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grn_bt.jpg (687 bytes) April 4, 1995 - Tuesday

The doctors and nurses had been in to see Ryan at various points in the night to check his various vital signs. He remained in and out of sleep the whole time. At some hour of the morning, he awoke for a final series of exams. He was then told he could go home. Ryan called Alan for a ride, and explained that he wanted to go to the funeral home to see Tiffany. Alan readily agreed and said he would be there around ten or so.

It was a lot of waiting and signing papers before an orderly with a wheelchair came into the room to escort Ryan to the front door of the hospital. Alan had arrived at the hospital by this time and was waiting with Ryan. The doctor, who was some other man than Dr. Spears had given Ryan a prescription for pain killers and instructions on how to car for the various cuts and wounds he had. Underneath Ryan's shirt there had been several caused by the broken glass of Tiffany's bedroom window. Plus the bullet graze on his right shoulder. Ryan was instructed to return in a week for a follow up and was given a pamphlet about head wounds. The instructions, if any of these symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, severe headaches, etc., persisted. He was to return immediately for further medical attention.

Ryan readily agreed, just wanting to get out of the hospital.

Alan pulled his car around to the front of the hospital so Ryan would not have to walk to the other side of the parking lot. They left and began the dreadful drive to Taylor's funeral home. Ryan didn't speak at all until Alan addressed him. The sick feeling in the bottom of his stomach would not go away. It became worse with each passing mile in the direction of Tiffany's lifeless body.

"Ryan?" Alan asked. Ryan was staring off out the window into the colorless world. It was a gray dismal day. Spring would be here soon, but not today. "Are you okay?"

"I don't know." Ryan said flatly. "I really don't know."

"Do you still want to do this?"

"I have to." Ryan replied. "I need to see Tiffany. One more time."

"Okay."

"Alan?" Ryan began to ask. "What is the press saying about all of this?"

"Not much, surprisingly enough." Alan answered. "Tiffany's name appeared in the paper. They're trying to link her murder with the other murders. As of today, your name hasn't appeared in the paper, but they are making mention of a young man being taken away from the crime scene in an ambulance."

"It was an accident Alan." Ryan said. "I don't think the killer meant to kill Tiffany or me. This was supposed to be a scare tactic I think. I think he was going to wound me, not kill me or Tiffany. I believe the killer has an agenda of specific people he means to kill. I don't think Tiffany was one of them. I think the killer screwed up."

"Your defending him?" Alan asked in surprise, looking over at Ryan as if he were crazy.

"No, I'm not!" Ryan snapped. "This person will go down for this. I'm just saying I think he didn't mean to kill Tiffany. It doesn't by any means excuse him. Not in the least."

"Yeah, I guess it does make sense in an illogical sort of way." Alan mused. "Well, here we are." Alan pulled into a parking lot off of Interstate 140. It was the Taylor Funeral Home. Ryan started to feel sick. Alan parked the car and looked at Ryan. "Are you sure man?"

"Yeah." He replied.

They left the car and entered the building. It was a sterile and quiet atmosphere. One could smell the death in the air. Tiffany's parents were standing outside of one of the several room. There was a wall plaque next to the door where the Cutter's were standing that read TIFFANY LYNNE CUTTER. It had been neatly printed on a piece of paper and inserted into the plaque itself. The door was closed.

"Good to see you again Ryan." Mr. Cutter greeted. "How do you feel this morning?"

"Physically, fine." Ryan answered. "Mentally, I'm ready to go crazy."

Mrs. Cutter gave Ryan a hug while Mr. Cutter shook Alan's hand. "I know Ryan." She whispered to him. "You'll be okay. Are you ready?"

"Yes ma'am." Ryan said, feeling faint.

"Do you need one of us to go with you?" She asked.

"No." Ryan answered. "I'd like a few minutes by myself. If that's okay."

"Of course." Mr. Cutter said, putting his hand on Ryan's shoulder and opened the door for him. Ryan looked inside. At the far end of the room was a casket surrounded by flowers in vases and flowers on stands. The top half of the casket was open with someone lying inside. That someone was Tiffany.

"This isn't right." Ryan told Alan and the Cutter's as he walked into the room, and towards the casket. As Ryan got closer to the casket, he brought his hands up to his mouth as if to hold back some kind of silent scream that was filling the room. He was getting closer and closer to her. Tiffany was wearing a pink turtle neck sweater to hide the make up job that had been done on her neck from the bullet wound. She appeared to be asleep, eyes closed and hair done to perfection. Her face was made up with several cosmetics that ranged from foundation to lipstick to eye shadow. This was to cover up the fact that underneath that make up, she was pale and dead. She seemed somewhat bloated from the embalming fluid.

Tears streaming down Ryan's face, he approached her, reaching tenderly out as if to touch her. "Tiffany." He whispered. "Oh my God." Ryan knelt down in front of the casket, holding on to the edge. He began to cry, lowering his head onto the casket itself. "Jesus Christ, this wasn't supposed to happen, not to you." he whispered. "Tiffany, my beautiful angel. I'm sorry, this should be me here, not you. You never did anything to deserve this." Ryan looked back up to see Tiffany's face, as if he was expecting her to open her eyes, smile and say 'She was just kidding'. She remained perfectly still, not smiling, not breathing.

Not living.

"I'm sorry we'll never get to know each other better." Ryan began to whisper. "When I finally got to see you underneath the jokes, the partying, beyond the facade of who you were when others were around, there was somebody there who I had met only briefly on occasion. Somebody who was tender and quiet. Somebody who had true feelings and didn't have to put on an act to cover them up. I saw your pain Tiffany. When you left Karl, when you confided in me about Austin, when you were exposed as his lover. I wanted to reach into your soul and take that pain away from you, so you could be happy. I felt as if we were just starting to get to know each other all over again. We were robbed of that baby. And I swear to you, I will find the person who did this to you, to us. He'll know exactly what it was he did before I send him to hell. Your name will be the last name he hears before he dies Tiff, I promise that to you." Ryan paused to wipe the tears from his eyes and face. "I love you Tiffany. I hope where ever you are, you can hear me. Ryan loves you. I'm only sorry I never told you sooner, then maybe this could have been prevented, and you would be waiting safely somewhere for us to catch this fucker!" Ryan heard a noise behind him. Not a loud noise, but a soft one. Like somebody had dragged their foot lightly across the carpet. He looked behind himself. The door was closed an nobody was there. "Are you here Tiffany? Can you hear me? Sweetie, I don't know what to do without you here. I don't know how to go on living if you aren't in my life. Who's going to give me hell for drinking to much, even though she was drinking more than me? Who's going to argue with me that words like 'validity' do exist?" Ryan chuckled through his sobs. "Who's going to stop telling me not to stare at her breasts?

"My God Tiffany, I'll never meet anybody who is as special to me as you are. I just feel like this pain will never go away. There's a void in my heart and soul that was your place that can't be filled by anyone else. Baby, part of me is lying in there with you, that's dying with you..." Ryan nodded his head back down into the casket to cry.

"And part of me is still with you Ryan. Living with you." Tiffany's voice said. Ryan jerked up to see if Tiffany was sitting up in the casket. She was still lying inside, eyes closed. He whirled around to see if anyone was behind him. The room was empty. He looked back around to see Tiffany's body, trying to figure out if he had just heard that voice in his head. Ryan closed his eyes as a warm rush came over his body, as if he were being held. He stood up and leaned into the casket to gently kiss Tiffany on her lips. With eyes still closed, he gently brushed his lips over hers. She was cold and stiff, but for a split second, Ryan felt as if she had kissed him back. He opened his eyes and stood back up, looking at her silent face.

"I'll miss you baby." He managed putting his hand on her cold forehead and closing

his eyes. "Goodbye Tiffany."

Ryan turned around and slowly walked back towards the door, holding back the mass hysteria that was raging inside him. Alan and the Cutter's were waiting for him on the other side. Ryan nodded when he came through, and that was all that needed to be said. The Cutter's went into the room to see Tiffany again as Alan led Ryan back to the car. They began to drive back to the college.

"The funeral is at two Ryan." Alan said. "Do you want to go?"

"Yes."

"The Cutter's wanted to know if you wanted to speak at the funeral, on behalf of some of her friends." Alan explained. "Do you think your up for that?"

"Yes." Ryan replied softly. "I want to talk to Ron."

"He said he would meet us at noon." Alan said. "He's got more information for us."

"Good!" Ryan said harshly then. "Alan, I'm gonna find this son of a bitch and rip his heart out!"

"Easy son..."

"NO!" Ryan snapped. "This fucker stole something from me that was more precious than anything. I WILL NOT let him get away with this. If I have to search till my dying day, I will get that son of a bitch and squeeze the life right out of him!" Alan didn't say anything. Ryan was not in a reasonable state of mind right now, and rightly so. The conversation did not continue. Ryan simply stared out of the window, lost in a trance. Alan turned on the radio to pass the time as he drove.

The college was only twenty minutes away. It was just past noon when Ryan and Alan got back to the newsroom. Ron, Jarrod, and Mike were waiting for them. When Ryan walked into the room, the conversation came to a stand still. Jarrod walked over to Ryan and gave him a hug. "I'm so sorry bro." He whispered. "If there's anything I can do for you..."

"I'm okay for now." Ryan answered. "Right now, I just want to find this motherfucker, and bring him down!"

"We may be closer to that than you think." Ron said. "Our clever friend is getting sloppy."

"What do you mean?" Ryan asked. "You have something?"

