I won’t be posting again until January 2nd due to the holidays!! (That will give me time to recuperate after catching this mean evil virus that is keeping me down!!) I hope everyone has a safe, happy, healthy Christmas and a great New Years!! Let’s not forget through it all what Christmas is all about: Jesus Christ. All glory to God and not men!!
Friday, December 21, 2012
"I didn't even give Amy a chance to tell me about her 'bad feeling.' I just chalked it up to her pregnancy,” Jackson said as the group walked out to his SUV.
"Amy loves you and there's no way she would blame this on you. Give her some credit, man," Jude returned.
"I couldn't blame her if she did. I wouldn't listen to her fears. I kept cutting her off every time she tried to tell me. Now she's in danger, and so are my kids.”
"It isn't your fault. How were you supposed to know Jude's partner was a psychopath?" Scott asked.
"I've been thinking a lot about something, guys. I know this probably isn't the time to bring it up, but I don't know when we'll all be together again. Now that I have Amy and we have a baby on the way I want to spend more time at home. I've been prepping How-To for my position on the Special Forces Team."
Jude said, "It sounds like there's an 'and' at the end of that statement."
"Well, we work well together," Jackson gestured to all of them.
"Yes we do, that's a fact," Otis said.
"Where are you going with this, pal? Just spit it out for us, please," Scott put in.
"I think you guys should give the man a chance to formulate his sentences the way he wants to," Amos said.
The ringing of Jude's telephone interrupted the conversation. "Hello?"
"This is John Sims, the coroner. I don't know if you remember me but we've met."
"I remember you, what's up?"
"You know that Sanders woman that was sent to me earlier this evening?"
"Yes, what's the problem?" Jude’s heart lurched painfully. Even knowing what she’d done, he was still upset at her death.
"It isn't Justy Sanders," John Sims said.
His heart tripped, and then began a pitter-patter as he took in several deep breaths. "Are you sure? What's going on?" He was confused and he couldn't formulate the words he needed to say. "How...?"
"As I was prepping the body I noticed some very recent facial scarring like that of someone who has just undergone extensive reconstructive surgery," John relayed.
"Do you know who it is?" What was going on?
"No, I still have to run the tests.”
"This is really confusing."
“It is confusing, but I figured you’d want to know right away.”
“I'll call you back Mr. Sims." Jude ended the call and turned toward Jackson.
"What's going on?"
"That was the coroner, John Sims. He says the woman in the morgue isn't Justy Sanders.”
"How can that be?”
His face mirrored
"I don’t know, but I need time to process it. What were you gonna say before my phone rang?”
"I was thinking...If I could interest you guys, we could start our own team together. We could start a detective/protection agency. Let me know what you think."
They all spoke at once and pandemonium reigned for a couple of minutes. The ringing of Jude's phone put an end to it.
He answered, "Yes, this is Jude Johnson, what can I do to help you?"
"I'm pretty sure you know it isn't Justy Sanders in the morgue by now." The voice sounded just like Justy’s and a rush of hope went through him.
"What’s going on?”
"Well Jude Johnson, back-off and I'll tell you how. You might as well turn around and go back home. I'm not letting you anywhere near the woman or the children. They're my leverage, you know. If you follow me I'll be forced to kill them.”
"Tell me one thing, Are you really Justy?" Jude asked. This whole thing was making him crazy. He’d believed she was a serial killer, and then one phone call gave him hope, and now he was crushed again. How can I take this?
"I'll ask you a question, Mr. Johnson. How tall is Justy Sanders?" The click of her phone effectively ended the call. If he was getting what she was hinting at, she wasn’t Justy, but who then?
"That was a bazaar call. I don't think we're looking for Lauren or Justy. I think they’re trying to freak us out so bad we don’t know which way is up. Was anyone able to hunt down Max Sanders?" He had a hunch, and if he was right, they were all on the wrong track.
"Nope, I put in a request and they tossed his place, but he's gone. It looks like he fled the city," Scott said.
"I know he's into this somehow. It's possible he's the original killer," Jackson said. "What if he just looks like he's young, but he's not? I mean, we were fooled by someone who looked like Justy, but wasn't. That would account for why she sounded sane and sweet when we first met her, but after the killer attacked her in her home she changed. It's possible she didn't really change, but wasn’t her, and if that’s the case, where is she?”
"Exactly, and on our ride back from the hospital she started an argument with me. She threw that old high school incident right up in my face not even twenty-four hours after promising she wouldn't ever do it again if I found her parents' killer. I haven't found the guilty party yet but I'm actively looking. It just wasn't like her..." Jude added hopefully. He hoped he hadn't actually fallen in love with a serial killer. Something popped up in Jude's mind and he asked, "Why would there be so many calls between Lauren and Max if she didn't have anything to do with this?" He was desperately trying to make it all make sense in his mind.
