Wrong exit, p.2
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       Wrong Exit, p.2

           Vicki Graybosch, Kimberly Troutman, Linda McGregor, & Teresa Duncan
 
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  Kevin watched her walk down the hall. He thought his heart would pound out of his chest as he watched her hips gently sway towards Jack’s office.

  A woman’s voice sarcastically said, “Oh God, here we go again.”

  Kevin turned around to see who was speaking. He grinned at a fellow reporter, Joyce. “What?”

  Joyce slugged his arm and said, “I can tell when you’re falling in love. Again. I have to say that this time, I think you’ve chosen wisely. Sharon is a great gal. Look out for Jack. He’s on a rampage.”

  Kevin walked slowly towards Jack’s office. He wanted another chance to see Sharon. His efforts were rewarded as she buzzed past him and waved. Jack must have decided to spare Sharon and take someone else as his first prisoner of the morning.

  ******

  “Is there a friggin’ reason we only hire people who can’t spell?” Jack raised his voice and screamed at his open door. “If there’s anyone out there that passed third grade, please feel free to come in here!” More than one person pretended not to hear.

  Kevin squared his shoulders and walked into Jack’s office. “Sir?”

  Jack looked up. “Hey, I’m glad you’re here. I just got a tip that three people walked into the 107th precinct this morning and confessed to murdering Nick Stryker.”

  Kevin was shattered. Nick Stryker was a living legend on the west side. He was like a super-hero cop. “Stryker’s dead? Three people killed him?”

  Jack’s laughter boomed so loud it startled Kevin. “Stryker’s fine. Three people who didn’t kill him confessed they did. You ought to check it out. It might be a human interest story in the crime section. Give everyone a laugh.”

  Jack turned back to face his computer.

  Kevin asked, “Why would three people confess to something that never happened?”

  Jack’s mood totally changed. He turned from his computer and snarled, “I don’t know. Maybe we should send over an investigative reporter to find out. Oh wait, that’s you!”

  Kevin quickly left Jack’s office and dropped some files on his own desk. He grabbed his smaller camera and walked as fast as he could past Jack’s glass office.

  ******

  Nick reviewed the reports on the polygraphs. All three reports came back as truthful. They had no idea why they confessed. They didn’t know each other. They had never met Nick, nor ever heard of him. None of them had a criminal record but all three of them were registered gun owners. None of the gunpowder tests were positive.

  Nick checked last night’s crime reports again. No bodies found in any alley.

  All three had given Jen permission and keys to search their homes and cars. Dolly asked Jen to feed her fish while she was there. Jen asked them to stay at the precinct while she and Nick searched their homes.

  Cynthia cringed at the thought of staying at the precinct. “Can’t I go on to the gallery? I have an exhibit of my work this weekend and I’m already behind.”

  Nick said, “Sure. Just be sure to finish your list of activities of the last few days before you leave.” Nick noticed Cynthia continued staring at him.

  Cynthia adjusted the purse strap on her shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry Detective Stryker. I wish I understood what was happening. I’m humiliated.”

  “There’s an explanation and we’ll find it. If you think of anything that might be helpful, please call.” Nick handed her one of his cards and smiled. “Good luck with your exhibit.”

  Cynthia walked up to Jen and whispered, “He’s so gorgeous. Any chance he’s single?”

  Jen snickered. “A couple of hours ago you told me that you killed him. Sorry, he’s not available.” Jen was used to every woman that met Nick wanting to know his status.

  Nick watched Cynthia talking to Jen as he punched in the number for the department psychologist. If anyone could shed some light on this morning it may be him.

  Jen dangled her keys. “Are you ready pretty boy? Wayne is going to Cindy’s apartment, and Sam is going to Dolly’s. That leaves Peter for us.”

  Nick smiled, “I just made a one o’clock appointment with the department shrink. I’d like to hear what he thinks about hypnotism.” Nick winked. “Or maybe some new form of ‘group’ crazy.”

  Jen chuckled, “Not a bad idea. Someone is definitely going nuts.”

