something weird did happen to me on the way back here. Ryan, remember that jerk I sit next to in Soc. class?"

"Yeah, what's his name, uh, Lance. Gerald Lance. I got into it with him earlier today. He was making an unnecessary remark about Tiffany. I told him to shut up and he told me to blow him." Ryan answered.

"Yeah, that's him." Jarrod said. "Anyway, he stopped me on the way back here and asked me if I was part of the group looking into Webb's murder."

"What did you say?" Alan asked cautiously.

"I said I didn't know what the hell he was talking about." Jarrod replied. "All I said was that we were working on a story about it, and that was it. He said okay and walked away. I tried to ask him why, but he said no reason. He was just 'curious'."

"Interesting." Alan said. "I hope this doesn't mean word of our investigation is around campus. That could very well make out jobs miserable."

"How is that?" Mike asked.

"Well, if Adam Jones is hell bent on not being exposed, as sees us as a threat." Alan explained. "He could have the paper shut down in a heartbeat. He could take this room away from us and stop funding for the paper. And that's just for starters. I'm sure a man with his kind of power could find a way to have us kicked off campus if he really wanted to."

"Shit!" Jarrod snapped. "We can't have that."

"I'm hip." Ryan agreed. "We'll have to catch up with Gerald and find out what the hell he knows."

Alan walked to the center of the room. "Okay guys, we've had a long and eventful day here." He said. "I think it's time we called it quits for today, or we're just gonna burn ourselves out." The was universal agreement. "Besides, we all have lives outside this newsroom and our killers activities. Just keep this is mind. Its safe to assume we are being watched or followed, so don't let your guard down, ever. Watch your ass's. And most importantly. Do not discuss these matters with ANYBODY outside the group. What we know has to remain as secret as this 'scarecrow' matter is. Ryan, when you talk to you dad, be evasive as possible, and don't let on to what your really doing. I know its a bit dishonest, but for now its necessary."

"What are you telling your wife Alan?" Jarrod asked.

Alan looked uncomfortable. "Well, I'm fudging the truth a little bit. I've told her that I'm putting extra time in extra-curricular activities. If I get in real trouble, I'll tell her the truth, as all of us must do if there's any real danger to our loved one's."

Ryan suddenly remembered the note the killer left with Tiffany, about the rape threat. "Guys, I forgot to mention something." Ryan said. "That note the killer left in Tiffany's hands when they were tied together? It didn't say 'next time I come after one of you, now back off'. It said, 'Next time she gets raped. Now back off'. I didn't want Tiffany to hear that threat at that point in time. I had to lie. I'm sorry."

The looks in the room were one's of shock. "It's okay Ryan, I understand." Alan said. "You did the right thing."

"Yeah." Jarrod chimed in. "It's cool. Tiffany would have probably flipped out." Mike nodded.

Alan continued, "Tomorrow we'll get a hold of Ron and try and put rest of this mess together with his help. We'll ask if there's anything on file at the police station about violent activity back on May 22nd or 23rd. For now, everybody get some rest. Try and be back here between eleven and noon tomorrow. And, if anything happens between now and then, don't be afraid to call me at home. I don't care what the time is. The number is in the rolodex. Get a hold of each other, it's important we work as a team. Okay I'm done lecturing, go home!"

Slowly the group dissolved and left the newsroom. Ryan and Jarrod returned to their dorm room to rest and relax. Ryan lied down on his bed to ponder the meaning of life, and why some criminal maniac was trying to take it away from some people.

Jarrod was sitting on the edge of his bed. "Hey bro, I'm a little hungry." He said. "I'm gonna run up to Micky D's. You wanna come with?"

"No dude." Ryan replied. "I'm gonna rest a while, maybe give Tiff a call and see how she's doing."

"You want anything then?"

"Well, maybe a strawberry milkshake. If you don't mind?" Ryan said.

"It's yours." Jarrod said grabbing his wallet off of his bureau. "I'll be back in about a half hour or so."

"Take your time." Ryan said as Jarrod disappeared out the door. Ryan closed his eyes. It was good not to have noise and disturbance around him for once. The day seemed like it had lasted forever, and the night hadn't even started yet. Alan was right, they needed a break. It was as if they had been going none stop since Webb's murder just about a week ago.

Ryan reached across the floor for the phone that was setting by Jarrod's bed. He called Tiffany to check in with her.

Unfortunately, her dad answered the phone. "Ryan, what the hell is going on down there?" He asked.