"Maybe they had some kind of relationship," Jackson said. "If it wasn't really Justy, it would account for why Amy liked her when they first met and then turned around and changed her mind."
Jude’s phone rang again and he answered, "Hello?"
"This is John Sims again."
"What is it?"
"Her prints came up as someone named Julia Salio."
"I used to date her,” Jude said. He was even more convinced now whoever the killer was, he'd gone to school with her. It would have to be someone he went to both high school and college with, or at least someone who’d known enough about him to know who his girlfriends were.
"That leaves a big dilemma, Mr. Johnson," John Sims said into the phone.
"I know, if it isn't Justy, then where is she?” He hung up and looked over at Jackson. "I guess you surmised what was going on?"
"I got the gist of it."
"We can't let Amy and the kids out of our sight," Jude said urgently. “If Justy isn’t Justy then Lauren probably isn’t Lauren. If they aren’t who they’re supposed to be, then Max isn’t who he’s pretending to be… Ugh! I can’t take this.” Jude rubbed his big hands through his blonde crew cut in agitation. Dear Lord, please help us figure this out. He couldn’t get his thoughts straight to make a plan, and that’s probably exactly what the killer wanted in the first place. “The woman who just called me said if we don't back off and stop following her she's going to kill Amy and the kids."
"Well, we are tracking them. We can ditch this car and get another one,” Scott suggested. “She’ll probably make us, though.”
Yeah, whoever she is, she's good. I'd bet my next paycheck she's a professional service woman of some kind," Jackson said.
"What service do you think she's from?" Jude asked.
"I don't know. She could be military, FBI, police, CIA...any one of those three-letter agencies. The way she got away after that last shooting was too professional to be luck. I know what we're gonna do," Jackson said firmly.
"What's that?" Jude asked. They were running out of time and he wouldn't feel better until he knew what they were going to do.
"We'll come in from the other end of the property. I've got a barn back there that has a dozen four-wheelers sitting in it. We'll all grab a four-wheeler and pretend we're locals out on the trail," Jack told them. He was coming up on his turn so he just veered off to the right and headed down the smaller, less traveled road.
"That's a great idea, except for one small detail," Jude said.
"What's that?" Jack sped down the back road. He was just passing a road sign that informed them they were fifteen miles away.
"She knows what we look like, even if we don't know who she really is," He said.
"I have suits and helmets that will disguise us. I realize it isn't a perfect plan, but it's all we've got at the moment.”
"It'll work in a pinch," Scott affirmed.
They drove until they reached the back side of Jackson's property. It was frigidly cold outside and the roads and trails were nothing but frozen sheets of ice so they had to take extra time to put chains on the four-wheelers. Some of the trees on the property looked bare and desolate, the telltale signs of winter. Others were full of green needles and heavy white snow. The mountains were covered and as Jude looked up at them he was aware of just how small humans were, and how awesome God is. He wished for a brief second he'd brought his camera, and then discarded the thought. They were here to save lives, not take pictures.
"Is everyone ready to go?" Jackson asked. They looked like ethereal images against the stark white backdrop of snow covering the mountainous land. Their suits were in all different colors. Jack had the blue and silver suit with matching helmet. Jude was red and silver, Scott was green and silver. Of course, Otis had fought like a six year old child for the privilege of wearing the black and silver suit and Amos was stuck with the white and silver one. It was a tight-fit because he needed to lose a few pounds, but he'd somehow squeezed into it.
"We're all ready," Jude replied.
"Okay, let's go then. Everybody just follow my lead. Amy and I learned these trails like the back of our hands during our Honeymoon," He told them as he started his four-wheeler and took off down the winding trail. The sound of multiple four-wheelers starting up filled the air for a few moments as they all followed Jackson's lead.
Jude picked up his walkie-talkie to see if he had range. "Jack, can you hear me?"
Jackson touched his helmet in recognition for a moment and then replied, "Loud and clear, mate."
Jude checked with everyone else. They all had the same built in radios and knew they must have cost a fortune, but then, Jackson was rich.
They reached their destination after about fifteen minutes. Jude's fingers and toes were frozen, and he was thankful to get off the 'man-toy.'
They'd stopped about a quarter of a mile away from the house. They didn't want to alert the woman that they were there. There were fresh footprints in the snow and Jackson pointed them out as they went. Someone had recently been this way. It was snowing heavily but the prints weren't covered up. They were just minutes away.
"It looks like four different sets of prints here. At least three are either women or older children," Jude said.
"I see, but it doesn't explain where my kids are," Jack said.
Otis came up to the front where they were examining the tracks and said, "Don't worry, son. We'll find the little ones."
"Yeah, they couldn't be too far away. She couldn't have beaten us here by much, maybe fifteen minutes or so," Scot added.
