Jannie Balliett

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Leave a Whisper Bookcover

Leave A Whisper

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 Chapter Fifteen -Media Coverage continued
The ride to Holler Hills was quiet. The only noise was a pebble stuck in a tire that pinged and clicked as the road counted mile after mile. Neither spoke a word about the uncontrollable media and the picketing protesters. Each was digesting the episode in their own private way.

Meadows couldn't take the silence any longer and turned the car radio on..."Police have no clues as to the identity of the 'Red Rose' killer--"

Meadows quickly switched stations..." 'The 'Red Rose' killer has been elevated to serial status as body count rises, while local authorities remain baffled..." He turned the radio off.

"Red Rose killer?" Toni asked, breaking their verbal silence.

He continued staring ahead as he drove. "Yeah, apparently the media decided to name him. They have their sensationalized name and we have our case investigation name," Meadows answered.

"Oh, really? And what name do we have for it?"

Meadows didn't answer her.

"Tell me, what name?" she repeated.

"Well, I haven't really named it yet. But I have an unoffical name for the case," he answered, finally glancing at her.

"Okay. And? Are you going to tell me, or do I have to guess?"

He turned down a dirt road leading to the crime scene area that was still roped off with yellow police tape.

"Whisperer," he finally answered. That's what he thought of when working the case and knew it sounded dumb. But since she heard the killer's whispering and it being so damn weird, it just kind of stuck in his head.

"Whisperer? Why that name?" She wasn't shocked by his name choice and thought she knew why, but still wanted to hear his reasoning anyway.

"Well, isn't it obvious? You do hear whispering and chanting, don't you?"

"Yes. Okay, don't get pissy about it. I can understand the name well enough. It's as good a name as any, I suppose. Besides, you said it's unofficial," she sniped back. She grinned but Meadows wasn't looking.

He parked in the same place they parked the first day they discovered the body. They walked down the path leading to the area the victim's mutilated body parts were found. Once they reached the location, each walked their own course scavenging the tall grass, looking for anything they might have missed the first time. New day, refreshed eyes, more knowledgeable, and better attitudes-- all four would benefit their second search.

"Come over here," Meadows yelled.

Toni dropped the stick she was using to scour the grass and weeds, excited he might have discovered something that would help them.

"What is it, Brad?"

"Look! He's been back."

"How can you tell?"

Meadows stood up from a squatting position and held out a pair of tweezers clamping a half-chewed cigarette butt.

"How can we know he came back? We might have missed it on the first search."

"We had a full team, plus you and me. There's no way we missed this," he exclaimed.

"We've got to bag it. If it's his, we'll get his DNA. This is the first break we've had. Hopefully he'll be in CODIS. That's all we'll need to get him," Toni excitedly retorted.

"It doesn't place him at the murder, but it does places him at the scene. It doesn't prove enough for a conviction, but proves enough to get a warrant when we're ready and adds to a possible indictment," he explained.

"Why won't it prove he was here at the time of the murder? I mean, here's proof."

"This is public land. Hunters come up here this time of year, and he could claim he was hunting or camping. Gore-seekers might have come up here to see the crime scene for themselves, even. It doesn't prove anything more than that. We'll have to have more than a cigarette butt. But, what's important is the DNA. We know it wasn't here before... so he must've come back up here. A lot of perverts return to the crime scene to re-live the thrill," Meadows told her.

"This is one of those details we can't let anyone know about. We can't have this leaking out to the media this time. But how do we know it wasn't left by curious gore- seekers wanting to see the crime scene? There's police tape everywhere and the media has already disclosed the location. So everyone knows about this place," she said.

"Addressing the gore-seekers... I don't think that's the case here. Gut instinct. And if I tag it and send it through normal channels for processing with the lab, it will leak out. There's someone on the inside feeding information to the media. I just don't know who the snitch is, or why-- maybe a monetary bribe, who knows?" he told her, bagging the cigarette butt. "I've got a friend in the FBI that can get this to their lab privately and run it through CODIS, bypassing the department. He'll keep a tight lid on this and stay off the record for the time being. He owes me and I owe him-- well it never really pays up, it's an ongoing thing with us."

"That's a good idea. Then that's what we should do. We can't chance this getting out and the killer finding out we've got his DNA. He'll either run and we'll lose him, or get smarter with his killing and we might never stop him," Toni said.

Meadows sealed the baggie and handed it to Toni. "Here, put it in your shoulder-bag while we keep looking around. Where there's one piece of evidence-- there's more."