"I have several something's" Ron said smiling ever so slightly. "Let me begin with Maria Hogan. As you probably know already, she is victim number four in the 'scarecrow' killings. The killer sent her a package with a bomb in it. She opened it and boom. End of story. That's what the public knows. Unfortunately, there was not a lot left of Ms. Hogan to put back together. We haven't found any symbol of the crow on her body, yet. However, in the same batch of mail the package came with, there was an envelope with another card in it. This time it read, 'An English muffin for breakfast'. Underneath the message, the killer burned the symbol of the crow into the card. We managed to trace the package back to a public mailbox at the 140 Village Shopping Center. I'm told the bomb was very cleverly built. I didn't completely understand how it was explained to me, but apparently, when the box was opened, a pin attached to the lid of the box was pulled out of the detonator which triggered the bomb. Maria was killed. A few other people were hurt, but there were no other fatalities."

"This happened where Maria worked?" Alan asked.

"Yeah, why?" Ron asked in response.

"Well, the killer knew where she worked. How would he know something like that unless he knew her." Alan reasoned.

"Or was following her." Jarrod added. "Our friend has this uncanny ability to know things that he shouldn't. He's been following us. He's probably been following his victims for months. It's the only reason I can come up with."

"It's possible." Ron said. "We'll know a lot more soon. We have a name you see."

The was silence in the room, a sense of electricity in the air. "Who is it?" Ryan asked.

"We don't know." Ron replied. "He doesn't live around here. Miller and Perri can't seem to find this guy. The gun you fired Ryan, it was registered to a man named John Myers. So was the car you claimed to have seen outside Tiffany's house Ryan. Perri ran a make on the plate number you gave him. The car itself belongs to Emmery's Rent A Car. Miller checked it out last night. The car was also rented to a John Myers."

"Well there it is." Ryan exclaimed. "Lets find this guy and have him arrested."

"I don't think its going to be that easy Ryan." Alan said scratching his head. "I doubt very highly the killer would use his real name. True, losing the gun and having the car tagged was sloppy, but this guy isn't stupid."

"I agree with Alan." Ron said. "It would be safe to assume John Myers is not our killers true name. There is only one John Myers listed in the Carroll County area. He's an old man of 91 who lives in a nursing home in Hampstead. They tell us he hasn't been able to move around by himself for a number of years. The search is being extended state wide. I spoke with Perri earlier this morning. Ha had gone to talk to the individual who rented the car to John Myers. He was described as a white male, somewhere between five foot nine and six foot one. The information off Myers' license put him at 29 years old. But again, we have to assume the killer isn't stupid. The license is probably a fake. The home address used was a fake, the residence doesn't exist anymore."

Ryan asked, "What does that mean, 'doesn't exist anymore'."

Ron answered, "The address used was one of an old house that used to sit on the corner of Center Street and route 32."

Mike looked at Ryan. "Yeah, I remember that house. The ghost house. They tore that house down five or six years ago."

Alan nodded. "Yeah, I remember that house too. It was vacated back in the early sixties. Nobody's lived there for at least thirty years."

"The land itself still has an address though." Ron added. "Anyone could go down to the land records at city hall and find out that kind of information. The credit card was a different story. That account belongs to a John Myers, with a billing address right here in Westminster. A post office box at the post office on Main street, also registered to a John Myers at the address of the 'ghost house'."

"Credit card?" Mike asked. "How did you get a hold of a credit card?"

Ron answered. "The killer used a credit card at the car rental place. You can't rent a car without one. Its for security deposit purposes. The thing that has me baffled is the credit card account itself. According to the credit report on John Myers, that particular account was opened 29 years ago!"

"Holy shit." Alan slipped. "Unless Myers opened up an account the year he was born, I would say he was older than twenty nine."

"Figure he was at least eighteen when he got his first credit card." Jarrod said. "That's how old I was when I got mine. That would make Myers at least 47." Alan walked back to his desk and started going through the class roster lists.

"What are you doing?" Ryan asked.

"Checking the lists for a John Myers." Alan said. "Starting with 1970."

"Its probably not there." Ryan reasoned. "Like Ron said, John Myers is probably not the killers real name. He probably figured out a way to create a dummy account that looks almost 30 years old. This guy is really clever. I still think Miller probably has enough clout to pull something like that off."

"Your right, it isn't" Alan said throwing the papers back down on his desk.

Ron turned back to look at Ryan. "Alan explained that theory to me." He said. "About Miller being involved? If that's true, we need to be very careful about exploring that possibility. If it is Miller, we could all go down before we catch him. Miller is about to get promoted to head of his department. He's in a very powerful position, and if he thinks were on to him, well, it wouldn't be good. I've been keeping an eye on him for the last couple of days. He is busting his ass to figure this thing out."

Ryan offered, "Or leading Perri and yourself in false directions till he finishes whatever it is he's doing. Then he'll set somebody up to take the fall, like me, and get an accommodation for it. Remember Ron, Miller and Perri suspect me in Tiffany's murder because I had the gun that killed her in my hand. I took that gun off the ground after the killer had dropped it. Now I hear that Tiffany was found dead with a gun in her hand and NOT tied up, as I had found her. It's a set up. The killer is setting me up to take the fall for Tiff's murder, and probably the other four. Even Tiff's parents think something is wrong with the whole picture."

"You may be more right than you know Ryan." Ron said. "What Miller and Perri didn't tell you is that they did find a small piece of duct tape on the floor in Tiffany's bedroom. Plus, there are drops of blood that lead across the property to the area where you say there was a car parked."

"I fucking KNEW it!" Ryan hissed. "I AM being set up!"

"Possibly," Ron admitted. "But if what Alan had told me about Miller's involvement with 'scarecrow' is true, then Perri isn't part of the equation. Therefore he would not be part of the set up, unless..."

"Unless what?" Ryan barked.

"Well, sometimes when cops have been partners as long as Miller and Perri have been." Ron explained. "There's a code of silence. If Perri had damaging information on Miller, he could conceivably be keeping Miller's secret, if not helping him covering it up. It's a stretch really."

"This whole investigation has been one stretch after another!" Ryan spat. "One more isn't going to make much difference!"

"Don't forget about Adam." Jarrod chimed in. "I'm sure he probably has a few connections of his own. Hell, he may even be working with Miller."

"Speculation about who it might be won't help right now." Alan said. "We need to concentrate on what we know. The facts."

"Alan's right." Ron agreed. "We have a head start this time. The police are looking for the rented car right now. A gray 1995 Honda Civic with license plate IBC4 99. It's only a matter of time before it's found, or returned. The car was rented March first. It was due back April first, and hasn't shown up yet. Emmery's Rent A Car had instructions to call the police if that car shows back up, with or without driver."

"Okay." Mike said. "What about the latest card, 'An English muffin for breakfast'. What does that mean?"

The answer came to Ryan before he could blink. "It's simple." Ryan said calmly. "Think about it Mike. There's no name there, true. But its a clue to the name. Tell me a brand of English muffin your familiar with." Mike looked confused.

"Thomas's" Jarrod said looking at Ryan with fear.

"Bingo." Ryan said. "The killers coming after me next it would seem."

Alan gazed at Ryan, obviously in thought. "No, that's not right." he said. "The killer would have murdered you at Tiff's house five days ago."

"What if he missed by accident?" Ryan asked.

Alan responded, "No, I'm more inclined to believe your original theory about the killer just trying to wound you. He would be breaking his pattern of killing people involved with May 23, 1970."

Ryan and Alan looked at each other, thinking the same thing. "My father." Ryan said, racing for the phone.

"Who are you calling?" Mike asked.

"My house." Ryan replied dialing the numbers. It rang twice and the answering service picked up. "Its the answering service." Ryan said, dialing a series of numbers to access the messages.

The was one message, and it was from his father. "Ryan, if you haven't heard from me, it's because I don't have the number to your dorm with me. Harry and the boys want to fly me to Las Vegas for an extended birthday party/vacation. I should be back Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. I'll give you a call then. Take care son."

"My dad's in Las Vegas." Ryan told the group. "He should be back tonight, or tomorrow morning."

"Okay." Ron said. "If you can Ryan, I want you to stay at your dad's house tonight and wait for him. If there are others around your father, the killer will probably not strike. If it's your father the riddle is talking about. It could always be another Thomas."

"He's right Ryan." Jarrod said. "It may NOT be your father."

"My father graduated from W.M.C in 1970." Ryan said. "Coincidence?"

"Possibly." Alan offered. "Does he have a yearbook?"

"I think so." Ryan replied.

Alan asked, "Have you ever looked at his picture, or the caption next to it?"

"I must have at some point in my life." Ryan answered. "But I don't remember what it said."

"We should check it out just to be on the safe side." Alan reasoned, looking at his watch. "If were going to go to Tiffany's funeral, we should probably start getting ready. It's close to twelve thirty, the funeral starts at two."

"Your right." Ryan said. "You wanna drive Alan?"

"I can."

"Would you?" Ryan asked. "I'd ask Jarrod, but he doesn't have a car these days."

"Tell me about it!" Jarrod quipped.

Ryan continued. "I just don't want to try and drive a car just yet, in case there might be complications physically."

"Or emotionally." Alan said putting his hand on Ryan's shoulder. "It's okay Ryan, I don't mind driving."

"Thank you Alan." Ryan said. "I'll meet you here about one or so."

"Okay." Alan said. "You gonna be all right?"

"I'll live." Ryan answered leaving the room. Jarrod followed to see Ryan back up to the dorm safely.