They all began to spread out in the woods at Jude's instruction. Ten minutes later they all met back by the four-wheelers. "We've been duped. They had to have back-tracked. They're headed for the car," Jude said, his shoulders slumping.
"You guys go head her off. I'm gonna go back to the road and block her way. She has to go back down this road if she's in a car. It's the only one that leads to the main highway," Jack ordered.
They separated again and went to surround the woman before she got away with Amy and the kids. By the time Jude and the others made their way back to the house, she was gone. They found the kids locked in the main bedroom, terrified and crying, but Amy was gone.
After checking the house and immediate grounds they headed back to their meeting spot. Everyone but Otis, that is. He took the children and headed back to the mansion in the old Jeep Jackson kept there.
Jude, Jackson, Amos and Scott were standing at the meeting spot when they heard the whirring of helicopter blades overhead. They looked up into the sky helplessly as the lady killer shoved Amy up against the glass, using her to keep them at bay.
Amy screamed but Jude couldn’t hear what she was saying. “Dear Lord, please save them and let us catch this killer if it’s your will, amen.”
“Amen,” Jackson repeated. “We have to get them before they hurt her.”
The pain in his friend’s voice almost broke his heart. He wouldn’t quit until he had her back, safe and sound.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Things always look brighter at the end of the tunnel...
Chapter Thirteen ~
"Jackson, look at this note." Jude shoved it at his friend as if it was possessed by the devil himself.
Jackson took the note and read it. He looked up at Amy and said, "Go out and tell Maria to pack some bags. You can all go down to the cabin until this is over."
"They need someone to guard them, don't they?" Jude asked.
"Yes, they'll need a guard but it has to be someone we know we can trust," Jackson returned.
"I can see if my partner will drive them down. She's an excellent marksman."
"Could you call her, Jude?" Jackson asked. He wanted to get them out of the house before the killer got to them. If she'd managed to get in once she could surely do it again, and it would be easier now that she knew exactly what to do.
Jude called Lauren Estepp and when she answered the phone in a groggy, 'I'm asleep' voice he said loudly, "Lauren, wake-up."
"What is it Jude?"
He walked out into the hallway and said, "I don't have time to go into it right now but could you take Amy and the children down to their cabin in Southern Utah? The killer was in the house and she's threatened their lives. I have to figure out who she is before she hurts them, but I can't do that if they're in danger.”
"I guess I can do that...for my partner." Lauren got up out of the chair she’d been sitting in and pulled her gloves on. She had things to do.
"Thanks Lauren, you don't know what it means to me," Jude said emotionally.
"Oh, I think I do," She returned before ending the call.
Jude went back into Angie’s room where Jackson was holding Amy in such a tender embrace it brought a tear to his eye. He squelched a sliver of jealousy as it rose up to attack him. What kind of person begrudged their friend a loving wife? He cleared his throat to get their attention. “Is everything okay?”
“I have a bad feeling, Jude. I don’t want to go anywhere with Lauren. She gives me the creeps.”
“Amy, I wish you would trust me. I would trust her with my life.” Jude was angry that she was being so obstinate. Not everyone would get up and take someone three hours away in the middle of the night, in the winter.
"Lauren is taking you to the cabin Amy, and that's how it has to be," Jackson finished firmly in exasperation.
Lauren arrived at the Jackson Estate a few minutes later. She waited downstairs while Amy finished last minute packing.
"Amy, are you about ready? Lauren has to be back in time for work in the morning," Jude called to her.
"I'm coming right now," Amy called back as she picked up her bag and headed out the door. She ran into Maria, who was carrying Teenie, and Jude, who was carrying Benji. "We've need to get the little ones out there without waking them up," Amy said softly.
"I know. Benji didn't make a move when I picked him up. He's out like a light."
"Teenie is, too. She's running a slight fever. I think she must be teething," Maria said. "I packed what clothes and toys I could get in their bags, Amy. I can come with you if you need me to."
"Thanks Maria, but the men wouldn't know how to handle not having a woman around to take care of them. If I thought you were in danger, you know I would insist you go."
Jude felt bad that there was a 'thing' between them now. He didn't know what was up with her unless it had to do with her pregnancy. She was like a sister to him, and he loved her dearly. The chasm that lay between them was hurting him as much as it was affecting her. He needed to talk to Jackson about it and see if he could stand in as mediator until they worked out the problem.
"I see how you are," Jude said in a teasing voice.
"How do you see me?" He could hear the anger in hers.
"Why are you angry at me?" He asked. He couldn’t stand her anger a moment longer.
"You didn't 'do' anything Jude, and I'm not angry at you," She answered.
Jackson was out at the SUV waiting on them. He kissed Amy as if she would be gone forever, and helped her in the car. "I love you Amy."
"I love you Jackson," She returned.
"I'll keep in touch. You remember the spots that get reception, don’t you?"
