The fact is, I care more about Sophie than I care about my job. As a father, preserving her life—at the cost of a murderer going free—is the required move.
But I can’t justify it.
I drop to the side of my bed and lean forward onto my elbows. “Lord, how can I do my job when Sophie’s life is in the balance?” Straining for any Scriptural warrant, I wait, thinking.
Something from the Westminster catechism comes to mind about killing. I search online till I find the exact wording, and mull it over.
The duties required in the Sixth Commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit… forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.
If I allow this guy’s threats to go to their promised end, it will end with the unjust taking away of Sophie’s life. But the killer of two young people is out there, somewhere. Somehow it looks like a crime spree. If that killer is unconscious in the hospital, he’s in custody. I have to assume it’s Nick, as all my evidence points to him. Whatever’s in that syringe, if it killed those kids, then we need to charge Nick.
Meanwhile, I’m facing off with the apparition. The catechism warrants just defense—I’m all for that. Quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit—not quite there. But while I may forgive this sulfur-smelling idiot… later…, right now, I need to defend my innocent Sophie against him. And that package is the only way to protect her.
Yes, the sixth commandment requires me to preserve the life of the innocent, as much as I am able.
I look around the room for anything that can help me. Something to use to force Briggston to give me my package back.
The gun on my ankle.
The irony breaks my heart. Using threat of death to preserve Sophie’s life. Eye for an eye? Jesus said if you live by the sword you will die by the sword.
No, I need something else.
I know what I need. Time. I can use time against Briggston. Somehow he knows or suspects what’s in that package. How he’d know, I have no idea. Briggston is in on it. With Grigory, now with the ghost man. And with the Blacks.
I grab my phone and call Sergeant Boice.
“Where the blazing sun have you been, Reynolds? We just put out an APB on you.”
“I’m following up a lead, Sarge. Look, do not release the Blacks. It’s very critical that they stay in custody. I have evidence that hints to their involvement.”
“What’s that evidence? They have lawyered up.”
“Not a problem. We have time. Please keep them for… a couple more hours. Let them stay with their lawyer, but don’t release them. I’ll explain when I get there.”
I hope I can explain when I get there. What evidence do I have? Well, the letter said I’ll have the weapon. Lord willing, I’ll figure that out.
Wait. Wasn’t the syringe the weapon?
“Secondly, Sarge? You there?”
“I need you to send a team to Briggston’s house. He says Nick Black attacked him several days ago with a syringe. I suspect this is the same thing that killed those kids. Please send a Hazmat team in to recover that, and to take his statement.”
“How do you know this?”
“I’ll explain when I get there.”
“When will you get here? Is this your number? What happened to your phone?”
“Give me an hour.” I hope it’s enough time.
I close with him and call Maura. She will not be happy, and even less so when I keep this short.
“Hey, Maura, sorry I had to leave. Something big happened. Can’t go into details.” I keep talking to not give her a word in edge-wise that will turn into a long lecture. “Look, I told Boice about a lead I have on the chemical agent that’s killing everyone. Keep tabs on that. I can’t explain things right now, but this is my new number. Text any information. I gotta go.”
I hang up before she can respond. She will be furious.
The phone rings, it’s Maura. I put it on silent and drop it in my pocket, then reach down for my gun and check its cartridge. Full. Okay. Lord, I don’t want to use this. Please open the way for me to get that package back peacefully, before Boice and the others show up.
I nod to myself, as reassurance, then hasten out and to my car. I can’t even check on Sophie today. Or Mercy, and I forgot to ask Maura about her. I can’t check on my car, or on Nick. I’ve just got to get that package back.
Peeling out, I make it to his place in seven minutes. No one is in the guard booth. I honk and ring the bell, but no one answers.
The lawn is clear of people. No movement anywhere. I honk my horn a couple times, and still no one comes. I’m not a swearing man, but this pushes me almost to the edge. Where is everyone?
My only option is annoying them. I lean on the horn and hold it down for a minute.
Someone pounds on the back of my car and I jump out. It’s a guard from a nearby estate.
“What are you doing? You’re breaking the law. Disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.”
I flash my badge.
“Why are you making so much noise? My boss has called the police about you.”
I don’t have time for this. They’ll be here any moment, and I was hoping to have my business taken care of.
“Did you see anyone leave the property?”
“I saw Mr. Briggston’s limo pass my booth about ten minutes ago.”
Where would he have gone? Where would he have gone with my package?
Boice is going to be here soon, so I pull out. I don’t want to be here when they realize Briggston is gone. That’s going to ricochet back onto me.
A mile down, I turn out onto a side road and stop the car to think. I don’t have a choice right now. I’ve got to track down Briggston.
Sergeant Boice and/or his team will be here to investigate this clue. They’ll return the station soon, no doubt, angry about a wild goose chase. If I’m there, I’ll have to volley questions with no answers. That will look bad on me. If I knew what the package was, I’d be able to guess where Briggston went with it. If it’s the weapon, he’d want to dispose of it. A million places he could do that.
But then again, why would the sulfur guy make me jump through a million hoops before handing me the weapon? No. It couldn’t be the weapon. But it was a clue to the weapon.