  ******

  Kevin spotted Nick and Jen in the precinct lobby and rushed over to catch them before they left the building.

  “Nick! I need this story for Jack. Is it true?” Kevin slung his camera out of his way, flipped his notebook open and positioned his pen.

  Nick chuckled, “Is what true, Kevin?”

  “That three people walked in today and confessed to killing you.” Contrary to public opinion a police department was the last place to keep anything secret for long. Good reporters had contacts who would call with news. Editors like Jack got tips even quicker.

  Nick answered, “Yes, it’s true, but I don’t want to see this in the paper.”

  Kevin frowned. “Why the secrecy? It’s obviously a joke, isn’t it?”

  Jen sighed, “There’s just nothing to report yet, Kevin. When we know more you’ll be the first person we call.”

  Kevin wasn’t so easily deterred. “Are you trying to get me fired? Jack sent me here for this story. You’ve got to give me something. How about I run it as a side bar without any names? I’ll just mention that three people came in and confessed to murdering a homicide detective that was very much alive and in the room? Does that work?”

  Nick glanced at Jen and then back to Kevin. “Side bar buried inside the paper. Small print and no names.”

  Kevin grinned. “Normal print and on the crime page. At the bottom.”

  Nick shrugged his agreement as they left the building. Kevin took the elevator up to the Homicide Division and saw Wayne sitting at his desk. Kevin walked over and sat down.

  Wayne looked up and frowned. “The press isn’t supposed to be in here, shithead.”

  Kevin nodded, “Look, I’ve already talked to Nick and Jen. I just saw them downstairs.” Kevin hoped Wayne would assume Nick said it was okay to come up and talk to Wayne.

  Wayne frowned. “I know damn well they didn’t tell you to come up here.” Wayne stood and gestured his arm toward the door. “Goodbye.”

  Kevin smiled and said, “Can’t blame a guy for tryin’.” He turned to leave and saw his brother speaking with Detective Sam Flores. Kevin walked over to say hi and quickly lost his smile when he saw Peter’s face. He looked awful.

  “Peter? What are you doing here?”

  Peter looked at Detective Flores for guidance. Sam just shrugged.

  Peter said, “This is personal, Kevin.”

  Kevin focused on Peter’s expression. Suddenly, he knew. “Did you just confess to killing Nick Stryker?”

  Peter slowly nodded.

  “My God. Why in the world would you do that?”

  Peter dropped to a nearby bench and mumbled, “I have no idea.”

  ******

  J.T. slumped down behind the steering wheel and watched as Nick and Jen walked up the front steps of Peter Jarvis’s apartment building. He knew they wouldn’t find anything; he had just searched the apartment himself. He expected Nick to follow up on Derrick’s subjects. The entire value of the program hinged on the program’s ability to manipulate people without it being traced back. If Derrick’s program contained any flaws that made it detectable, Nick would discover them. Making Nick the target of the first beta test guaranteed Nick’s full attention.

  J.T. smiled to himself as he pulled away from the curb and entered traffic. A year ago Nick had nosed into one of J.T.’s deals, causing him grief with the FBI and almost costing him his largest client, the international mob tribunal. J.T. had managed to negotiate with the FBI by trading information for his freedom. He was well aware of Nick’s unique qualifications and skills. Having Nick involved in the beta tests of this program was just the security test J.T. wanted.

  So f
ar, things were going well. Another test was needed; one that J.T. could honestly say he didn’t design if someday he was asked to take a polygraph. J. T. dialed Derrick from his burner phone. “Phase one has gone well. I want more proof for three million dollars. This time you come up with the test. Impress me.”

  ******

  Derrick hung up from the call and stared out of his office window. J.T. wanted him to do another beta test. Something that would impress him. How many tests would there be before he got his money? He needed it now. His daughter, Heather, 34 years old, was dying. There wasn’t time for another test.