Toni took the bag and a vision instantly flashed, blinding her with movie-like pictures and felt like lightening bolts striking her brain. She saw the killer standing in front of her looking at her with blue-eyes, evil eyes... his gaze trying to stare her down as if to will her into submission. He knew her and she knew him somehow.

 "That'll be $41.50," the clerk told him.

Reddick paid her in cash and walked back to his car, pausing to check the gas tank lid, making sure it was tight. A tank full of gas, cigarettes, and a of couple CDs, were all he needed for the day.

He parked and went inside the Surf and Slurp Cafe. He paid the fee for the use of the computer and sat down at a secluded table in a corner, then typed Toni Taft's name on the keyboard and hit the 'enter' key.

Search results displayed article after article, with more pages left to browse. Reddick began by clicking on the first link. He had the time to read and learn all he could about her.

After reading all the articles on the first search page results, he clicked on all the links on the next page, reading more articles, then decided to research for 'George and Erma Bartlow.' The search displayed a few links with those names, and Reddick clicked on the one shown as Bartlow's personal website.

George Bartlow was an attorney. A divorce attorney, no less. Yeah, big fuckin' deal. Makin' money off the bastards that'll get screwed by greedy wives that'll rake them over the coals for alimony.

He clicked on the 'About Us' hoping there'd be some personal information about Bartlow. Attorneys have big egos and he's bound to list his accomplishments and family, bragging as if he's the only one that could have any status, he thought.

Skimming through the accomplishments, he scrolled down the page to Bartlow's family information.

'George Bartlow, happily married thirty-one years to Mrs. Erma Bartlow, father of three daughters; Georgia Emma, Hannah Marie and youngest, Patricia Ann Bartlow...'

Georgia Emma was my sixth creation. But, what I want to know... which one is the pretty brunette? Hannah or Patricia?

Chapter Sixteen - Cashing In A Favor
Back at the 23rd precinct, Meadows and Toni settled in to discuss their plan of action. He was going to call his friend at the FBI and cash in the favor he owed him and get him to process the cigarette butt they'd found.

Meadows sat behind his desk thumbing through his alphabetized index for Jack Hodges' number. He dialed it and turned on the intercom speaker.

"Hello, Jack. This is Brad Meadows. How're you doing?"

"Hey, good to hear from you, Brad. So what's up? I know from past experience, buddy, you don't call unless you need a favor. What's it this time?" Hodges asked.

"Okay. I'll admit, you know me like a book. But, 'got something important here, Jack. I need your help. Discreet help."

"Sure. Anything for a friend, you know that. But you'll owe me again, or are we even now? What is it this time?"

"Yeah, we're even after this favor. You know I'll return any favor for you anytime.

I need a cigarette butt processed through your lab for DNA labeling, and run through CODIS, too. Can you personally do it yourself behind the scenes?"

"Well, of course I can. But why me? Why not your own lab? You've got one of the best around, Brad."

"I'm working on the 'Red Rose' serial killer case, Jack. I've got a possible departmental leak somewhere, so the media has an inside contact here. I can't trust anyone."

"Damn, Brad. I hate that for you, but it's not so uncommon, you know. The media pays top dollar for information, and on a cop's pay, who can really blame an inside snitch these days?"

"I know, I know. But that's no friggin' excuse. Selling information and details to those whore-mongers only hinders the case and gets more women killed. That's not worth any amount of money in the world, Jack, and you know that better than anyone."

"Uh, yeah. Don't remind me. That incident damn near killed my career. It's taken me six years to get my creditability back. You know that."

Toni sat silently listening to them. Meadows hadn't clued her in on Jack Hodges or his past. But she trusted Meadows and knew whatever the circumstances were, it had to have been phony charges, so the guy must've been innocent.

"I know, but it wasn't your fault. You know that, I know that, and now the FBI knows that."

"Yeah, but once accused, always accused. Even when you've been cleared, the accusation leaves residual doubts among those that prefer to believe the worst in people," Jack retorted. "You can't un-ring a rung bell."

"Well, those days are gone now. I really doubt that anyone believes that shit now. The FBI has changed since then. Besides, you had no way of knowing your partner, Williams, would frame you while he was the one on the take. So let it go, Jack, just let it go. Partners are a lot more loyal now."

"You're probably right. Bygones, I guess.. Getting' back to the DNA testing, I wouldn't have it sent over. 'Can't risk it, guy. Can you bring it to my lab yourself?" Jack asked Meadows.