 

St. Matthew's church, the church where Tiffany's funeral was being held was off Main street in uptown Westminster. It was one of the larger churches in town and one of the oldest. According to town history, it was one of the first dwellings to appear in Westminster back in the 1700's sometime. But of course since then, underwent several remodelings to keep up with current standards. The stained glass windows that surrounded the walls were glorious. They captured the eye with mind boggling artistry and wonderful colors that otherwise gave life to the old building itself. The smell was that of an old musty building, boasting its age. It was the first time Ryan had ever actually seen the inside.

Tiffany's closed coffin lay at the foot of the altar, where guest paid their respects as they walked in and looked for a seat. Ryan walked up to the Cutter's and gave them a brief hug. "I've thought about your offer." Ryan told them. "I would be honored to speak for Tiffany this afternoon."

"Thank you Ryan." Mrs. Cutter said sitting down in the front pew. "I know Tiffany would want that."

Ryan squeezed her hand gently. "Thank you Mrs. Cutter, Mr. Cutter." Ryan said, returning then to his seat with Alan, Mike, and Jarrod. Ron was sitting in another part of the church, away from the group to keep his anonymity. Ryan looked in his direction as Ron nodded in approval. Several other students from W.M.C were here today also, although Ryan did not recognize most of them. Eventually, Karl Cross, Tiffany's last boyfriend, walked quietly down the aisle. "Son of a bitch." Ryan whispered in soft wonder.

"What is it Ryan?" Alan asked.

"Karls' here." He replied pointing towards the casket.

Jarrod grunted. "I wonder why." He said. "He never cared for her before." Ryan didn't return an argument. Instead he watched Karl talk to the Cutter's. They appeared polite, but not enthused. Ryan knew from conversation with Tiffany that her parents really didn't care for Karl too much.

"He used to hit her." Ryan muttered. "I know he did."

"What?" Alan asked, whispering. "Karl was beating on Tiffany?"

"She never admitted to it." Ryan said. "But deep down, I knew."

It brought back a bad memory for Ryan. He had found Tiffany in the newsroom weeks after she had started with the paper. She had been crying, wearing a lot more make up on one side of her face than the other. This was to cover the apparent bruise...

 

"What's wrong?" Ryan asked Tiffany as he strolled into the newsroom."

"Nothing." She replied instantly, shuffling papers on her desk.

"Nothing my ass Cutter!" Ryan returned. "I saw you crying. What going on?"

"Nothing I said!" she snapped. Ryan walked over to her and looked at her face. He saw the bruise underneath the make up.

"Tiffany, you have a bruise on your face." Ryan exclaimed. "Jesus, what happened to you?"

"I slipped and fell down." She answered, not meeting eyes with Ryan. This was an indication Tiffany was lying.

"Not!" Ryan declared. "Slipped and fell down on what? Karl's fist?"

"Stop it Ryan, please." Tiffany pleaded. "It's not like that."

"Uh-huh." Ryan said, trying not to sound viciously sarcastic. "Tiff, you can talk to me you know. I won't judge you, I'll just be you friend."

Tiffany looked at Ryan. He could see the blue of her crystalline eyes. There was hurt there, determined to remain there. "Thank you Ryan, I appreciate that. But really, I'm okay. I dumped Karl this morning anyway. We just don't see eye to eye anymore."

"Does this mean I have a chance now?" Ryan asked enthusiastically.

Tiffany giggled. "Ry-an." She moaned in her whiny voice. "I don't want a boyfriend right now. It's one of the reasons I broke up with Karl!"

"Just a date then." Ryan pleaded. "I'll be a good boy. I promise."

"Oh Ryan. You look so cute when you act desperate." She teased. "Maybe we could go see a movie one night. As friends."

"I'm hip!" Ryan said. "How does tonight suit you?"

"I didn't mean tonight silly!" She said. "I have to study, ya know, like for exams and shit? Ask me Friday. I might be free that night."

"Okay, how about Friday?"

"No, I meant ask me on Friday?" She corrected.

"Why?"

"Cause I said so!"

Ryan reached out to tenderly touch Tiffany's bruised cheek. She closed her eyes as he gently caressed her face. It was the first time Ryan had ever physically touched Tiffany. That memory would stick out in his mind forever. "I'm sorry about whatever might have happened to you sweetie." Ryan assured. "You'll be okay. I promise."

"Thank you Ryan." she replied in a soft voice. "Your a good friend. I'm glad I got to meet you."

 

It was Alan who jerked Ryan out of his memory of Tiffany. He was poking Ryan in his side. The service had started and they were praying. Ryan had not been paying attention and Alan was getting his attention. Ryan bowed his head and shut his eyes as the pastor offered prayer. They ended with the usual 'amen'. The pastor continued, "The Cutter's have asked Mr. Ryan Thomas to say a few words. Mr. Thomas?"

Ryan stood up and approached the altar, aware now that he was speaking in front of a rather large crowd. He took his place behind the podium and looked at the sea of faces, concentrating on him now. Ryan glanced around uncomfortably, looking at Mrs. Cutter. She nodded her head in approval. Ryan began, "Mr. and Mrs. Cutter asked me to say a few words about Tiffany. To be quite honest, I wasn't prepared, but was honored none the less. I guess in the end, I was the one closest to Tiffany, and as many of you probably know, I was the last one to be with her in this world. In the last week, I saw a side of Tiffany I had not seen before. I knew it was there, but as many of you know, she has a face she puts on when she's around her friends in public. A wild woman, a party girl, an attractive woman who caught the eye of every man she passed. But there was more. Tiffany was a gentle person, who felt the same pains and joys the rest of us do. She didn't open up to very many people. To those she did, we had the privilege of seeing someone who was very vulnerable, very afraid. I suppose Tiffany will be remembered by everyone who knew her, or knew of her as an strong independent woman, capable of holding her own. She was all of that, don't misunderstand me. But there was that side of her that didn't take everything for granted, as most of us do from time to time. She appreciated what she had, and every one she knew. Everyone of you that I see here today, and other who couldn't be here, she held everyone of you in her heart. I know she did, although she would never openly admit to such...open feelings." Ryan stopped to utter a small laugh. "I think it had something to do with the facade she put on. That was the way she was. Tiffany didn't want anyone to know how weak and vulnerable she thought she was, like all of us are, from time to time. But I don't think weak and vulnerable are accurate words for what Tiffany was trying to hide. I believe that's how she saw herself, for whatever reasons. And because of this, she put on her front."

Ryan paused, trying to gather his thoughts. "Please don't misconstrue what I'm saying about Tiffany. The way most of you knew her, was who she was. It was just one side of her that she used all of the time. She was a lover of life and had a light in her eyes that proved it. That light was always there, even in her darkest hours. I know, I saw. Tiffany was not a quitter, she never gave up when the chips were down. When I think back about Tiffany whether its tomorrow, next week, or even ten years from now. I'll remember that young lady with that light in her eyes. That young lady who brought so much joy and happiness into all of our lives. That young lady who could light up a room just by walking into it." Ryan paused to wipe the tears off his face. "That young lady named Tiffany Cutter, who touched all our lives in one way or another."

Ryan stopped, looking down at Tiffany's casket. "I'll miss you Tiff. There won't be a day that goes by that I'll forget about you. There won't be a day that goes by that you'll not be missed. You made such an impression on so many lives for the short time you were with us. I'll take comfort in the fact that God had a reason for taking you from us and calling you home. We may never know what it was, but at least you are now truly safe and at peace." Ryan spoke only in a whisper now. "I'll see you again someday my love. May God be with you till then."

He looked back up at the crowd gathered in the church. Some people were nodding, others were crying softly. The tears were falling off Ryan's face now as Mrs. Cutter approached the altar to hug Ryan. She walked him back to his seat next to Alan. As Ryan looked up from the floor, he saw Linda Webb sitting in the rear of the church, face covered in a veil. Stewart was not with her, but where there was one, the other surly was not far behind. Mrs. Cutter squeezed Ryan's hand. "Thank you." She whispered and walked back to the front of the church. Ryan saw out of the corner of his eye Karl glaring at him.

Ryan leaned over to whisper in Alan's ear. "Linda Webb is here, in the back of the church." Alan slowly turned his head to scope the back of the church.

"Jesus." He swore. "She got guts. Miller and Perri are here too." Ryan turned his head to look. "No, don't. Trust me, they're here."

"We have to tell him Linda's here. Probably Stewart too." Ryan insisted in a harsh whisper. He looked over at Ron who caught the glance. Ryan nodded his head towards the back of the church at Linda. Ron looked and stiffened in his seat. "I'll be back." Ryan whispered.

"Ryan, don't do it. Not now." Alan warned.

"Later may be to late." He insisted, getting up anyway. Ryan walked towards the exit. Linda glanced up at him, knowing she was spotted. On the other side of the church, Ron also left his seat to approach Linda. Ryan got there first, walking behind the pew so he was standing behind her. "What the hell are you doing here?" He hissed at her.

"Go away Ryan." She answered. "This is not the time for this."

"Fuck you Linda." Ryan spat, trying not to raise his voice. "Where's Stewart?"

"Around." She snapped quietly. "Now go away."

"The cops know your here Linda." Ryan warned. "One is coming over right now. I think it would be best if you stepped outside, as not to cause a scene."

She looked up at him and smiled smugly. "I don't think so." She smirked.

"Reconsider right now Linda." Ryan warned again. "Both you and Stewart are suspects in Tiffany's death. I'll make sure your arrested right here in front of Tiffany's friends and family to see. ‘Killer nabbed during her victim's funeral, right in the very church it was being held in.’ That would make one hell of a front page headline, don't you think?"