  Heather’s insurance was lousy. Derrick had been paying the majority of her medical bills and living expenses for the last three years. She had been waiting on the organ transplant list for almost two years now. Selling this program to J.T. was his only hope to save her. Her heart had become weak and scarred, forcing her to a secondary list of qualified recipients. She needed both a kidney and a pancreas. Derrick had donated one of his kidneys to her last year but her body had rejected it. Dialysis treatments were nearly every day now.

  He’d have to instruct the subjects to do something drastic. J.T. certainly was a man that wouldn’t impress easily. Derrick made his decision. He had no choice.

  He grabbed a file from the locked bottom drawer of his desk and walked over to the video room. His research partner, Jason Little, was preparing a new advertising video for one of their clients.

  Derrick quietly knocked as he opened the door.

  Jason turned to glance at him. “They want this pharmaceutical advertising to run the entire length of the football game with ‘buy flashes’ every twenty seconds for the last five minutes.” Jason flipped a few papers and said, “I don’t have a problem with the normal advertising messages running behind the entire football game, just these buy flashes they want at the end. I can only sustain the ‘buy flash’ image for three minutes when I layer it on to our messaging software. I think I’ve got the cable frequency wrong. Do you have an extender code for this cable frequency?”

  Derrick’s business catered to advertisers eager to pay for subliminal message software secretly attached to normal television programming. The trick had always been to integrate their piggyback code into the primary programming transmissions without being detected. Derrick’s reputation as a wizard had earned him the loyalty of many powerful men. His expertise in psychology meant that his messaging was targeted and efficient. His programming skills helped ensure his customers that their messages would remain undetected. His company offered common programming services to mask the illegal ones.

  Derrick had recruited Jason the day he was released from prison for hacking into government secure sites. Jason made sure Derrick’s programs were properly concealed, Derrick earned tax credits for hiring a felon, and the government considered Jason a rehabilitation success. Everyone was happy.

  Derrick answered, “I think I have something that would do that. I used it last year during the Super Bowl, remember?” Derrick shifted his weight nervously and then asked, “Can you work on that later? I need to use the video program.”

  Jason shut his notebook and closed the program he had been using. “Sure. Let me know when you’re done.”

  Jason left the room. Once again he wondered what Derrick was working on. Some secret project had him burning the midnight oil for over three months now. It seemed likely that Derrick would share his results soon. As a full partner in the firm, Jason didn’t like being kept in the dark but he realized that was how Derrick worked. He just had to wait. Derrick’s genius had already made him one fortune.

  ******

  Derrick closed the office door and stared at the blank screen. He only had three people fully conditioned in the program. He cracked his knuckles one at a time while he thought about a second beta test. He had purposely selected Dolly, Cynthia and Peter because they were intelligent, lived alone, and most importantly had permits to carry concealed weapons. Cynthia had been a victim of an armed robbery, Dolly had witnessed a mass shooting and Peter just didn’t trust anyone. It really wasn’t important why they all chose to arm themselves. What was important was that they were now capable of performing even riskier assignments on his command.

  Derrick had no specific knowledge of what J.T. wanted to use the program for but he had his suspicions. Derrick had been sternly warned that J.T. was a dangerous man with deadly connections. He could only think of one thing that might impress him. Using the program for the perfect alibi.

  Derrick opened the video program to create a new assignment. He had no idea which one of the subjects would log on first. He programmed the host code to shut down as soon as one of them logged on. Only one of them was needed for this second test. One of them was going to have to murder someone. That would impress Mr. Barrimore. Derrick thought for a moment and then typed, “You will shoot the first person who annoys you.”

  CHAPTER 3

  11:00 a.m., Sunrise Specialty Hospital

  Tony Scalla, administrator of Sunrise Specialty Hospital, wouldn’t have answered a call in the middle of his meeting had it not been Lucas Costellano. Lucas was mob, and Lucas was the engine that drove the hospital’s business.

  Tony walked away from his desk to stand across the room from his men. “Yes?”

  Lucas answered, “I have a priority order. This one pays a bonus. You’ve got no more than two days. Woman, around thirty, good health. Call me when you have her. Don’t start on her until I get paid.”