“I do, don’t worry.” They pulled away and headed south.
Lauren followed behind Amy and the children, watching for anyone else who might be watching them. It looked clear to her so she settled back for a boring middle-of-the-night three-hour trip.
Her phone rang and she answered it on the first ring. "Hello?"
"Hey, this is Max. You remember me, don't you?"
"Yes, what do you want?"
"Why didn't you kill those brats?" He asked without preamble.
"It isn't as easy as you think. Those people are all over them, all the time. The president probably doesn't have that much security, it isn't my fault."
"It is your fault. I told you to kill them and you didn't. You know what’ll happen if you don't comply with my wishes." His voice rang in her ear for several minutes afterward.
"Goodbye, Max. This conversation is pointless," She said quietly, and then pushed the end button on her phone. It immediately rang again, and again, and again. He was angry. Oh well, this would all be over soon...
Jackson went to the living room where all the men had gathered. They still hadn't watched the video from the neighbor and they needed to get through it to see if they could tell who it was.
He walked over, picked up the remote and said, "Let's pray we can tell who this is." He pushed the button and watched as the woman walked up to the car, opened the back door and fired on an amazed-looking Justy. She took a step toward the front and methodically shot the two officers in the front seat before they had a chance to react. She turned and pulled off her wig first, and then her gloves. She shook her brown, pixie-style hair and began to walk back the way she'd come. Jude Johnson gasped in horror. "Oh no Jackson, I've made a terrible mistake. That's Lauren."
Jackson looked at it closer, he couldn't tell. "How can you tell so quickly?"
"She's my partner Jack. Even if I didn't recognize her face in that grainy video, I'd recognize that sashay from a hundred miles away. We have to go after them, man."
"Do you mean to tell me we just sent my wife and children away for safety's sake, with the killer?" Jackson asked incredulously.
"Man, your choice in women leaves a lot to be desired," Scott said.
"This isn't a time to play around Scott. That lunatic has my wife." He punched in her number. It rang and rang, but she didn't answer.
"No worries, dude. I took the liberty of tracking both cars." He held up two tracking devices. He turned them around to show them the little red lights were beeping, one right behind the other. "She hasn't done anything yet."
"What made you decide to do that?" Jackson asked. He dialed Amy's number again, but there still wasn’t an answer.
"My sister is a sensible woman, Jack. After all, she married you," Scott said with a smile. "She made it a point to tell everybody she didn't like Jude's partner. She even went so far as to tell you she gave her the creeps, but no one wanted to listen to her. I decided I better track them just in case. It’s totally unlike Amy to feel that way about anybody because she gets along with pretty much everyone. She was even ready to be friends with Justy, remember?"
Jackson leapt across the floor and tackled Scott so hard he almost toppled over. He hugged him ferociously and said, "Thank you Scott. You're a good brother to Amy. I can't say the same about her husband." He let the big man go. “She tried to tell me, but I thought she was just being paranoid, and all along she was right.” He called her yet again, but there still wasn't an answer.
"Man, don't be so hard on yourself. We've all been emotionally strung-out trying to figure this out," Jude said.
Amos came back into the room from outside in a big rush. He'd received a phone call and had stepped out to take it. "I just got a call that the two policemen in the cruiser were in on the abduction of Justy Sanders. They knew what Lauren planned to do to Justy, but she wasn't supposed to kill them. They traced a whole bunch of calls from Lauren’s phone to Justy's, and to the two policemen that were killed. She even left a message on Officer Overstreet's phone telling him the pay had gone up ten-thousand if they could get Justy in their car."
"Did anyone else's number come up?" Jackson asked.
"Yes, there was some guy named Max Sanders on her records. There were over a thousand calls to him in the last six months, and just about as many from him to Lauren's phone," Amos said quietly. "That's a sad thing. I hate it when cops go the wrong way."
"I don't think she just got lost in direction, Amos. I believe she started out bad. She had me totally fooled, just like Justy. Why does she hate me?" He threw his hands up in the air.
"It's hard telling Jude. When it comes to a psychopath, who knows what they think? We know they don't feel anything, at least emotionally, but we don't know what they think, or why they think it," Otis said.
"Max Sanders is Justy's cousin. Or at least that's what they told me at the hospital that day. He seemed really nice and boyish, you know, immature?" Jude said.
"This whole thing is getting weirder by the minute. We need to get on the road and catch up to Lauren before she tries something on Amy and the kids," Jackson said. He didn't wait for a reply but headed to the door. Chester stood there holding his coat out for him. "You need to get some rest Uncle Chester. It's been a long day."
"No longer than yours, my lord," Chester returned as he walked back to the kitchen.
"We’ll go in the SUV,” Jackson said.
"That sounds good to us, boss," Scott said in a funny accent. He was awfully light-hearted for someone whose sister was in the hands of a serial killer.