Linda stood up, glaring at Ryan with pure hatred. She discreetly walked to the end of the pew and out of the church. Ryan followed her with Ron not to far behind. Ryan was thinking, if Miller and Perri were there, they shouldn't be too far behind either.

Linda stomped outside the church with Ryan and Ron who was in uniform on her tail. "What do you want from me!" Linda growled.

"Where's Stewart!" Ryan snapped.

"I told you, around." Linda answered.

"You could be more specific?" Ron asked.

"I could." She answered. "But I'm not going to be."

Linda's attitude was pissing Ryan off. "Don't fuck with me Linda!" Ryan snapped. "Tell me where the fuck Stewart is! Lady or no lady, I'll cut you down to nothing right here and now."

"Really?" Linda asked smugly. "And make that the second lady you've killed this week?" Ryan lunged at her, but Ron stopped him. Alan was the next to appear out the church door.

Ron said, "Mrs. Webb, if you would cooperate please, it would help greatly."

Linda looked upon Ron as if he were crazy. "I have nothing to say to you." She declared. "Any of you for that matter."

"Linda." Alan greeted. "Nice to see you again." Linda threw him a disgusted look. "What brings you around here, I'm curious?"

"None of your business Alan!" She said harshly. "Yourself?"

"Tiffany was a friend of mine from school." Alan replied. "Her passing was a great loss to all of us who knew her."

"Was she fucking you too?" Linda asked sarcastically.

"Shut up you two faced bitch!" Ryan hissed. "You have NO RIGHT!"

As if on cue, Miller and Perri exited the church the same time Stewart walked around the corner from the parking lot. Ryan was the first person Stewart saw. His response, "Oh shit!"

Ryan turned to see who had spoken. Upon seeing Stewart, Ryan broke free from Ron's hold and leaped on top of Stewart, knocking him to the ground. Stewart never saw it coming as Ryan laid in the punches. Miller ran to Stewart's defense pulling Ryan off of him and pinning his arms behind his back. Miller was no match for Ryan's struggle. He was restrained from demolishing Stewart. "Knock it off kid!" Miller warned.

"What the hell was that about?" Stewart asked in shock, getting up off the ground. His nose was bleeding.

"Killer!" Ryan hissed. "Your going down Boswell. I'm going to send you to hell personally!"

Miller interceded, "I said, KNOCK IT OFF!" He forced Ryan to his knees, arms still pinned behind his back.

"Hey!" Alan yelled out. "Is that really necessary?"

Stewart answered, "Of course its necessary. That punk just tried to kill me too! Officer, I want that boy arrested for assault and battery!"

"It's Detective, not officer." Miller retorted. "And I had planned on doing just that!"

"What the hell for?" Alan asked in Ryan's defense.

"You heard the man." Miller jeered. "Assault and battery. I saw the whole thing!"

Alan: "Oh give me a break!"

In a split second of distraction, Ryan broke free of Miller's hold and turned to face him, a few steps back. Miller pulled the gun out of his belt and pointed it right between Ryan's eyes.

"Do it punk!" Miller hissed. Ryan stood completely still.

"Norm, put the gun away." Perri said exasperated at Miller's contempt for Ryan. Clearly, it was getting out of control.

"What are you going to do Miller?" Ryan asked holding out his hands. "Shoot me? Why not, I've already been shot once this week by a raving psycho. A slug from you wouldn't be much different! I'm not going anywhere Miller. You should relax, you'll live longer."

"I've had it with your attitude Thomas!" Miller said. "Insubordination to an officer of the law is a punishable offense!"

"So is murder!" Ryan snapped back. "I wonder what Internal Affairs would think about that!"

"Shit." Alan whispered in the background, worried Ryan might have said too much.

Perri walked over to Miller and put a hand on top of the gun. "DON'T do it Norm." Perri warned. "Just DON'T!" Miller lowered the gun and re-holstered it, glaring at Ryan. "I'm glad to see your back in town Mr. Boswell, Mrs. Webb." Perri said. "We've been looking for the both of you."

"Why?" Stewart snapped. "We haven't done anything?"

"Maybe, maybe not." Perri said. "But there are some questions I'd like the two of you to answer."

"Fine!" Stewart spat. "Lead the way. I have charges to press anyway!"

Perri turned to Ryan. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to take you into custody Mr. Thomas. If you'll cooperate, I won't have to cuff you."

Ryan threw his hands up in the air. "Fine." He answered.

Perri turned to Ron. "We're going to the City Barracks." He informed him. "I'll need you to come too."

"Of course." Ron replied.

Alan was shaking his head in disgust. "Do you need me to go with you Ryan?" He asked. Ryan nodded as he was being led to the police cruiser.

The group of them ended up at the Westminster City Police barracks. Alan had joined then after he informed Jarrod and Mike where he was going. Mike had brought his own car so they were not dependent on Alan for total transportation.

Ryan had been placed in a waiting room with a rectangular table and several chairs. Alan was not permitted to wait with him as Ryan was to be questioned alone. Miller and Perri took about twenty minutes to question Stewart and Linda before they came in to talk to him. Miller had a smug look about him, so Ryan figured he was in trouble.

Perri was the first to speak. "First off Mr. Thomas, I will have to place you under arrest for assault and battery in regards to Stewart Boswell. You will be staying in our custody until bail is set. Considering your current situation, I'm going to push for a hearing later this afternoon so you can be with your friends in light of Miss Cutter's funeral today. I want you to know that you are NOT being arrested for her death or any of the other deaths at this time. In light of new information, I want to inform you that you are under suspicion at this point for Austin Webb's murder. However, as there is no information or evidence linking you to the other three deaths involving the mark of the crow."

"Scarecrow." Ryan said.

"Excuse me?" Perri asked.

"Call it what it is Detective Perri." Ryan said. "Scarecrow. That's what I'm calling it. The scarecrow murders. Somewhere in this town is a serial murderer using the name scarecrow. The symbol of the crow is his mark."

"I see." Perri said. "What else do you know about this 'scarecrow'?"

"Not much really." Ryan said. "Except that whatever it is, it's twenty five years in the making."

"And how do you know this?" Miller asked.

"You tell me, seeing you know so much about it" Ryan replied.

"I don't know what your talking about." Miller returned. "Clearly, your facts and sources aren't up to par. Answer the question Mr. Thomas, how did you reach your conclusions?"

"A little crow told me about it." Ryan smirked.

Miller jumped up out of his seat. "God dammit, I've had just about enough of your smart ass attitude and remarks!" His face was red.

"Temper Detective." Ryan said, completely relaxed.

Perri interrupted, "Mr. Thomas, if you want us to help you clear your name, then your going to have to start cooperating. All this constant bickering isn't helping you any!"

"I didn't ask for this!" Ryan insisted. "I can talk to you just fine Detective Perri. But Miller here has had it in for me from day one and I have done nothing to deserve it. I am merely responding with the same attitude I am being given from Detective Miller here. Maybe if he would just get off my BACK, I could be a little more receptive!"

"I can understand your problem Mr. Thomas." Perri said glaring at Miller, who sat back down. "But unfortunately for you, you don't have a choice in the matter. If you don't cooperate, there is nothing I can do for you. Regardless what Detective Miller says or does. Now, can we try this again?"

"I suppose so." Ryan agreed.

"Okay." Perri started. "Mr. Boswell has confirmed the fact the you were not working the night Austin Webb was killed, as the time cards from Pizza-To-Go have claimed. My question is, where were you really?"

"Its baloney." Ryan insisted. "I was working that night. Anybody who did work that night could tell you that."

"Were in the process of checking that out." Perri said. "We haven't spoken with everyone who worked that night yet. But the facts on paper are clear. You were not working that night."

"Stewart is lying." Ryan said. "He probably changed the timecards before he fled to make it look like I wasn't working that night. I think he's setting me up because I'm on to him. I think he killed Webb, or Linda did it. Did you ask him how he got that cut on his hand and why he lied about how the knife really found its way back into the store?"

"We did." Perri replied. "He said he had an accident at home."

"Bull, he broke into the newsroom to steal those pictures of Tiffany." Ryan insisted. "What about the knife? What was his dazzling excuse for that?"

"According to Mr. Boswell, he never had that conversation with you about the knife. He claimed another one of the store employee's saw you smuggle the knife back into the store." Perri explained.

Ryan laughed. "Yeah, and I'll bet my freedom that the employee's name was Donald." Perri looked over at Miller with frustration. "I'm right, aren't I?"

"What makes you so sure about that?" Miller asked.

"Please." Ryan spat. "Donald would sleep with Stewart if Stewart asked him too. I told you before, I think Donald would lie for Stewart if asked to do so. Find Donald and put the pressure on him. He'll crack and come clean. I'll guarantee it. Donald's a complete wuss."

"We plan on it." Perri assured.

"Good." Ryan said. "Maybe then we'll get some truth around here. Obviously, my word isn't good for anything. Let me ask you this detective, did you check out the box of blank cards and laser printer in Stewart's office like I told you about?"

Miller replied harshly, "I don't think your in a position to ask..." Perri cut him off with a simple raise of the hand.

"If it'll make you feel better Mr. Thomas." Perri said. "Yes, we are checking it out. We're waiting on the results from the lab."

"I don't follow." Ryan admitted.

"Were comparing the cards found in Mr. Boswell's office to one of the cards the killer is using." Perri explained. "We should have something soon."

"Gentlemen." Ryan began. "You were talking to your killer or killers in the other room just a bit ago. And if they aren't the killers, I'll bet the farm they're deeply involved somehow. I can only hope you'll figure that out before it's too late."

"You sound sure of yourself Mr. Thomas." Perri observed.

"I am." Ryan confirmed.

