Jannie Balliett

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Leave a Whisper Bookcover

Leave A Whisper

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Chapter Eighteen - Suspect?

Toni and Meadows sat in his office, discouragingly going through the massive files.

"Is there a Ms. Toni Taft here?" the man asked, knocking on the opened door, entering the office uninvited. "I was told I could find her in this office."

"I'm Toni Taft," she answered, standing up.

"I have a delivery for you. This is for you, Ma'am," he told her, handing her a large rectangle box with a red ribbon neatly tied into a bow.

"What?" she responded. Surprised, she looked at Meadows with a questioning face, then accepted the box. She knew that a rectangle box was regularly used for roses and didn't know anyone who would send them to her. There wasn't any explanation for it.

Meadows got up and walked around his desk, stumbling over a box of files, shoving it to the side as much as it could be moved. "Well, aren't you going to open it, Toni?"

"Who would send me flowers?" she asked, untying the ribbon.

"How do you know it's flowers? he asked, as naive as any man would be, not being on the receiving end.

"The box. Flowers come in this kind of box, Brad," she told him, tapping the box with her finger as if she was his teacher and he a was one of her first grade students.

Toni lifted the lid and unfolded the white crepe paper, exposing a dozen long-stemmed red roses.

"They're beautiful," Meadows exclaimed. "Who sent them?"

"I don't know," she answered, searching for the card.

Meadows saw the card partially hidden inside the bow, and retrieved it handing it to Toni. She opened it. It read:

...Fame is now mine.
And it's time to give an encore.
For what they have witnessed,
of my art, so cleverly perfected.
It is only the alpha,
of what I can create,
until I prove there is no omega,
unless I choose to spawn,
an ending to my game,
in my own sweet time...
~ Your secret admirer... R. ~

Toni abruptly dropped the card. It fluttered spiraling down, landing on the floor at her feet. She promptly sat down, shivering and trembling violently, then reached into Meadows' desk drawer, retrieving the bottle of bourbon. She unscrewed the cap and took a gulp straight from the bottle.

"Toni! What's wrong?" Meadows asked. He picked the card up.

Toni didn't answer. She took another gulp, then another, and sat the bottle down on his desk, then opened her purse and took her little porcelain angel out of its velvet box.  She kissed Aniel and held onto it tightly while rocking herself back and forth in the chair as if she were a child.

Meadows read the card and laid it on his desk, then squatted beside Toni's chair, slipping his arm around her shoulder.

"It's him, Brad-- how did he-- why did he, I mean why, Brad-- why," she sobbed.

"I don't know, Toni. Maybe it's because of all the media coverage. He's just screwing with you because he fears you. Don't let him. Don't let him mess with your mind and let him win at his game," he told her, comforting her. "This is his first major mistake-- sending you roses and a hand written card. We can trace him now, Toni. He just hung himself with his own arrogance."

Before Toni could respond, Meadows' phone rang. He reached over and hit the intercom button. "Meadows here," he announced, still squatting beside Toni.

"Brad, this is Jack. I've got a name to go with that cigarette butt you gave me for lab testing," Jack told him with a distorted voice rumbling through the speaker phone.

Meadows and Toni looked eye to eye. The moment had come. They had a suspect-- a name.

"Jack, who is he? Is he in the system? What's his address? Where can we find him?" Meadows rambled.

"Hold on, one question at a time, guy," Jack told him. "His name is Jacob Peters, and he's in the system. He's a convicted rapist-- numerous times. 'Just served ten years for his last, but out on parole now. 'Been out six months and registered. Last known address is 2325 N. Del Monte Avenue. His parole officer's name is Mark Willard. Give him a call to find out where the guy works and all."

"Thanks, Jack. I owe you one," Meadows replied.

"Hey, I thought this made us even-steven now," he replied, laughing.

"Well, I'm gonna bring you something else, Jack."

"Oh? And what might that be, Brad?

"You'll see when we get there, okay?" Meadows told him, disconnecting the speaker phone.

"Are you going to be all right?" he asked Toni. "I'm going to make a call to this PO, Mark Willard, real quick and then we'll make a visit to Jack's office and give him this card and box of roses to examine."

"Jack's news made me feel better. Now we know who this guy is and we can put an end to this," she replied, putting the little angel back in her purse.

Meadows sat down behind his desk and thumbed through his Rolodex for the Parole Officer's phone number and extension. He pushed the intercom button.

"Willard," is all Mark Willard, said answering.

"Mr. Willard, this is Detective Brad Meadows at the 23rd Precinct."

"What can I do for you, detective?" he asked.

"We need information on one of your parolees, Mr. Willard."

"Okay, who is it?"

"Jacob Peters. He served ten and been out maybe six months. Last known address registered in the sex offender data base is, 2325 N. Del Monte Avenue. I need you to confirm that and tell me where he works," Meadows jabbered.

"Hold on, detective. I have to pull his file, but he sounds familiar," Willard replied.

Meadows looked at Toni with pen in hand, ballpoint to the paper, and ready to write. Toni returned the look with a slight smile, letting him know she was feeling better.

"Detective, the address is correct according to my records, and he works over at the Fix-A-Dent Body Shop on 8th and Trouvedor. Mr. Salvo De Luca is the owner and manager."

"Got it. Do me a favor, send a copy of his record and your parole file over to my office. I won't be here, so have it delivered to my assistant, John. Okay?"

"Sure. Do you need the phone number to the body shop?"

"No, that isn't necessary. I'm going over there in person and pay Mr. Peters a little surprise visit," Meadows replied.

"Well, let me know if you arrest him. And let me know if these facts have changed-- anything else that I need to know about, all right?" Willard asked.

"Sure, you'll be the first to know, sir," Meadows answered, disconnecting the call.

"Toni, are you up to a trip?"

"I'm up to the trip, but not seeing him face to face," she answered.

"Why not? You can finally look this son-of-a-bitch in the eye and gloat that we caught him."

"That's just my point. I don't want to look him in the eye. I don't want to see what he sees any more. I don't want to experience the horror those girls went through and relive their nightmare of his sadist torturing," she told him, grabbing a tissue. "I don't want to see the man that I've been hearing and be connected to him any more than I already have been."

"I understand that, Toni. Do you want me to drop you off at home so you can rest, then I'll stop by after I bring this guy in and interrogate him? Maybe later tonight after you're feeling better. We'll go out for a thick and juicy, medium-rare steak, and celebrate. How's that sound?" he asked, hoping she'd accept, giving him a hope for a change from another lonely empty night he usually had.

"Sounds good to me. I need the rest anyway and a medium-rare steak sounds divine. I'll just eat a light lunch and save my appetite for tonight," she assured him.

Meadows picked up Toni's purse and handed it to her. He grabbed the card and box of roses, then helped her put on her coat.

When Meadows touched her holding the card, a vision flashed...

...It was the killer's evil blue eyes staring into hers, with a smile plastered across his pale face like a mime's painted smile, pointing his crooked bony finger at her as though ridiculing her or marking her as his target. Then, she heard...

Toni Taft, my possession,
the one that elicits my obsession,
escape the fate that becomes
one's eminent creation,
when the time comes.
You think you hear me,
but you don't know me,
like I know you, so well.
So listen again, behold my words,
ringing true, in lovely chords.
I will see you soon, meet you
in the darkened shadows of
our minds and we will dwell,
forever together, in our own hell...

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...Toni Taft, my beautiful possession, the one that elicits my obsession...

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