"Why are you in such a good mood?” Amos asked.
"I don't know, dude. I just prayed to God and asked Him to save my sister, and I have this over-powering urge to believe He’ll do it. I love God, ya know? He's been so good to me."
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Chapter Twelve ~
She watched as the police car carrying Justy passed by and then walked down the sidewalk toward it. Her blond wig was tight and scratchy and she fiddled with it as she moved forward. The police car pulled to a smooth stop just up the street and waited for her to catch-up.
She walked up to the car, opened the back door and with one fluid movement, pulled out her gun. She shot the woman in the back seat first, and then the two cops up front. All three had looks of amazed disbelief etched into their features for posterity. How stupid could people really be? Didn't they know what serial killer meant? She cackled loudly as she discarded the wig and the black leather gloves she'd worn. She felt a surge of adrenalin flow through her body. They wouldn't find any prints on the gloves, either. She was wearing surgical gloves under the top ones for extra safety. She wiped down her gun as she walked in the shadows of the houses lining the street. She unscrewed the silencer, slid the gun smoothly in its holster and pulled her police-issue jacket over it.
When she reached the police cruiser she placed the silencer up underneath it in a hiding spot made for just such an occasion and climbed in. Someone came over the radio shouting about the shooting. She reached into the middle of the seat and pulled out her bubble. She half-stood up and placed it on the roof of her cruiser and turned on the siren as she pulled away from the curb.
Jude and the gang were sitting in the kitchen trying to figure out who else could possibly hate Jude when they heard the sirens. There were a lot of them so they all got up to take a look outside. When they saw the lights they ran out into the cold, bitter night. They looked down the hill onto the street below. There were cops galore milling about down there like it was a sale at Dunkin Donuts.
"Let's go down and see what's going on,” Jude said.
"I'm in, but I gotta go get my coat. It's cold out here tonight," Jackson said.
Five minutes later the whole crew was on its way down the hill to see what was going on. Otis let them out down the street and then turned the car around to find a spot to park.
Jude jumped out first. What he saw almost made him throw-up. Justy Sue Sanders lay half in, half out the back of the police cruiser with a bullet between her eyes. "What happened here?" Jude yelled at the first person he saw. It was just a uniform who looked at him in confusion. He didn't know. Jude raced away from the scene and wretched in the grass by the street. Justy was dead! A sorrow like he'd never known overtook his emotions. He tried his best not to cry. How could she be dead? He'd just talked to her a few minutes ago...
Jackson, Amos, Scott and Amy ran up to the scene just then.
Amy asked, "What happened? Does anybody know yet?"
Otis made his way to the scene after parking the car. He'd spotted a glass poised in their direction and chased the suspect for a couple of minutes but he'd gotten away clean. "I just chased someone who had eyes on the crime scene but he got away. I would say it's a professional."
"I'll tell the lead on the case. This is what we've got so far: Apparently the police cruiser pulled up to the curb right here. It wasn't under duress. It sat and waited until someone walking down the street reached it. The person opened the back door, shot the lady, and then the two cops up front. She took off a blond wig and a pair of gloves and threw them down on the seat next to the female victim." Scott related.
"How does anyone know all that?" Jackson asked skeptically.
"It was all due to dear old Mr. Prescott. He's the neighborhood pain. He was watching the car through a pair of binoculars," Scott said.
"What else aren't you telling us?" Jack asked.
"He recorded the whole thing. He’s got it all on video. The uniforms are collecting it right now so we can get a look at it.”
"So why is it you're allowed into their investigation without being called?" Amy asked.
"I made a call to the chief of police. He was more than happy to share the investigation as long as he gets all the credit if we come up with something." Scott’s grin was humorless. "I don't really care who gets the credit as long as we catch her, whoever she is."
"Who is it we want to catch?" Lauren Estepp asked as she walked up and joined the team.
"The woman who hates me so much that she killed the woman who hated me." Jude answered as he walked up to them. He had a handkerchief in his hand and he used it to wipe his eyes. "Now she wants to kill me," He said as he pushed the handkerchief into his jacket pocket.
"Do you have any idea who it might be?" Lauren asked.
"Nope, I don’t have a clue. I thought everyone liked me."
"Well obviously you were wrong about that, chum." Lauren Estepp said with a pop of her lips as she sashayed toward the other police officers.
"You know, that woman gives me the creeps," Amy said.
"What do you mean?" Jude asked. First they’d accused Justy, and now they wanted to accuse Lauren?
"I don't know exactly. Every time she comes around I just get this feeling like something bad is gonna happen," She tried to explain.
"She's my partner, Amy. I would trust her with my life," Jude said staunchly. He pulled his shoulders back stubbornly.
The chasm between Jude and his friends is deepening. Soon I can make my move and it will be done.
