Now that I was engaged with the plot, it slowed to a crawl as I spent the next week reviewing the police’s files on the murder victims. Hours every day reading reports, looking at photos, and making notes that were little more than a list of questions without answers. In a tv show or novel, this would have been a montage or just a few sentences at the beginning of a chapter and not days of my life.
“Hello,” an officer said as he passed my desk. I watched Officer Kowalski fill a paper cup from the water cooler. It was across from the spare desk Detective Karter had found for me. Kowalski stood out as the only patrol cop I saw on a regular basis. Maybe it was just coincidence he was always scheduled when I was in the station. That didn’t explain why I saw him several times during the day when he should have been out patrolling the streets. Most of the police people seemed content to ignore me. Kowalski said hello every time he passed my desk.
“Hey Kowalski,” I said. He turned to face me. “What do you think of this case?” I gestured at the reports and photos spread across the desk.
“I don’t really know much about it. Serial killer. Four victims, that we know of, unrelated. Kills every two weeks. Fakes the crime scene.”
“So, you’re all caught up. He’s scheduled to kill again tonight. I’m supposed to catch this guy.”
“It’s not your fault this guy’s out there killing people.”
“I know that but I’m the observant outside who cracks the case wide open. At least I thought I was.”
“This isn’t tv. Police work is hours of talking to people, finding evidence, putting together timelines.”
“I know that and I’ve put in the time. I’ve been reading these reports and looking at these photos for days and I have nothing to show for it.”
“I’m sure we’ll catch this guy. These guys always think they’re so smart but they always mess up somehow.”
“We got nothing right now. The crime scenes are fake. The “murder weapon” from each murder isn’t even the murder weapon. The victims didn’t live in the same neighborhood. One lived up here,” I touched the map in the approximate location of the first victim, “Another lived over here, the third lived across the city here.” I paused with my finger on the third victim’s home. “And the last lived here.”
I stared at the invisible points where my finger had touched the map. I pulled out the victims’ files and began marking the exact addresses of their homes. Using the edge of a folder, I drew straight lines between them. They made a perfect square. “How did I miss that?” I said out loud.
“Miss what?” Kowalski asked.
“The victims’ homes make a square on the map. They aren’t random. He chose these four men because of where they lived. But why?”
“I don’t know,” Kowalski said looking at the map, “They line up with the cardinal directions, too.”
He pointed to the compass on the map and back at the square I drew. “North, south, east, west.” I flipped through the victim’s files. The police had checked the victims’ homes but nothing of note had been found. They didn’t know the locations were significant.
“We need to go to one of the victims’ homes.” I stood up and started gathering my things.
“Hold up, I thought you were a consultant. You can’t just go investigating on your own.”
“I’m not. You’re going to go with me.”
“I am?” Kowalski asked.
“Yes. I need a police escort and you don’t seem to be doing anything right now. Are you doing anything?”
“I have … paperwork,” he said uncertainly.
“Of course, you’ve been hanging around doing nothing. You’re my cop buddy.”
“I’m your what now?”
“Never mind that. We need to get going. I should have figured out the victims’ homes thing days ago.” Kowalski stared at me like I had grown a second head. “Look, I’m here to look at the evidence with fresh eyes but there’s no evidence from the victims’ homes because no one thought to look for any. The only way I can look at the evidence is to go to one of their homes myself. And you are going to take me.”
“I can’t just take you to a random location to look for … for clues.”
I paused putting on my sweater. Was I looking for clues? Was I too caught up in the crime thriller plot? I had said I would stay in the precinct where I was safe. It wasn’t like the killer would be waiting for me at one of the victims’ homes, would he? No, even that would be too coincidental. I was stalled working with just the police files. I had to do something to move the plot forward before he killed again.
“Call Detective Karter and tell him I’ve got a lead but I need to go to one of the victims’ homes.”
Kowalski stared at me. I waved him to the phone on the desk. He sighed and picked up the phone. After a short conversation, he hung up and said, “Get your stuff we’re going a field trip.”