Perri: "Might I inquire why?"

Ryan was debating whether or not to tell them about his knowledge of May 23, 1970. If he did, he could be in big trouble with Miller. If he wasn't already. "I would have told you two week ago I knew Stewart real well. These days, he's a completely different person. I think he's lost it for some reason. Probably because he had to kill Webb for Linda and her gold digging ways. He even looks different, like he's gone off the deep end. Anybody who knows Stewart would tell you that. Jesus, he abandoned his business. And for what, to flee? What is he running from, I wonder."

"He claimed he had a family emergency." Perri offered. "Do you know otherwise?"

"Yeah." Ryan replied. "He did it and now he's running."

Perri: "So why would he come back now?"

"Good question." Ryan answered. "I can't say that I know. It was a foolish move on his part. Unless he's so far gone that he doesn't think he'll get caught."

"He say's he's not going anywhere." Miller said. "He's back to stay."

Ryan: "And you believed him?"

Miller answered, "Do we have reason to think otherwise?"

"Ha, he's gone." Ryan said. "You won't be seeing Stewart ever again. Or Linda for that matter."

"Think so?" Perri asked.

"Pretty sure." Ryan replied.

"If he flees again, we'll find him." Perri assured. "If Stewart really is having mental difficulties, he wouldn't be hard to find. He'll slip up eventually."

"We'll see." Ryan concluded. "He's probably going to kill my father right now as we speak."

Perri looked at Ryan in complete confusion. "Why would you say something like that?"

"Clue number five Detective." Ryan said. "'An English muffin for breakfast'. What's the name of an English muffin? Thomas's? That would be my first guess. It's either me for my involvement, or my dad as a warning."

Perri leaned back in his chair. "Okay, there is no possible way for you to know that Mr. Thomas." He said seriously. "How did you come across that piece of information?"

"I've said to much." Ryan said. "But if I'm right, either me or my father is going to buy it soon."

"Answer the question." Miller snapped. "How did you know about that card. Unless it is you."

"No." Perri said shaking his head. "That's not right. There's got to be a leak in the system somewhere. Please Mr. Thomas, how did you know that?"

"My lawyer should be here." Ryan dodged.

"FUCK YOUR LAWYER." Miller yelled. "I'll get it out of you one way or another. Now tell me what I want to know!"

"Norm." Perri said in warning. Miller suddenly got up and left the room in a huff. Perri looked at Ryan. "Ryan, how did you know about the card?"

Ryan knew he couldn't reveal Ron. He would lose his best source. So he lied. "It was on the Internet. I really don't know how it got there Detective. Maybe there is a leak somewhere, but I can tell you there is more information on the Internet than you would believe."

"Okay." Perri said.

"I'm serious though Detective." Ryan insisted. "I don't think its me the killer is after. I do know that all of the people being killed have been alumni of Western Maryland College. My dad is one of them. He graduated in 1970, right around the same time Webb, Porter and West did. Do you see?"

"I'll be blunt with you Ryan." Perri said. "Off the record, strictly between you and me. I don't think it's you or any of your classmates. But I do have to pursue every lead. That's my job. I can't tell you very much about what I know, as I would be compromising my job. What I can tell you is that we're pursuing the gentleman who rented that car you saw outside of Miss Cutter's house last Thursday."

"It's not his real name."

"What?" Perri asked surprised.

"John Myers. I don't think it's his real name." Ryan admitted. "I told you I would find out Detective."

"I probably shouldn't be underestimating you, should I?" Perri asked.

Ryan shrugged his shoulder. "I don't know Detective. That's your call. I can tell you that I'm going to find this guy one way or another. He killed Tiffany. It's personal now."

"You know I have to advise you against that." Perri warned. "Interfering with an ongoing official investigation is a serious offense. Besides, lets say you do find him. What then? Are you going to kill him?"

"The thought crossed my mind." Ryan replied.

"Then you would go to jail." Perri stated. "Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred! Ryan, I understand you interest in all of this. But your going to have to back off and let us do our jobs."

"We should work together." Ryan suggested.

"You know I can't do that." Perri said. "It would be considered unethical."

"Or you don't want me to know Miller's deep dark secret." Ryan said. "The one that involves a scarecrow."

Perri stared at Ryan, not smiling at all. Ryan regretted saying anything at all. "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear you say that." Perri suggested. "Never mention that in front of me again. For your own safety."

Ryan and Perri met eyes. Perri was serious. Ryan was about to open a Pandora's Box in which all of Miller's ghosts were going to be free to reap havoc on the world. Ryan sat back in his chair and let it go. Perri now knew for certain that Ryan knew of Miller's involvement with 'scarecrow'. "Okay." Ryan said. "What about my Dad, Detective. I really think he's going to be next and I can't let that happen."

"Of course." Perri sympathized. "I'm going to try and have you back home tonight. I'll have some men watch your dad's house."

"I don't think that's going to help." Ryan insisted. "This guy is clever. I think he's going to come after my dad where nobody will be able to protect him."

"There's not a lot I can do at this point except keep him under surveillance."

"That's not going to be enough!" Ryan barked. "I need to be with him. I need to be at his house when he gets home, if he gets home."

Before Perri could respond, Miller opened the door to the room. He and Ron walked in. "Ian, I need to see you in the hall please. Officer Blake will stay with Mr. Thomas."

Perri stood up as Ryan interjected. "Detective, what about my dad?"

"I'll do what I can." Perri replied as he and Miller left the room. Ron and Ryan were alone.

"They found the car." Ron said.

"What car?" Ryan asked.

"The one registered to John Myers." Ron answered. "The gray Honda you saw outside of Tiffany's house. It was abandoned, so we think, outside the Westminster Elementary School."

"The Elementary School?" Ryan asked. "That's about a two minute drive from the college."

"I know." Ron said. "One of the teachers there said the car has been sitting there the whole weekend in the back of the parking lot. She called the city police and we checked it out. The license plate matched up."

"Maybe the killer was parking it there." Ryan reasoned.

"I doubt it." Ron said. "He's not getting that sloppy. I think he abandoned it so he would not have to turn it back in to the rental agency. He knows were on to him now. The car is going to be dusted for prints and swept for fibers. Whoever John Myers is, his days are numbered."

"And so are my dads if the killers not caught soon." Ryan added. "Ron, somebody has to go to my house and wait for my dad. I don't think I'm going to be let go to do it myself."

Miller and Perri walked back into the room. Perri began, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to cut this short Mr. Thomas. We have somewhere we need to be right now. Officer Blake will escort you to holding until we get back."

"What about my father?" Ryan insisted.

"I'll take care of it." Perri said. "Don't worry. We're close now." They left the room in a hurry.

Ryan looked at Ron and asked, "Holding?"

"We have to keep you in custody until bail is set." Ron said. "The holding facility is across the street from the courthouse. I'm sorry Ryan."

Ryan was dumbfounded. He was going to jail. "Ron, I need to see my dad."

"I know Ryan, but there's nothing we can do right now." Ron said. "I won't have to cuff you if you cooperate Ryan. I really wish I didn't have to do this."

"Take me to my dad's house first." Ryan pleaded. "Then you can take me to the jail house."

"I can't." He answered. "Your dad doesn't live in Westminster. If I drive a city cruiser out of city limits. I had better have a good reason. I could get in a lot of trouble."

"Look, we both know that my dad is probably the next target." Ryan explained. "All I need to do is warn him, if he's home. If not, I'll leave him a message."

"Call first." Ron suggested. "Leave a message on his machine."

Reluctantly, Ryan agreed. Ron escorted him to a phone and Ryan made the call. There was no answer. After two rings, the answering service picked up. As prompted, Ryan left a message. "Dad, its me. A lot of shit has gone down while you've been away. I don't have time to explain right now, but I'm in jail. Also, If you've been familiarized with the serial killings going on in Westminster, then I have strong reason to suspect you might be next. This isn't a joke dad. It's about something that happened twenty five years ago with something called 'scarecrow'. If you understand any of this, or even if you don't, I need you to get me out of here. More people are going to die and I need to be on the outside. Be careful, I really think your life is in danger. Get down here as soon as you can. I'll either be at the holding facility by the courthouse, or at one of the various police barracks around here." Ryan hung up the phone.

Ron escorted him to the police cruiser and they drove to the jail house. Alan followed to stay with Ryan as long as he could. Ryan asked him to go to his fathers house and see if anyone was there and to make sure everything was all right. Alan agreed and left to do so.

Ryan sat in a jail cell. Alone.

It wasn't as bad as he thought it might have been. Ryan pictured the jail cells to be filthy and dirty, like something out of a movie. It was actually very clean with a small cot and toilet facilities.

When the hoopla was over, Ryan's thought turned back to Tiffany, and the fact that she was dead. Ron had taken Ryan's wallet, keys and beeper as part of the jailing process. He had no picture of Tiffany to look at. The pain came thundering down again. It was going to take a long time to get over this Ryan thought.

He lied down on the cot which wasn't very comfortable, to gather his thoughts. They were mostly of Tiffany, and fear for his fathers life. Somewhere the killer, a.k.a. John Myers was loose. Probably stalking Geoff Thomas right now and there was nothing Ryan could do about it. Tiffany was resting eternally six feet under the Earth, never to be seen again. Ryan's didn't think his life could get any worse. It was during times like these he could have turned to Tiffany for support. Now he would have to fend for himself. Ryan was hoping Alan would make it to his fathers house in time. Before the killer got there. He closed his eyes and rested. The humming silence hypnotized Ryan into a state between sleep and consciousness. Tiffany appeared to him in what seemed to be a dream.