The team was back at the mansion discussing what the next plan of action would be. Jude hadn’t said a word for fifteen minutes, and then suddenly he spoke, "There wasn't any glitter at this scene, either. I'm beginning to believe the killer used it to throw us off track," Jude hypothesized. He was doing his best to remain professional, at least in front of his friends, but it wasn’t easy when all he wanted to do was break down and cry.
"I agree accept for one thing; I think the serial killer we're after is most likely intimately connected to the original glitter killer," Jackson added.
"Why do you say that?" Jude asked.
"The familiarity with which the killer uses the glitter, but refuses to do it exactly as the original killer did tells us that like the original killer, she is stubborn and desires recognition for her own work. She doesn't want to ride on the coattails of the notoriety of the original killer."
"But what does that have to do with anything? I'm confused where you're going with this," Jude said. He was having a really hard time coming to grips with the fact he'd fallen, and hard, for a monster such as Justy. Added to that, someone had killed her because he liked her and now they wanted him dead. He didn't even have time to mourn her loss because he had to fight for his life.
"Are you okay? Jude!" Amy rushed over and gave his arm a shake. "We were talking but you didn't answer. Are you sure you're okay?"
Jude shook himself and tried to get it together. They needed his brain fully functioning right now. "Yes, I'm fine. What did you say?"
"I said the new killer was very closely modeled after the old one. They're probably father and daughter." Amy backed away and sat down in a chair.
"We're going to have to find the original glitter killer in order to catch the new one," Jackson said in his usual go-get-em attitude.
"That sounds like the next logical step to me," Otis agreed as he came back from the bathroom and took the empty spot at the table.
"Yeah, but that's easier said than done. The police weren't able to catch the original killer because he never left any real leads," Scott chimed in.
"That makes it more challenging, but not impossible," Amos said. "I don't know much about all this kind of stuff yet but I'm learning pretty quickly that when you guys get something in your heads you can usually pull it off. I say we go for it."
"It's going to be dangerous, especially if the original killer is aware of his daughter's actions. Or if the daughter is aware we're going after the father," Jackson said.
"I just thought of something," Jude said. He hopped out of his chair in excitement, forgetting for a moment Justy was dead. "We can use them against each other. You know, stroke one's ego to make him/her angry at the other. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll have such a desire to out each other we'll catch them both."
"I don't know Jude. That sounds like wishful thinking," Jackson said. "It's all we've got though, so that's what we'll go with."
"It sounds logical to me. If they're both full of themselves and have a desire to be the best at what they do we could start a rivalry between them they'll be powerless to ignore. The best way to trap an egomaniac is through his/her ego," Amy said.
A knock at the back door caused all the people in the kitchen to jump half out their seats. Jackson got up and opened the door.
"Mr. Jackson, the chief asked me to bring you this copy of the video from the neighbor's camera," The young uniformed officer said politely. He handed it to Jackson and left.
Jackson shut the door and said, "It's show time. Let's go to the living room."
They all filed in, ready to plop down on the soft, dark brown furniture. The kids were supposed to be in bed, but Angie was sitting on the sofa, remote in hand, staring at Bugs Bunny on the TV set.
They stopped short and Amy rushed forward. "Angie, why aren't you in bed? It's way past your bed time."
"I couldn't sleep," She said in little-girl exasperation.
Amy scooped her up and carried her up the steps to her room.
Amy dropped Angie on the bed and asked, "What's wrong honey?"
"I couldn't sleep after that woman came through my window. She told me not to tell anyone I saw her here or it would cause bad things to happen to my baby brother and sister."
“Jackson, Jude!” Amy yelled.
The men bounded up the steps in record time.
“What is it?” Jude asked. The worried look on Amy’s face told him something was terribly wrong.
Amy said, “Someone was in Angie’s room!”
"Are you okay Angie?" Jackson asked, pulling the little girl up in his arms.
Jude raced over and turned on the overhead light, and then gasped in horror. The room shimmered with red and gold glitter.
"I'm fine daddy. The lady came in my window and told me to be quiet when I started to scream. She told me if I told anyone she was in my room she would hurt Benji and Teenie so I just went downstairs and turned on the cartoons."
"Did she hurt you?" Jude asked. He sent an apologetic look in Jackson's direction. He was worried too...
"No, she gave me this note to give to you, Uncle Jude." She scrounged around in the pocket of her housecoat and pulled out a piece of pink stationary sprinkled with red-and-gold glitter and reached it over to Jude.
He took it from her tiny little hand and opened it up. It read, 'Come to me, or Angie won't be. Come to me, or Teenie won't be. Come to me, or Benji won't be. Come to me, or Amy won't see the beautiful face of her tiny baby.' In smaller letters underneath, it read, 'You better figure out who I am before I get to them. I already proved to you I can. Now you have to prove to me you can stop me!'