  Tony walked back to his desk. The three men waiting had just been paid for last week’s work. They were hoping this was a new job.

  Tony said, “I need a thirty-year-old woman, someone that at least looks classy. We need someone in good health.” He pointed at one of the men. “That means no hookers, got it?” Tony tapped his pen on his desk. “Let’s hack the GPS again and pull the ‘detour’ scam. We’ll switch out Exit 114 and 141 at noon today. Get your gear ready. Only run this twenty minutes. I don’t need city guys being called. If we don’t get a car with just a woman today, we’ll run it again tomorrow. Got it? Take her to the brewery, we can’t bring her to the clinic yet.”

  Tony reached in his top drawer and pulled out a vile of clear fluid. He tossed it to John, the head of this crew. “Only give her 7 cc’s of this, we have to keep her alive. Bring me blood and tissue samples for testing. If this one’s not a match you’ll have to get another.”

  John nervously confessed, “We never took Saturday’s waste to the crematorium. By the time we loaded up here at the clinic it was after hours and no one answered. We left it at the brewery.”

  Tony exhaled heavily not even attempting to hide his displeasure.

  “You left shit at the brewery from the last job? What were you thinking? You should have brought it back here! What’s the point of having this planned out?” Tony started pacing. Lucas wanted a girl fast. John was just going to have to get a girl and then take care of Saturday’s mess. “Secure the girl at the brewery. One of you stay with her while the others make the delivery to the crematorium. Bring me tissue samples so I can test for compatibility.” Tony returned to his seat and pointed at John. “You make good money so I don’t have to worry about this kind of shit. Get your act together!”

  All three men cowered from Tony’s outburst. They knew he was right.

  John said, “It won’t happen again, boss. We’ll get this done at noon.”

  Tony watched them leave. He was making more money than he had ever imagined and yet it all hinged on idiots following orders.

  ******

  Nick and Jen had just finished searching Peter’s apartment and computer. Nick didn’t know what he expected to find. Peter had told them he led a fairly simple life of work and sleep. It seemed he had been truthful. There were no signs of a relationship and sparse furnishings. A stack of mail on the desk contained an opened bank statement showing comfortable payroll deposits that were seldom tapped and a six figure balance. Peter was either very cheap or
didn’t even have time to spend the money he was making.

  Jen opened Peter’s refrigerator door. “The guy lives on take-out food and Sprite.” Jen pointed to a pile of papers on the kitchen counter. “He’s got a travel flyer about China and a book on learning Mandarin. Other than that, I’ve got nothin’ here.”

  Nick made a copy of Peter’s hard drive and forwarded it to their cyber forensic team. “I don’t see anything here either, unless he hid it.”

  Jen walked over and said, “He wouldn’t have given us permission to copy everything if he was guilty. I’m back to thinking they were hypnotized somehow without their knowledge.”

  “That’s a scary thought isn’t it? Remember too, whoever did this wants us to know for some reason.”

  Jen pondered Nick’s statement and said, “It’s either a warning, or someone wants you to play a game.”

  “Maybe both.”

  Walking back to their car Nick’s phone rang. The dispatcher from control central gave an address to Nick and stated that a body had been discovered.

  Nick held his hands out for the car keys. “My turn to drive. We’ve got a dead one.”

  Twenty blocks away Jen and Nick saw the familiar red and blue lights of patrol cars and the oversized white coroner van. A hazmat team, fully suited, walked in and out of the main entrance door of the two story brick building. Nick held up the crime scene tape for Jen to duck under as one of the patrol officers approached them.

  Nick asked, “What’ve we got?”

  The patrol officer shook his head. “I’m not sure. You’ll have to suit up. The coroner’s almost done. Those kids over there claim they accidently threw a ball in the window and broke in to get it. They found the bodies, went home and had one of their moms call 911.” He handed Nick and Jen the hazmat suits. “Bet they don’t break into a vacant building again for a while.”

  Jen saw two young boys with bicycles standing outside of the yellow tape. A patrol officer was taking notes as both boys were talking.

  Nick asked, “How many bodies?”

 
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