Meadows looked at Toni. "Yeah, I'll bring the evidence over in a couple of hours, Jack. Besides, there's someone I'd like you to meet anyway." Meadows said, smiling at Toni.

She smiled back, nodding her approval.

"Really? Is it the psychic, Ms. Taft, that I've been watching on the news? You both are really hot in the headlines right now. Real top notch conversation," Jack teased.

"Yep, and you'll like her. But remember my friend, she's my partner and not available," Meadows responded, winking at Toni.

"Okay, gotcha. See you in awhile then," he told Meadows, hanging up.

Meadows turned off the intercom, gathered the files and the evidence baggie containing the cigarette butt.

"You'll have to tell me about his story sometime," Toni said.

"Oh, it's just a near-miss he had once. Most everyone's had one in their career one time or another. He had a dirty partner who tried to blame him for shit when he got caught. He was selling inside information to the mob and paid the ultimate price. His life. That's really how Jack got cleared. When the mob ordered the hit on his partner, the FBI went from an Internal Affairs investigation to a full-fledged investigation and got the mob thugs that killed him, which eventually cleared Jack," he explained. "That's the short version of it, anyway."

"Damn. The mob?"

"Yeah, the real bad guys. I haven't had to investigate any mob activity in my career... so far, thank God. And I don't want to. People come up dead, you know," Meadows told her.

"Me neither. And I don't want to. I guess the FBI has exclusive rights to investigating the mob now, huh?" she asked.

"Yeah, now they do. They didn't used to, though. And I guarantee, I'd retire before messing with any mob-related cases. But enough about Jack. Since we're going over there to take the cigarette butt to Jack, let's grab lunch first and swing by my pharmacy afterward."

"Oh? Pharmacy? Are you all right? "

"Sure, I'm fine. I'm diabetic and need my insulin refilled. That's all," Meadows nonchalantly answered.

"You didn't tell me you were a diabetic, Brad. You should have told me. That's good to know in case your blood-sugar gets low or too high in an emergency. I have a bit of formal education in the medical field," Toni informed him.

"I didn't know you had medical training. So, there's still things to learn about each other. What else is there to know about you, Toni?"

Toni laughed. "Not much. But, I could obviously ask you the same question."

Chapter Seventeen - A Small Lie
...Toni Taft, object of my wrath,
or maybe of my desire,
sweet and sharp,
you think you're so smart.
Toni Taft, I know you
better than you think.
Soon, we'll meet,
at my own discretion,
so beware of the night,
where I am hiding,
watching you from afar,
and getting near
smelling your fear.
But, until now...

Reddick rammed his old Dodge into the green Jeep's rear bumper at the red-light.

The pretty brunette's head jarred forward, hitting her forehead on the steering wheel.

He jumped out of his car and ran up to her driver window. "Are you all right? Ma'am, are you okay?" he shouted through the window, while tapping on the glass.

She paused a moment and grabbed a tissue, then looked at her face in the rear view mirror while wiping blood from her cheek. She slowly lowered the electric window, but only two inches. "I'm fine, thank you. What happened?"

"It's my fault, I'm sorry. My brakes didn't stop in time and I ran into your bumper," he lied.

She didn't get out of her Jeep or lower the window any farther. "We need to exchange insurance information and call the police for an accident-incident report," she said, searching inside her purse for paper and pen. She tore off a small sheet of note paper and slipped it with a pen, through the cracked window.

"Here, write your information down and I'll call the police on my cell phone," she told him.

"Please don't call the police, Ma'am. The truth is, I don't have insurance but, I'll pay for the damages," he lied again. "Give me your name and information and I'll call you for the estimate and pay the repair bill. I promise. I don't have a telephone yet. I just moved-- and uh-- 'haven't gotten it hooked up yet."

"Oh, I guess that'll be all right," she said, as she wrote her name and phone number on a piece of paper. "Here, call me tomorrow. I should have an estimate by then and an appointment for the repair."

Reddick took the slip of paper then looked at the name... Patricia Bartlow.

...To spend energy,
but mere time,
plotting sweet death
for the unique
and chosen few selected,
safety has no barriers,
no boundaries,
no secret escape,
you will not find,
no where can you hide
from such fate,
not woman; wife, mother,
nor sister,
will cheat me of
my heart's ghastly desire...

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...Soon, we'll meet at my own discretion, so beware of the night where I am hiding...

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