"Ryan." She spoke softly. Ryan tried to answer, but he could not.

'Is this real?' Ryan thought. Tiffany must have heard him for she nodded.

"I'm still here Ryan." She whispered. "I haven't left you yet. The time is not right for me to move on."

'I don't understand' Ryan thought. 'You're dead. We buried you this afternoon.'

"Don't talk Ryan, just listen." Tiffany said, her voice carrying like an echo in the mountains. "Don't worry about us. Were looking out for you, even though you can see or hear us."

'Who is us?' He asked.

"Those of us who care about you."

'Is my mom there with you?' Ryan asked. 'She died when I was little. I haven't seen her in years.'

"She is." Tiffany replied.

'Can I see her please? I want to talk to my mom'

"Ryan?" A familiar female voice asked. It was the voice of his deceased mother. "I'm here son. My baby boy, you've grown up into such a man. We're both so proud of you."

'Mom? Where are you? I can't see you.' Ryan said looking frantically into the void. He only saw Tiffany.

"Its okay son." She replied. "I'm here. We're both here. Your going to be okay. There is nothing for you to worry about."

Tiffany approached him, touching his face. "We love you Ryan. I love you. Remember that when your down. It will help you in your darkest hour."

'My darkest hour?' Ryan asked. 'What's going to happen?'

"Just remember my love." Tiffany reassured. "I love you." Tiffany's image started to fade. "Hold onto that." She was gone.

"Ryan?" Alan asked in a serious whisper. "Are you awake?"

Ryan opened his eyes slowly. The light that had been streaming through the window at the top of the cell had died as night approached. The sky was a dark purple. "Alan, what time is it?" Ryan asked.

"I don't know, I don't have a watch." Alan replied. Perri and Ron were looming in the background. "It's after six I think."

"What's going on?" Ryan asked, sitting up in his cot. "I must have fallen asleep." The image of Tiffany was fading from his mind, like most dreams do when reality comes crashing down.

Perri nodded in another direction and the door to Ryan's cell slid open. The three men entered the cell. "We're letting you go." Perri said grimly. "Apparently you were right. Stewart and Linda fled. They were picked up in Pennsylvania, heading north." Perri chuckled. "He was pulled over for speeding. Anyway, we got him and he'll be in our custody before the night is over."

"I told you." Ryan grumbled. "He's got guilt written all over his face. Linda's too."

"Maybe." Perri said. "He was instructed not to leave town and he did. There is reason to believe Stewart and Linda may be involved. Anyhow, the charges against you for assault and battery are being dropped in lieu of the situation. But I must warn you as well Ryan, don't leave town."

"I assure you Detective." Ryan said. "I'm not going anywhere. I need to get to my dad's house." The three men looked at each other nervously. "What?" Ryan asked defensively. "Alan, did you go to my dad's house?"

"Yes Ryan, I did." Alan said carefully.

"And? Was he home?"

"Yes."

"Well?" Ryan asked anxiously.

"Maybe we should go somewhere else and talk." Alan suggested. "This is such a dreary place."

"Dammit Alan." Ryan swore. "Just tell me. Is he dead? Is my father dead?" It was blunt, but to the point. It was obvious to Ryan that Alan was hiding something.

"No, he's not dead." Alan answered. "He's sick though. It's pretty serious."

"What happened?" Ryan asked briskly.

Perri answered, "It looks like he was poisoned. Preliminary investigations have turned up rather large amounts of arsenic in his kitchen."

"I don't understand." Ryan insisted. "There was arsenic in the kitchen itself?"

"What I'm about to tell you is inconclusive right now." Perri advised. "What it looks like is someone broke into the house without forced entry and poisoned various foods in the kitchen. In example, the grape jelly, the sugar, the milk, the syrup, and other items that are being tested. It looks like your father got home sometime this morning or afternoon and was eating breakfast when he ingested the poison. He fell unconscious and then Alan found him. Saved his life actually. Your dad is at Carroll County General, under close watch. He's alive and a guard is watching him."

"Is he conscious yet?" Ryan asked excitedly. "Did you talk to him yet?"

"He's in a coma Ryan." Alan answered. "He took in a bunch of poison. He was barely alive when I found him. The medics had to use CPR at one point. He's on a respirator right now. Its touch and go."

"I want to see him." Ryan declared. Alan nodded. Ron handed Ryan a small bag with his wallet and other things inside.

"I'll take you." Alan offered.

"No," Ryan said suddenly. "I want to get my car from the college. You can come with if you want. But I'd like to have my own car. I don't like being dependent on other people for transportation."

"Okay." Alan agreed.

Ryan threw Perri a bitter look. "You guys should have done something when I suggested it." Ryan spat. "This might not have happened."

"You don't know that Ryan." Perri said in his own defense. "We don't know how long that food has been poisoned." Ryan knew Perri was right, but didn't admit to it.

"I will find this fucker Detective." Ryan warned. "His ass is mine."

"Remember what I told you Ryan." Perri advised. "Don't take the law into your own hands. It's not worth it."

"Justifiable homicide." Ryan insisted. "He killed Tiffany and tried to kill my dad. Its beyond personal now detective. If my dad dies, do you think I'm really gonna worry about what your gonna do to me after I catch this guy. It couldn't be any worse than the pain I'll have to deal with if I lose my dad. So go ahead and flex your legal muscles Detective Perri. I don't care. We both know that these murders are going to continue until he's caught..."

"Or the cycle is complete." Ron interjected.

"Whatever." Ryan said. "Point is, I'll be saving lives by whacking this guy."

"Ryan, you can't be talking like this." Perri warned. "Its become plainly obvious that the only way I'm going to get you to stop investigating these murders is to lock you up. Obviously I can't do that. But I can't help you either. So do as you will. BUT, if you discover who is doing this, you find me and we'll go through the proper channels. The state will probably seek the death penalty in this case."

Ryan studied Perri carefully. He looked serious enough. "Okay." Ryan agreed, letting the lie slip through his lips.

Alan and Ryan drove back to the college for Ryan's car. Only Ryan's car wasn't where Alan had left it when he brought it back to the college from Tiffany's house the night of her murder.

"It was here." Alan insisted.

"Christ." Ryan swore. "What else is going to go wrong this week. I can't believe my car has been stolen!"

"Don't jump to conclusions Ryan." Alan said. "Maybe Jarrod borrowed it or something."

"Yeah, that's possible" Ryan agreed. "I do have a spare set of keys in the dorm. Lets go see if they're there." Ryan and Alan walked in a hurried pace to Ryan and Jarrod's dorm room. They did not find Jarrod there.

What they found was a disaster.

The dorm room had been completely trashed. It appeared that it had been broken into and ransacked. After a brief inventory of some of the more valuable items there, Ryan determined that nothing obvious had been stolen.

"What do you think happened?" Alan asked. He really didn't have to. The answer was obvious to both men. The killer had been here.

"I'm not really sure Alan." Ryan answered. "But I'm willing to bet the farm its 'scarecrow' related."

The first clue caught Alan's eye. It was a ripped piece of photo turned face down on Jarrod's laptop computer. The computer itself was partially in and out of the blanket on Jarrod's bed. The photo fragment was turned down with the mark of the crow, burned on the back without actually burning a hole through the picture.

"Ryan." Alan said softly pointing at the laptop on Jarrod's bed. "Over there." Ryan looked around to see what Alan was talking about. The photo fragment caught his eye immediately. They approached the bed to have a closer look. Ryan took hold of the blanket on the bed and turned the piece of the picture over as not to put his own fingerprints on it. The fragment showed a picture of a man from the torso down. Someone was standing next to him, but all that could be seen was the side of one leg and part of another torso. The second person was a woman as the swelling of a breast could be noticed from the side of the fragment. "What the hell is this?" Ryan asked.

"Our friend is trying to send us a message of some kind." Alan reasoned. "We should let Ron have a look at that."

"Yeah." Ryan agreed unenthusiastically picking up Jarrod's laptop in the other hand. The fragment was dropped back down onto the bed. "This is weird. Jarrod treats this thing like a God. He wouldn't leave it lying on his bed like this."

"Unless something happened to Jarrod." Alan offered.

"Don't say that man." Ryan said, almost pleading. "We've had enough casualties here for two lifetimes." Ryan opened the lid of the laptop to see if it was still in operating condition. The computer activated as it had been in 'sleep' mode. A picture faded to life on the screen. The system was all ready booted. Someone had been using the system and merely stopped, closing only the top. When this happened, the computer was not off, it was 'asleep'.

There was a message left on the screen.

"Jeffery can wait. I have your companion. You number has been lessened by one more. Only this one is NOT an accident. You will back off. Follow my instructions or lose another companion. You will be contacted at a later time."

"Jesus wept." Alan whispered in soft wonder. "He's got Jarrod."

"He's also not done with my father yet either." Ryan hissed. "We're dropping like flies around here Alan, and there's not a fucking thing we can do about it!" The image on the screen of Jarrod's laptop flickered and disappeared. A small light at the corner of the keyboard was flashing. The battery had died. Ryan chuckled. "The battery is dead." He said. "There goes one of our clues." Ryan looked back towards his bureau and shook his head.

"What is it Ryan?"

"My spare keys are gone." Ryan mused. "He's got my car."

"Well then, he won't get far." Alan offered. "How far can he get in a stolen car once we report it."

"Not far I guess."

"Let's get out of here." Alan suggested. "There might be more clues we don't want to disturb. We'll call Ron from the newsroom."

The newsroom, Ryan thought. The good old days.