What have I done so far? I’ve tied this scarf to my wrist. An internet search that turns up nothing. What for?
I grab the letters from my bag and read the first one again.
1. Search online for Antikythera Mechanism
2. Be in front of Meridian Holdings at 10:23am.
3. Take William Black and his wife into custody before they go to their meeting with Briggston.
4. Return to your office at the station, close the blinds, lock the door, and open the next envelope.
In my office, I had read one that said to take the package to my house and open it there.
1. Go home post haste. Tie the scarf I gave you around your wrist.
2. Open the package. Read the instructions and do everything in order, as instructed.
I fold my hands and rest my lips on my fingertips.
How is this scarf related to the package? I tip my wrist to my nose and can still smell Mercy on it. Why did Mercy have two of the same scarf?
And the bigger question, why would Briggston want a package associated with my wife’s scarf? I reread the first instructions. If you do exactly what I say, you will discover the weapon that killed Noah Black, Jamie Lewis, and countless others who will never be numbered. Both your wife’s and your daughter’s life hang in the balance.
Obviously, the weapon connection was Briggston’s connection. But how was my wife’s scarf linked to the weapon?
I doubt the mystery man had given me the weapon. He said by following his directions I would discover the weapon. It wasn’t the weapon; it would merely expose the weapon. So if Briggston knew the package would expose the weapon, why would he take it? Briggston and Grigory both pointed to Nick and his syringe. He would want Nick to be exposed through this weapon.
Unless the package pointed fingers elsewhere.
Meaning, the syringe wasn’t genuine.
Which made little sense, since the animals I’d seen at the warehouse had the same cause of death as Noah and Jamie.
So, it’s either Nick and his syringe, or Briggston is involved. The only way to confirm my theory is to wait on the syringe investigation.
So what is in the package? And why would my guy threaten Mercy and Sophie with it?
Lord, I need that package.
I need to find out the other clues, and my sister can help me there. Bracing myself, I return Maura’s call.
As expected, she lectures me on proper telephone etiquette. When her rant is over, I ask for anything she can tell me over the phone.
“Did you at least read my message?”
“You are impossible, Tim. First off, Mercy is fine. Same as she has been. But the nurse says you haven’t been there for several days, so if you want her to have a chance at getting well, you should visit her. Daily, they say.”
“I will.” The guilt floods over me and I push it away again. “But what about the labs? What else can you tell me about Noah and Jamie?”
“Well, Noah was on psych meds for schizophrenia.”
I tell her I had heard.
“And Jamie was two months pregnant.”
My understanding of this case gets tunnel vision.
What had I heard about Noah? He had broken up with Jamie. She wouldn’t have liked that, especially when she found she was pregnant. But at the animal operation, the vet had said Nick had a girlfriend. If that someone was Jamie, Nick suddenly had a motive.
“Can you tell who the father was?”
“Her entire body is muckity-muck. I can’t easily do a DNA of the fetus.”
Oh, wow. Nick had better wake up soon. He’s key to everything.
“What else did you hear in the conference this morning?”
“I didn’t stay for the whole thing. Just get down here and look at it all yourself. They need your expertise, Tim. You’ve got to share what you’ve learned and put together a profile on the killer. What’s gotten into you? You’re not yourself.”
Yes. I’m being puppet-mastered by someone else.
“I’ll be in. Did you touch base with Boice about the chemical agent?”
“He’s going to call me in for consult when they return.”
“Are you sure it’s not contagious? Didn’t you say it kept working in Noah even after death?”
“I can rule out nothing. It might be biological.”
We can’t know without a syringe of the stuff. The only other place it would be is Nick’s house. If Nick was in love with Jamie, that would make him suspect. I might find proof at his place.
Did Noah know she was pregnant? Did Nick know? Who else would have known?
Black didn’t approve of the girl. What had he said about it? I flip my notebook to yesterday’s notes. William Black had said Noah had no girlfriend. He’d paled and when I asked why he said “girlfriend implies potential wife” right before he told me Noah and Benjamin had been arguing over inheritance.
It was certain Brooke was too young to be Nick’s mother. If this was a step-sibling related inheritance issue, it might reveal motive.
Wait a minute. Why was I supposed to stop the meeting this morning? What was it about, that I should stop it happening? Was it about inheritance? Could this ghostly guy pushing me around be Benjamin? Money, love, and revenge all twisted together?
William Black had answers. He could tell me about Briggston. He could expound on Jamie, the inheritance, Benjamin, Nick. His lawyer may allow this.
Briggston was worried about what Black would say in the initial investigation. Briggston is involved, and Black is also involved. I may not know where Briggston went. But sniffing around his people might make him show up, like he showed up right after we took the Blacks into custody. And he’ll know where my package is.
On the other hand, I need to investigate Nick’s house. If there is anything there worth salvaging, we can build a case against him. There’s no time to wait for a warrant, because we won’t have probable cause until Briggston shows up and Boice gets that syringe. So it’s up to me to get the ball rolling on charging or clearing Nick Black. His apartment may be the missing link.
Copyright 2021, Darlene N. Böcek