"I wish I knew sir." Ryan said. "It's a bit of a mess."

"I would say so." He agreed. "Did you know about Webb?"

"Not until after the fact Mr. Cutter." Ryan replied. "I was just as shocked as you probably are."

"Yes, well, if I had even remotely known about it. Heads would have flew." Mr. Cutter declared. "That just isn't right for an instructor to behave that way."

"I could agree with you more sir." Ryan said. "If I had known, I would have done something about it."

"I like you Ryan, your a good kid." Mr. Cutter praised. "I'm glad Tiffany has a friend like you to depend on."

"Thank you sir." Ryan said, not really expecting this kind of praise. "I don't suppose Tiffany is there is she?"

"Yeah, hold on a sec." he replied and covered the phone. A muffled call for Tiffany could be heard.

Another phone at the Cutter household was picked up. "I've got it!" Tiffany bellowed. "Ryan?" She asked.

"Hi baby." Ryan said. "How are you?"

"I'm doing okay." she replied. "I feel better now that my parents know everything. They understood better than I thought they would."

"Did you tell them everything? Even about the baby and the abortion?" Ryan asked.

"Yes, everything. I even told them about how well you've been taking care of me. My dad said he would like to get to know you better. I think he likes you." Tiffany gloated.

"I've met him already Tiff, both of your parents." Ryan pointed out.

"Yeah, but this is different. You were just my buddy back then. I think they know we might be seeing each other now." She said happily.

Tiffany had confirmed it. They were dating, officially. Ryan felt a warm rush come over him. "Cool." He said. "Would now be a good time?"

"I wish." She replied. "My parents have some kind of business dinner they have to go to. It's got something to do with my dad's promotion. I don't know. We could set something up for tomorrow?"

"Okay. Do you want some company now?" Ryan asked.

"You could come over later." She said. "I'm going to take a nap right now. Its been a long day. I need to think about what happened to me."

"Okay." Ryan said. "You can give me a call when you wake up."

"I WILL do that." She enthused. "You gonna be at your dorm?"

"Yeah, I'm not going anywhere." Ryan admitted.

"Okay, I'll call you when I'm ready then."

"I look forward to it." Ryan said trying to sound sexy.

"Bye Ryan." Tiffany said with pretend exasperation, and hung up. Ryan pit the phone back on the floor by Jarrod's bed and kicked back, sighing as if satisfied. Tiffany was all his, and he liked it!

Slowly, Ryan drifted off to sleep not realizing how tired he really was. He began to dream he was standing in a dark field. It was night. Ryan realized the field was actually the stadium field at the college. It was a quiet, cool night. Crickets chirping in the background. He began to walk towards the bleachers, not really knowing why. There was the sound of moaning and grunting. Ryan turned the corner of the end of the bleachers to see Tiffany and Webb in the act of lovemaking. She was riding him lustily. He started to walk forward and express his objections, but couldn't. He was frozen in place, not being able to speak. Webb looked over at Ryan and started to laugh while Tiffany started to scream in passion. Webb was laughing harder, grabbing her waist and pushing into her harder. Ryan turned around to see Jarrod holding out a cup.

"Do you want you shake Ryan?"

Ryan jerked himself awake. Dusk had set in. "What?" A tired Ryan asked. He could barely keep his eyes open.

"I'm sorry bro. I didn't realize how tired you were. You want me to put your shake in the fridge?" Jarrod asked.

"Would you, please?" Ryan muttered.

"Yeah." Jarrod said walking over to the miniature refrigerator and placing the shake inside.

"What time is it?" Ryan asked trying to sit up. He failed.

"After six I think." Jarrod replied. "Sorry I'm late. I stopped at work to see what was going on. Pizza-To-Go was closed. I guess Jerry took your advice. There was a note on the front door that said 'Closed until further notice.' It was really weird to look at, Pizza-To-Go closed that is. I can't believe Stewart just took off the way he did."

"It was foolish." Ryan said. "He could lose his business if it's not making him any money. Serves him right actually." He lied back down and closed his eyes.

"You going back to sleep?" Jarrod asked, flipping on his computer.

"Yeah, I'm beat."

"Okay, I won't make to much noise then."

"Thanks." Ryan muttered and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

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Scarecrow   Copyright 1995 - 1999  C. Kevin Provance.   All Rights Reserved
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Copyright 1995 - 1999  C. Kevin Provance / TPA Software.  All Rights Reserved.