The young man had been sitting in a conference room at the police station for thirty minutes; this was something Detective David Spencer had grown accustomed to doing. He liked keeping people in suspense, because it made them impatient and frustrated, and this often bore the fruit of an unnecessary amount of conversation on their part. Which often meant he got more than he could have bargained for initially. And when he had heard the man on the other side of the glass was employed at a local college, his detective instincts gripped his lunch and told him, This is the guy.
Spencer had been tracking the Inner-City Lady Killer, as the newspapers had coined Jason Richard Wright, ever since the body of student Cassie Lexington had been found in a ditch three miles from the campus she attended. The truth was that he was far from a suspect, but something clicked with this guy. But he knew that what clicks and convicts in a courtroom are two different things entirely. He had to prove his hunch, somehow.
Tonight he wore the same brown suit he’d worn during his interview for detective, so many years before. With it was a necktie from the same time period, it had horizontal lines in variations of brown and gold. The tie was hanging at the second button of his yellow shirt and the first button was undone. You could see a few gray hairs protruding from his chest, they stopped at the base of his neck. The jacket was a bit short on the sleeves these days, his shoulders had broadened with age--as his hips had done as well. And he knew he’d have to keep that jacket on, because he could feel the sweat on his back. This was a trait of his that kicked in when the pressure was on. He knew it, but he didn’t need this jerk knowing that.
He was sweating it, because after thirty minutes of deliberation he still couldn’t put a smoking gun in the man’s hands. He couldn’t figure out how to make the transition from a routine questioning to establishing the man as a sociopath who had at least fifteen dead girls under his belt. When his time was up, he decided to just begin with some chit-chat and just hope it comes to him.
He pulled a folded picture from the inside pocket of his jacket, it was a photocopied version of victim Faye Brown’s last high school picture. She would not be making her senior prom in a month. He looked at it for only a moment, and then carefully tucked it away again. His eyes glistened with moisture and determination. He was going to nail this scumbag once and for all.
Just before Spencer entered the conference room, his eye caught a young brunette and then it became clear. He quickly approached the girl who was part of a group of students from the academy. They were getting a full tour of the station from an officer in uniform. Spencer was digging through his pockets when he first spoke, “I need you to do me the biggest favor.” He turned to the Uniform giving the tour, “Can I borrow this one?” The Uniform simply nodded, and never ceased his dry speech about the typical historically mundane nonsense they talk about on tours. “Come with me.” And with that, he grabbed her bicep and lead her to the vending machines up the hallway. He quickly inserted some coins from his pockets and purchased a soda, “Okay, here’s the thing, I’m convinced I have the Inner-City Lady Killer sitting in Conference Room B. But, I don’t really have a good cause for asking about it, it’s pretty routine. So… sorry, what’s your name?”
“Mercedes Masterson, sir.”
“Right.” He shook her hand, “Detective David Spencer, nice to meet you. This is what I want you to do--give me five minutes alone with him and then bring in this pop. If you want, you can apologize for his long wait. You okay, can you do it?”
She responded with a yes, sir and then waited outside the door, eying her watch as Spencer entered. She could feel sweat building in her palms; she wiped each palm down the front of her gray skirt, and then wrapped her hands around the cold soda can--squeezing it for relief, for strength. She looked to her watch, and two minutes had already passed. They went so fast that she considered running off to rejoin her fellow schoolmates. That’s when she decided it was time to change her mode of thinking, it was time for an inner Pep Talk. She told herself she didn’t have anything to be nervous about. That the only one that should be sweating is the suspect on the other side of the wall. That he was the guilty one, and he was the one that had everything to lose. She looked down at her gray suit, opened the coat and revealed her black V-neck pullover. If his weakness is women, she told herself, than a woman’s what he’s gonna get. Her watch confirmed she was ten seconds past her cue, so she quickly pulled the tie from her hair, letting her ponytail fall out and her long hair bounced and waved about her shoulders. She took a quick, deep breath and than swept through the door.
“I do declare, there is no hospitality left in this world.” She feigned a higher, feminine tone of voice; southern drawl and smile, “We do feel sorry for your wait, sir. Here is a little something for your trouble.” She bent and stretched out to hand over the soda, “Though, I doubt Mr. Spencer can give back the last hour of your life.” She winked at the man, and then sneered at Spencer who cast a shocked expression of good humor her way. And with that, she shimmied out the door.
Spencer watched as Mercedes made her exit, and than turned his attention back to the man. The man had shifted himself sideways in his chair, his back now facing the door and his shoulder aimed at him. He looked uncomfortable now, whereas before Spencer had felt he was a bit cocky. Spencer dawned a half smile and joined into the game Mercedes had started for him, “We don’t have too money women working at the station, just a few secretaries, but the ones we have…” he trailed off with a sigh, “She sure is fine, don’t you think?”
“I wouldn’t know.” The man mumbled, “I wasn’t looking.”
Spencer moved his chair in closer to the table between them and whispered, “Everybody looks.”
The man had not stopped staring at the edge of the table since she had left the room, but he turned now to face Spencer with a look of contempt. He looked him square in the eyes and sternly reaffirmed that he was not looking.
“Okay, fine--so you weren’t looking.” Spencer was running out of time and was disappointed as well. The conversation was good, but what he really wanted was for the young man to take a sip of that coke. But he hadn’t touched the thing, not even once. What Spencer knew, and what the young man could not have known, was that they had a partial fingerprint from one of the crime scenes--and since the 1970s there was a simple law that stated that evidence collected on public property need not a warrant. All he needed was for the suspect to take a drink and leave just one fingerprint. The bait was set on the table, but the fish wasn’t biting.
Before the conversation could continue, Mercedes waltzed back into the room proclaiming that she suspected she’d forget her head one day. She had a cup of ice in her hand and offered it to the man, but was a little overbearing in her offer as she reached for the can before he had time to respond. The man quickly snatched the can, opened it, gulped and said the temperature was fine.
Hook. Line. Sinker. Spencer thought these three words to himself and then watched with glee as Mercedes made her grand finale. She explained that the vending machines don’t always keep cold enough, and then she tried to snatch the can back from his hands. That’s when the can fell to the floor, but she promptly swapped it up and asked if he’d been hit in such a way you would have thought a gun had gone off. He had been hit, but it was no big deal he said. She apologized several times, and then bolted out the door with the promise of another coke--though he argued that it wasn’t necessary. She said it was the least she could do as she left the room with the evidence in hand. After the door was shut, Jason Richard Wright was made nervous once more when he saw a smile on Spencer’s face. He slid a piece of paper across the table, asked him to sign on the dotted line and date it. He then informed him he was free to go.
Later that night, Jason Richard Wright woke in a cold sweat. It had little-to-nothing to do with the interrogation, though it did cross his mind at first. He was pretty confident he was off the hook, that the cheap whore had done him no harm. What had him in a sweat was the dream. It was back and more vivid than ever. Frustrated and unable to sleep, he grabbed his toolbox and drove to the all-night diner where Carrie-Ann Stekel waited tables.