Ron was contacted and promptly arrived at the college, meeting Ryan and Alan in front of Ryan's dorm. They had not given specific details over the phone but said that it was bad and needed immediate attention. Ron came alone this time.

"Jarrods' been kidnapped." Ryan said bluntly after Ron had appeared. "A message was left on his laptop, but the battery died. There is also a piece of a picture on Jarrod's bed. You should have a look."

"What did the message say?" Ron asked.

"Some shit about backing off or another one of our companions would be killed. Only this one would not be an accident." Ryan said.

"This one?" Ron asked. "Implying that one of the previous murders was not an accident?"

"I think he means Tiffany." Ryan said with a wince of pain. "I think our killer didn't mean to kill Tiffany. It was kind of an accident."

Ron appeared indifferent. "I'm going to have a look for myself, then I'll have to contact Miller and Perri." He explained.

"No surprise there." Ryan quipped.

Ron threw him a doubtful look. "Oh, by the way." He added. "We got some preliminary results on those cards found in Stewart's office. They match the composition of the cards the killer is using to leave his messages."

"No surprise there." Ryan repeated. Another doubtful look from Ron.

"It doesn't mean anything just yet." Ron added. "That particular brand of business card that we tested is quite popular. It would be hard to localize. As a matter of fact, the police station uses the exact same kind of business cards."

"Interesting." Alan whispered to himself. Ron heard, but let it go letting himself into the dorm room.

"I'm going to check my mail Alan." Ryan said. "I haven't done so for about a week now. I'll be back in a few."

"Okay." Alan said. "We'll be here."

Ryan walked down to the student services center where the mailboxes were located. Ryan looked inside his to find a decent pile of mostly junk mail from the college. There was a credit card bill, a copy of Rolling Stone, a letter from Publisher's Clearing house that informed him he may have already won a million dollars, and a letter with no return address on it. Ryan didn't need one to know who it was from.

The handwriting belonged to Tiffany Cutter.

Ryan ripped the envelope open letting the other mail fall to his feet. He started to read, heart pounding, blood racing. In the time a second had passed, Ryan had thoughts that maybe Tiffany was still alive. Maybe her death had been faked so she could be protected from the killer.

The date on the letter blew those theory's out of the water.

The date was March 29. The day before Tiffany had been killed. Ryan read on.

 

My dearest Ryan,

It's almost midnight. As soon as I finish writing this letter to you, I'm going to put it in the mailbox and send it to you. As your reading this, we have already made love. I have decided I don't care about the warnings my doctor gave me about doing it too soon. I can't wait any longer. I need to be with you Ryan. I need to feel your love in a way that words can't touch. If I didn't tell you already, I love you. I feel that I have always loved you, and I can't wait for us to start our life together. I'm so happy right now as I write this with the anticipation of things to come. I don't think that I have ever been this happy. You have been so understanding and there for me like no one else has ever been. I know that you are a once in a lifetime find, and I'm never going to let you go. If I haven't told you so already. I just thought this letter might be a nice surprise for you to brighten your day until I can see you again and look into your eyes and know that there are truly GOOD things in this world.

When spring break gets here in a couple of weeks, my mom said I could stay at her condo in Ocean City. I was hoping maybe you would go with me so we could have a few days alone together to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. So there is your surprise. You had better say yes, or I'm going to kick your butt! The next time I talk to you, the first thing I better hear from you is a 'yes'! So I'm going to let you go now and wait for you to answer me. I love you Ryan!

 

Tiffany

 

Ryan buried his face in his hand and the letter, smelling the faint odor of the perfume Tiffany commonly wore. The paper soaked up the tears that fell like rain. Ryan looked up at the ceiling as if addressing some higher power. "Yes." He said. "I love you Tiffany."

 

Ryan walked wearily back to his dorm with mail tucked loosely underneath one arm and Tiffany's neatly folded letter in his hand. The letter was supposed to make him happy, but yet he felt more worse that he already did. It had been a surprise all right. They just kept coming and they were not welcome at this point.

The next surprise was Perri and Miller standing in the doorway of Ryan's dorm. "Gee, that was quick." Ryan smirked. Perri shot him an uneasy glance as if to say 'Don't fuck with Miller right now, he's not in the mood'.

"We were in the neighborhood." Miller shot back. Perri gave Miller the same look. Then it occurred to Ryan that Miller had nor been present when Perri, Ron and Alan came to Ryan in his jail cell. He wondered where Miller might have been. Kidnapping Jarrod perhaps?

"Seems there's been some more trouble here Mr. Thomas." Perri said. "Officer Blake called us."

"Now what?" Ryan asked. "What happens next?"

"I don't know." Perri replied. "We wait and see if the killer tries to make contact with you."

"Did you see Stewart yet?" Ryan asked. Perri looked at Miller and then to Ron.

"There's a new development." Perri admitted. "Stewart escaped."

"WHAT?" Ryan exclaimed. "How did that happen?"

"I really can't share that with you Mr. Thomas." Perri said authoritatively. "He will be back in custody before nightfall." Ryan shot a glance at Ron saying 'Why didn't you say anything to me?'. Ron glanced back saying 'I didn't know'.

"What about Linda?" Ryan inquired.

Perri: "She's en route now."

"I'll tell you what I think." Ryan said.

Miller began, "Your conjecture in this matter really does..."

"Shut up Miller!" Ryan spat with fire in his eyes. "You WILL listen this time. My best friend has been kidnapped here and I fully believe Stewart is responsible. The son of a bitch kidnapped Jarrod and stole my car to do it in. He probably stashed him somewhere, if he didn't kill him first and fled for Pennsylvania. He was caught and probably figured you knew about Jarrod's disappearance. He had to escape."

"War room." Ron muttered.

"What?" Ryan asked looking at Ron in complete confusion.

"You mentioned ‘stashed’." Ron began. "The textbook serial killer has a room that he plans his murders in, where he keeps clippings and pictures of his victims. A shrine if you will. This is called a ‘war room’."

"Interesting." Perri said.

Ron finished. "I think if Jarrod was stashed anywhere, it would be our killers ‘war room’. Assuming he has one."

"It’s obvious he’s based here in Westminster." Ryan added. "I’ll bet if there is a ‘war room’, it’s somewhere here in town."

"A safe assumption." Ron agreed. He looked at Perri. "We should look into this."

Perri nodded and turned his attention to Ryan. "Ryan." He said with compassion. "We will catch Stewart. Although I can tell you it was not your car he was pulled over in."

"Doesn't matter." Ryan insisted. "It's probably been abandoned already." Perri was about to question Ryan further when the phone in Ryan's dorm rang. All five men looked at it. Perri looked at Ryan curiously. Exasperated with the situation and life in general, Ryan walked into the dorm and picked up the phone. "Hello?"

There was a second or two of silence before a voice replied. "Ryan?" It asked. Scared, dejected sounding.

"Jarrod?" Ryan asked in surprise. "Where are you, are you okay?" The other four men gathered into the room.

"Ryan, listen to me very carefully. I only have a minute to tell you the message." Jarrod said robot like.

"Go." Ryan said.

"I'm okay. I've been told I won't be killed. But, if you don't back off the 'scarecrow' thing, I'm going to be tortured."

"WHAT?"

"Just listen. I'm allowed to tell you that I don't know where I am. I'm blind folded, so I can't see..."

"Is he there?" Ryan interrupted. "Is the killer with you."

"Yes Ryan, but I can't answer your questions." Jarrod paused and grunted as if he were in pain. In that pause, Ryan heard a sound. It was faint, but audible. "If you keep asking me questions I can't answer, I'll be hurt Ryan, so just LISTEN!"

"Dammit Jarrod! What the hell is going on."

"Listen Ryan, please. Just stop. Stop what your doing. I don't want to die. If you don't back off, he's going to hurt me, bad. I can't take that kind of pain." There was another pause and grunt. Silence. A few seconds later, Jarrod spoke, "I'm supposed to tell you that Tiffany's murder was an accident..." At this point, Perri had leaned towards the phone in Ryan's hand to hear the conversation. Ryan faced the phone outwards a bit so Perri could hear. "...and that no harm was supposed to come to her."

"You've heard him talk?" Ryan asked. "Who is he Jarrod, tell me! We'll find you and save you, but you have to tell me who he is!"

"I can't. I don't want to die."

"Jarrod, you just said he wasn't going to kill you." Ryan insisted. His question had come upon deaf ears as the sound of something striking Jarrod came across the phone line. Jarrod cried out in pain in the background. There was a loud thumping sound as the phone on the other end fell out of Jarrod's hand. It was impossible to tell if it hit the ground or swung into the wall. Jarrod screamed for help as two gunshot rang out of the receiver. Jarrod screamed no more.

"NO!" Ryan screamed. "YOU MURDERING SON OF A BITCH!" Perri took a step back from Ryan and took the phone from him. He put the phone up to his ear and listened.

"He hung up." Perri said flatly.

"HE KILLED JARROD!" Ryan screamed.

Alan came forward and held Ryan back. "You don't know that." Alan tried to reassure.

"I do!" Ryan declared. "I heard the shots." Alan had no retort. Perri looked at Miller and nodded. Suddenly, Ryan had a bad feeling about his dad in the hospital. "Alan, can you take me to the hospital. I want to see my dad before the killer has a chance to get to him."

"Of course I can Ryan, but the killer can't get near your dad."

"We don't know that." Ryan insisted. "This guy can get in and out of anything apparently. If he wants my dad dead for whatever reasons, then he's not going to stop until he is dead. I need to be there to prevent that from happening." Alan looked at Perri for approval who nodded his head.

"I'll go to." Ron said.