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Chapter Eleven ~
Jude and Jackson had been out searching for Justy for hours. They finally admitted defeat at around midnight. She was nowhere to be found.
"Let's go back to her suite and see if she left some kind of clue." Jude said tiredly.
"If she'd left a clue we would've surely found it the first three times we looked," Jackson returned.
"I know, but we can’t do anything else.”
"That's true, let's go."
They walked to Justy's suite together, tired and feeling down. They were both expecting to find an empty suite, so they were surprised when they walked in and Justy was sitting on her bed.
Jude asked, "Where in the world have you been? We've been out looking for you all night.”
"I wasn't aware I was your prisoner or I would've asked permission to leave," She snarled rudely.
"You shouldn't be so rude, Justy. This man is giving you a place to stay.” Jude returned angrily.
"I don't have to stay here. I only came because you wanted me to. I'll leave first thing in the morning, but for right now, get out!" She screamed.
Jude and Jackson looked at each other and then back at her. She was exhibiting signs of a mental break. They left the room and headed straight to Jackson's office.
"What do you think is wrong with her?" Jude asked worriedly. He was still hoping she wasn't guilty.
"I think she's having a psychotic break."
"You're not serious? Don't you think it's possible she's just overwhelmed with her parents' deaths and everything that's happened since?"
"Okay Jude, I'm not trying to make you angry, but you're going to have to come to terms here, bloke," Jackson said gently. "She isn't looking very innocent right now."
"I know that, but what kind of man would I be if I didn't try to defend her?"
"A smart one from where I'm standing."
"I can't believe you said that, Jack. I'm gonna go outside and cool off. Don't wait up for me." Jude sprinted out the office door and down the staircase that led to the front door.
She watched as he walked around the huge Masters Estate. He was angry, and that was a good thing. Maybe she could get closer to him by using that anger to force a wedge between him and his new best friend. She’d waited entirely too long for this occasion in her life and she didn't want to give-up on her brilliant plans so soon. She hopped down from her perch high up in a Sycamore tree and raced across the darkened path so Jude wouldn't see her.
She couldn't let him know she'd been here tonight. If he'd seen, her cover would’ve been blown. She had the perfect plan in place to put all the blame on his new girlfriend and leave her in the free and clear. She ran until she reached the high, black wrought-iron gates and scaled them like a pro. Well, that was because she was a pro, now wasn't it? She cackled to herself and jumped, landing in a roll on the other side of the gate. She got up in one smooth motion and sprinted to her car, barely winded.
Jude walked around the beautiful estate, not in the least worried about it not being safe. He trusted the security Jackson had in place. His newest security feature was a computer program that scanned the faces of everyone who came on his property. If someone entered the property whose face hadn't been scanned sirens would go off and automatically call the police. He had a guard station at the main gate that did facial recognition. In addition to that, there was the fingerprint scanner he’d had installed last year. He was thinking about getting a retinal scanner but had held off so far for fear it would make his house seem more like a fortress than a home.
Jude prayed. It was something he did when he was uncertain about what God's will was for him. These quiet times of prayer had greatly matured him into a believer who had faith and trust in the sovereignty of God.
"Dear Lord, please lead me and guide me and give me knowledge of the truth and the desire of your will, amen."
He continued to walk, thinking about what had transpired in the last few days. He couldn't believe he'd fallen for Justy so hard. If she was guilty, he would never trust a woman again. What if it was her? Was it even a possibility? She already had her face in the recognition program. She could move freely all over the estate and no one would think anything of it. Well, except Jackson. He already believed Justy was guilty. The wind came out of his sails when he admitted he was beginning to think it was more than a possibility, too.
"Hey Jude, what are you doing out here?" Chester, the butler and Jackson's uncle, asked him.
"I'm just trying to clear my head. Is something wrong?" He'd been gone for a long time, something could've happened since he left the house.
"Nope, I was just taking my nightly walk. I've been doing it for about a year now. The doc says I have to be kind to my heart, and that entails exercise." He threw a rueful grin in Jude's direction.
Jude laughed. He liked Jackson's uncle. He was a good man. "Yes, we have to be kind to our hearts."
"What ails your heart, son?"
"I don't know exactly. I've fallen for Justy Sanders. I went to school with her, and there's a little bit of bad history between us. When she came back into my life my heart slammed to the ground and back up to my chest region."
“So you’ve fallen for her. What’s so wrong about that?”
"She might've stomped on my heart on its trip to the ground. We think she might be the serial killer we're looking for."
"She's around the children. She's around Amy. Are you sure?"
"I'm not sure, but the certainty is growing stronger every minute. I got angry at Jackson for suspecting her, but the truth is, I do, too.”
“You need to get it resolved, son.” Chester gave his shoulder a squeeze and continued on his walk, leaving Jude alone in the dark once more.
