While the officers of the BSPS scurried around like rats on acid trying to put together the scant clues I left them, I visited ATM and turned over my recording of Smith. We met at the abandoned train yard, away from the lens of the security cameras, and sat on a crumbling concrete bench that had seen better years. ATM had brought me food from a drive through, and I gobbled it down. He watched me eat and shook his head in disgust.
“Do I want to know what is on this?”
“Probably not, but I need it burned on a CD, and I want it modified with a voiced over message.”
“What’s the message?”
“Do the right thing and turn yourself in. Confess to killing Janie Freeman and name your cohorts. It’s the only way you will survive what’s coming.”
“If he doesn’t, then what?”
“There’ll be two blind eunuchs wandering the streets of Fredericksburg.”
“Jesus, man. You know he’s not going to turn himself in. He’d be a fool to do so.”
“You know, but you’re bent to give him a chance. He and Wilkins will hunt you down and kill you.”
“Maybe, ATM, but I was given a second chance. An opportunity to see my daughter become a good woman. I watched her blossom, and they took her from me. She would not agree with what I am doing unless I gave them the same chance to change.”
“That’s why you didn’t kill Smith. Janie wouldn’t want you to kill them.”
“The memory of Janie is all I have left, ATM. Killing them is too easy. I want them to live with knowing their life is forfeit whenever I choose. I could have ended them, instead, I let them live. They can wander around a sightless eunuch knowing their lives didn’t have to end up this way. They get to hear the horror of women and children when they’re noticed.”
ATM shook his head and said, “If Wilkins and Tate don’t kill you, the courts will sentence you to death.”
I chuckled and nodded, then said, “Yeah, and then I will sit in prison and die of old age. When was the last time someone on death row got put to death in Mississippi?”
“It’s been a while, but they might make an exception in your case.”
“Then, I’ll have to file an appeal.”
ATM laughed, and I joined in. “You haven’t changed a bit, and you think you’ve thought of everything. I’ll have the CD burnt tonight with the voice over. Where do you want me to drop it off?”
“Put it in the library computer lab, underneath the desk of computer #8.”
“How do you know it will be there?”
“I have a friend in the librarian. She took the system down so we could use it.”
“Okay, I’ll drop it off in the morning.”
“What do you plan to do to Wilkins?”
“He will feel my pain, ATM.”
ATM sighed and shrugged, and I could tell his frustration grew each time we met. I wanted to confide in my brother, but I needed certain parts to remain secret, not because it was a secret, but because I sought to protect my friends from any shrapnel should my plans get blown up prior to implementation.
“How do you even know you’re on the right side of things?”
“The homeless witnessed Janie’s rape and murder, ATM. They described it to me, and it wasn’t one ‘strung out’ reject of society either. Many came forward and told me the same story. They named the people who did it and described them to a T. I’m on the right path. If you don’t want to go any further, I understand. Give me the recording back, and I’ll find someone else.”
“It’s not like that, brother. I told you I’d see this done, and I will. Just don’t lose yourself in the chaos.”
“I won’t,” I promised. Even as I said it, I knew my words didn’t have the ring of truth to them. This wasn’t about justice, it was cold, hard vengeance. I would not rest until all three paid for the brutality they unleashed upon my daughter. If I had to walk into the precinct and kill Wilkins, I would do it.
Janie deserved that much.
ATM and I finished, and I watched as my friend left first. I waited four minutes and then slipped into the long shadows of the evening. It was time to prepare my hunt for Detective Tate.
True to his word, ATM was one of the first people to sign up to use the computer lab. Ms. Beverly looked at ATM and saw the CD in his hand. “You’re here to fix number 8, aren’t you?”
ATM nodded, and she led him back to the last station at the end of the row. “It went down yesterday. Thank you for such speedy service.”
ATM nodded again and knelt in front of the desk. He took a roll of military duct tape out of his pocket and taped the CD to the bottom of the desk, and then left. From the shadows of an elder pine, I watched as ATM left. Again, I waited until I was certain he was gone before I approached.
Two old women were exiting when I walked toward the building. They scrunched up their noses at my appearance and looked in the opposite direction. I watched as they loaded into a dark blue SUV with a bumper sticker which proclaimed, “Jesus is coming soon!”
I harbored no ill will toward them. My stench did not escape my attention, I knew I was ripe. Still, the smell gave even the most hardened hunters pause, and it was a necessity when carrying out covert actions.
Ms. Beverly sat behind the counter and noticed me when I walked in. She scribbled some unreadable name onto the sign-in roster, and I walked to station eight. One old-timer sat all the way at Station #1, and again, my stench convinced them not to speak. I ran my fingers under the station, and my fingers touched the CD. I pulled on it, and the tape ripped softly, leaving me with the package.
So far, so good. I walked out of the library and slinked back into the shadows. As I crept back into the shadows of nothingness, Lt. Wilkins sat at his desk, a stack of case files stacked on one corner as he and Detective Tate tried to narrow down the moniker ‘Widow Maker.’
“When will the crime scene goons finish with the syringe?”
Tate replied, “I should know something by close of business.”
“At a minimum, it should tell us what they drugged Smith with.”
“Have you seen him, Wilkins?”
“Not since the night the trucker found him. It’s hard to look at ‘em.”
“Yeah. The shoe print wasn’t legible enough to make a cast of it, but the syringe should give us something.”
The computer chirped, and Tate walked over to see what it had discovered. He rubbed his eyes and leaned closer. Wilkins watched him like a snake sizing up a rat.
“What is it?”
Tate shook his head and turned the screen to face his friend and boss. The screen had turned blood red and the words ‘confidential’ flashed non-stop on the screen.
“What do you make of that, LT?”
“I don’t. If we can’t get answers here, we’ll have to go higher up the food chain. Somebody somewhere owes me some answers.”