Perri turned to Miller. "I want to see everything the phone company has in terms of calls to and from this phone." Perri instructed. He turned to Ryan. "I need to dust this room for prints Mr. Thomas."

"Whatever." Ryan sighed. "Find Jarrod. If he's not dead now, then he could be hurt really bad."

"That's what I'm going to do this very second Ryan." Perri assured with more compassion. "I truly don't think its the killers intention to kill your friend. He has more leeway with a hostage than he does without one. He's just trying to scare us."

"I doubt it." Ryan said. "This guy means business. If Jarrod's not dead, then he's hurting real bad. Which is even worse." Ryan turned away. "C'mon Alan. Lets go before its to late." Ryan and Alan walked out of the room. Ron followed.

Geoffrey Thomas was still comatose when the trio arrived at the hospital. It was difficult for Ryan to see his father lying in a sterile bed so helpless. There was no life to him as he lie there, life supported by a bunch of machines. Ryan thought it was a truly degrading sight. He held his father's limp hand as Alan and Ron loomed in the background.

"Can you hear me dad?" Ryan asked. Geoffrey remained unresponsive. "I'm here. Nobody is going to harm you while I'm here." Ryan looked at the standard plastic hospital bracelet around Geoffrey’s wrist.

Geoffrey Thomas, it read.

It suddenly struck Ryan that the reference to his father in the message on the laptop was inaccurate. The killer had spelled Geoffrey incorrectly, spelling it with a J-E-F-F as opposed to a G-E-O-F-F.

"This isn't right." Ryan said out loud.

"What do you mean?" Alan asked.

"Remember the message on the laptop?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah?"

"The killer misspelled my dad's name." Ryan said. "It was spelled with a 'J' and not a 'G', remember?"

"Yeah." Alan agreed. "So the killer didn't use the correct spelling. What's so odd about that?"

"That's how my dad USED to spell his name." Ryan declared. "He changed it to a 'G' spelling right after college." This caught Ron's attention.

"Okay." Alan said. "Your saying the killer knew your dad in his college days then."

"Makes sense doesn't it?" Ryan asked. "Very few people remember that my dad used to use that spelling. The killer is obviously one of them, which would make him close to my fathers age."

"Possibly." Ron interjected. "Or maybe the killer really doesn't know and merely assumed your dad's name was spelled with a 'J'. We do have to consider all possibilities."

A nurse walked into the room. "Are you Officer Blake?" She asked Ron.

"I am."

"There's a phone call out here for your from a Detective Perri." She informed.

"Excuse me." Ron said to Ryan and Alan, leaving the room with the nurse.

Alan looked at Ryan with tired eyes. "You should try and get some rest Ryan." he advised. "You're still recovering from the accident. You might do yourself more harm than good."

"I'm not leaving my father."

"We might be able to get the hospital to let you stay overnight. Considering the circumstances." Alan offered.

"That would be okay, I guess."

"Let me go see what I can find out." Alan said leaving the room. Ryan nodded and watched him go. Geoffrey was breathing slow and deep with the aid of the machine. Ryan turned his head to look out the window. It was night. Although Ryan had no idea what the time was, he was sleepy after all. He thought a few hours sleep might do him some good.

Ron came back into the room. "Not much to report." He said. "There were no prints in your dorm other than yours and Jarrod's. There was a message on your machine from your dad though. He had called to tell you he got back early." Ryan laughed with sarcasm. Ron continued. "Perri is having the photo fragment sent to the lab for analysis. There might be something there to work with. Our serial killing is getting more 'textbook' by the day it would seem."

"I don't understand." Ryan admitted.

"Serial killings follow a pattern." Ron explained. "I explained this to you before. The 'clue cards' gave him that status. As did the brand of the crow. All the murders are connected back to that day in 1970. One murder ultimately leads us to another. The killer is giving us pieces to a puzzle one at a time. When the puzzle is finished, the motive should be clear, or clearer than it is now. The cards didn't really provide a motive except in the sense that we were being led in the direction of the next premeditated murder. No motive really. That was up to us to figure out. The photo fragment is most likely a real clue to the true motive. When the picture is complete, if it gets that far. We should have a true idea about who we are dealing with."

"Your telling me the complete photo is a picture of the killer?" Ryan asked.

"Possibly, but not likely." Ron answered. "That would make our job too easy. It's probably somebody associated with the motive. A person the killer knew perhaps."

"Or is avenging maybe?" Ryan asked.

"Could be."

"Another victim perhaps?"

"Another possibility." Ron replied sitting down on the couch across from Ryan. "I've done some poking and prodding into this on my own. It slipped my mind till now. I ran the name John Myers through INNERPOL. That would tell us if there was a criminal record on him. I got the social security number from the credit card company. There was nothing there to report in terms of criminal activity. After a little more digging, I turned up a moving violation on a John R. Myers back in 1969, right here in Westminster. It was the same John Myers on the credit report used to determine his present address."

"The lot where the ghost house used to sit." Ryan added.

"Right, anyway the ticket was paid and that was the last of it. I checked the address taken from the license at the time the ticket was issued. The people who live there now have never heard of John Myers. My guess is that he left that house a long time ago.

"The other thing I found, which is a little more peculiar are records of a bank account belonging to a John R. Myers that was turned over to the state back in 1981."

"What?" Ryan asked. "I don't get it."

"Neither did I, until I asked the bank about it." Ron continued. "Back in 1970. John Myers had an account at a bank back then called WestMar Trust. They merged with another bank in the seventies which merged with BancAmerica in the late eighties. It was explained to me that when there is no activity on a bank account for a year, it's considered dormant. If an account lies dormant for ten years, it gets turned over to the state. The state then makes a public notice about the account for the owner to come collect it, say he forgot he had the account or something. If no one comes to claim. The state keeps the money. According to bank records, the last transaction on John Myers' account was a week before May 23, 1970. After that transaction, the account was never used again. The state got a couple grand from the account after ten years."

"Weird." Ryan mused. "John abandoned his account back in 1970, but he's still using his credit card. It doesn't make any sense. What about the credit card, did you find out anything else about that?"

"It's being looked into." Ron replied. "There were some interesting things there also I've been meaning to share with you." Ryan looked enticed as Ron continued. "The original address the credit card was registered to was the same for the bank account. Dead end there. The account remained unused for a while. A few months after May of '70. A new address was registered for the credit card in North Canton, Ohio. The card was used there on and off for the next 24 years. A new address was registered to the card last year right here in Westminster, at the PO Box we discussed earlier. Miller and Perri are having the address in Ohio checked out. We are definitely several steps closer to catching this psycho. Whoever he is, he screwed up in a major way when we discovered his so called identity through his credit card."

"Were there any transactions made on the card besides the rental car place here in Westminster?" Ryan asked.

"Yes." Ron said, thinking. "The state police are checking those out to see if a physical description can be constructed of the killer."

"What are some of the places?" Ryan asked.

"I can't think of all of them off the top of my head." Ron admitted. "One was a restaurant here in Westminster. Shoney's I think it was. Another was a hardware store in Eldersburg and another a lawn care place in Hampstead."

"Lawn care?" Ryan asked. "As in fertilizer? To make a bomb? Or to buy arsenic?"

"It's a good possibility."

"Do we know how the killer is making payments to his credit card?"

"Checks." Ron replied. "An account for John Myers out in North Canton, Ohio."

"We practically have him." Ryan whispered with new hope. "His days are numbered. Have you told Alan yet?"

"Not yet. I was going to after I told you."

"Good, he should probably know." Ryan advised. Alan walked back into the room with a nurse.

"Ryan, I think I have an overnight pass for you." Alan said. The nurse began to do tests on Geoffrey. "Only due to some policy here at the hospital, you can't make a habit of it."

"I can stay tonight?"

"Tonight, yes. Tomorrow, I don't know."

"Well, I'll cross that bridge when I get there." Ryan said.

"Do you need me to stay too?" Alan asked.

"No Alan. You have your own life to worry about." Ryan mentioned. "If you could pick me up tomorrow morning, it would be much appreciated."

"Can do." Alan confirmed. "What time is your first class."

"Jesus, I'm not even worried about that right now Alan."

"I know Ryan. But you can't ignore college and flunk out." Alan argued. "You should at least try and go. It will get your mind off this whole mess."

"Yeah, your probably right." Ryan agreed. "Make it eight then."

"Eight it is. Are you gonna be okay here?" Alan asked.

"Yeah. Thanks Alan."

"I'll walk you out." Ron offered turning to Alan. Alan put his hand on Ryan's shoulder.

"It's going to be okay Ryan." he said. Ryan nodded.

Ron winked at him and offered, "This will all be over soon."

"I hope your right." Ryan said. "Lives are depending on it."

Alan and Ron left the room, leaving Ryan alone. He studied his fathers lifeless body again, shaking his head in disgust.

His spirit was restless.

Spirit.

Ryan suddenly remembered the seance business with Todd Matheny and his band of followers. His seance was last Thursday, and he had missed it.

Ryan decided to take some time tomorrow, if he could afford it to seek out Todd and find out what happened, although it was not for the story he was supposed to be writing. There was some kind of fascination on Ryan’s part about what Todd was really up to with trying to contact the spirit in Alumni Hall, and the spirit of Austin Webb. He knew the whole thing was phony, but what if there was something there beyond Ryan’s comprehension. What if Todd found out something through the spirit of Austin Webb, as silly as it sounded.

Tiffany had contacted Ryan. Once at the funeral home, another while he was in the jail cell. Maybe there was more to Todd’s afterlife theory than just hocus pocus after all.

Maybe.

Just...maybe.

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