She watched from the shadows as he talked with the old geezer. After what he'd done in high school he didn't deserve to love anybody. She followed behind him until he went back into the house to be around all his freaky friends. She used the back stairs that led up to her balcony to get back into her suite, just like she'd done before.
When Jude got in the house he went to the kitchen for a soda. He wasn't ready for bed yet and he owed Jackson an apology, and it was eating at him.
He walked over to the refrigerator and opened the door to get a soda. He grabbed one, popped the top and gulped it right down. He shut the refrigerator door and turned around. Justy was standing there with a knife in her hand. The look in her eye was maniacal, and Jude felt a shiver of fear go up his spine.
He found his voice and asked, "What are you doing with a knife?" He was stalling while he reached into his pocket and hit redial.
"I heard a noise and thought it might be the killer."
Jude knew she was lying. He couldn't believe he'd ever been tricked by her. The evil she exuded was plain as the nose on her face.
"Well, it's just me. You can put the knife down, sweetheart." He used a calm tone and tried to make his large body relax so he seemed less imposing.
"Don't call me sweetheart Jude Johnson. You are so full of yourself, aren't you? You're going to tell me the truth, or I'll kill you right now like I did my parents and that sniveling cheerleader. "Oh please don't kill me. What did I do?" She mimicked in a hardened tone. "Pulease...give me some credit. She may have gotten you first, but she can't have anybody now." Her tone was triumphant and alarm rushed through Jude’s body.
"What happened to you?" Jude asked mournfully. "You used to be such a sweet, lovable girl."
"You happened to me."
"No, you're not going to blame this on me. You're messed up mentally girlie, but I didn't have anything to do with it."
"Oh yes you did. I didn't get this way until after that incident in high school."
"Justy, be honest with yourself." He was hoping the police would be here any minute. "I told you not to go up on that stage, but you did it anyway. You were messed up even back then. Yes, I was a jerk and I admitted that to you. I've felt the pain of your embarrassment thousands of times over the years. I've repented of my sin and I've been forgiven. But there's no way you can honestly pin four murders on me."
"Four? You mean three, don't you?" I only killed three people."
Jude looked at her quizzically. "Who did you kill?"
"I killed the parents and that sleazy cheerleader you had sex with back in high school." At his look of confusion she screamed, "It wasn't a big secret! You can't imagine the pain it causes someone to see the man she loves with someone else."
"Justy, I can't help you if you don't stop this foolishness. Put the knife down." She wasn't making a lot of sense and what she was saying wasn’t adding up.
"Oh, I have to kill you Jude. That's the way it is. You have to pay for how awful you were back in high school." She lunged at Jude then, thrusting the knife toward his face.
Jude grabbed her and pulled the knife from her grasp. He twisted her around with her hands behind her back and held her with one hand while he pulled a twist-tie from his pants pocket. He tightened it around her wrists, pulled her over to the refrigerator door and tied her to it with another twist-tie.
"You need to talk to me before the police get here." Jude said just as the whole team burst through the kitchen door.
"You do. You're going to need some leverage to keep you away from the needle." Jackson walked over in front of her. To Jude he asked, "Did you check her for weapons?"
"I didn't. Her hands are tied, I think we're good."
"She's an expert with a knife." Jackson walked over and began to pat her down, and she pulled a knife from behind her and tried to stab him with it.
He grabbed it from her and took it over to the sink because it was dripping with blood. "Are you gonna tell us anything?"
"I'm not saying a word. You'll find out soon enough. But it would've been better if I'd been the one to kill you because she is planning on dismembering you while you're still alive," She cackled.
Jude felt a moment of alarm. How could there possibly be two women he'd wronged in such a horrible way that they would want him dead? He was sure he would've remembered someone who hated him so much. How could he not? "Who are you talking about?"
Two policemen came in just then, one of them Officer Overstreet from the unfortunate recycle bin incident a few nights ago. "Hello Officer Overstreet. We need you to take her into custody." Jackson gave him a friendly smile.
"Yes Sir Mr. Jackson. I'll take her right to county lock-up."
"Make sure you keep a very close eye on her. She's killed at least three people, maybe more." Jackson warned.
"You bet ya, Sir." Officer Overstreet cut her twist-tie with a Swiss army knife-looking tool and led her out the kitchen door.
After everyone had given their statements the police left and the house was quiet once more.
They all sat down at the kitchen table to pow-wow.
"Who else hates you, Jude?" Jackson asked forthrightly.
"I don't know, man. I've wracked my brain for an answer, but I have no clue. I think I would've remembered another woman, just like I remembered Justy."
"We've got to figure it out before she gets to you," Amy said.
“You got that right.” Who could it be? Was she going to get to him before he figured it out? Dear Lord, please don’t allow it to be so.