Sixteen chapters.
Sixteen writers.
One thriller.

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Previously: The killer escapes detectives. Expect mayhem.

Chapter 14 – Faceoff


Even in deep sleep, Sandra heard the phone beep. It was about 5 o’clock in the morning when her mind finally stopped racing long enough to let her fall asleep.

She was dreaming she was sitting on a park bench with Detective Brown, sharing a sandwich with him. A perfect gentleman, Brown would politely hold a napkin under Sandra’s chin every time she took a bite. And he made sure to bite the other side of the sandwich when it was his turn. There was a kindness about his face that seemed to make him look much older than he was. Then, suddenly he did become older than Brown and with a sad expression that seemed on the verge of tears, he held the napkin over Sandra’s eyes to keep her from seeing the lifeless body of a woman seated next to him on the bench, her head cocked to the left and back a little. Her gray lips formed a crooked smile. That’s when the phone beeped. And though it signaled only once, the sound seemed so out of place in that dream that it brought her out in an instant.

Still groggy, she frantically reached over to her night stand and clumsily knocked the phone off. She quickly rolled off her bed, landing on her knees on the carpet. She saw the phone, picked it up, fumbled with it and dropped it again.

“Sh–! What’s wrong with you?” she said to herself, more sympathetic than angry.

She knew the cops were monitoring the texts and she wanted to get the message first.

It simply read, “She’s in a green car, 9291 old redwood highway.” Sandra’s stomach sank. She pressed her finger on the address and a listing came up for the library at the Windsor Town Green.

When she got there about 6:45 a.m., a large section of the northeast corner of the Green and adjacent parking lot was cordoned off with police tape and orange cones. Everywhere were sheriff’s deputies and detectives with bullet proof vests searching the area. K-9 units searched the grassy areas next to the Green’s gazebo. Sandra immediately saw the green car, a rather new Honda sedan with the trunk wide open. Detectives wearing surgical gloves were carefully examining the inside of the car as a photographer shot photos of what was inside the trunk.

Only Brown saw Sandra quickly walk past the crime tape and approach the scene. Before she could get close enough to see what was inside the trunk, Sandra felt his hand grip her left forearm, stopping her in her tracks.

“Don’t look in there,” he said in a kind, almost fatherly tone.

Sandra did everything she could at that moment to keep from losing it. She pulled Brown’s hand off her arm and he complied.

“This is not my fault,” she said, looking him in the eye.

“I suppose you think it’s mine.”

“You’re the one in charge. Are you not? You’re the one that’s supposed to keep this kind of thing from happening.”

“We’re trying our best,” he said.

“Is that the line you’ve prepared for her family?” Sandra’s heart was pounding now. “While you’re at it, why don’t you tell them that you were the one that screwed up? Tell them you’re the one that underestimated this guy!”

“I had a platoon out here last night,” he said, getting frustrated.

“What are we doing? What am I doing? I’m not a cop. I’m just a newspaper reporter. I’m the one that calls you guys up after the fact and gets all the details over the phone. What the hell am I doing here?”

“Calm down.”

“Don’t you tell me to calm down!” said she, her teeth locking together for a moment. “This is all wrong. I’ve broken every rule in the book. My editor doesn’t know anything about this, and that’s like, like…it’s worse than if you cheated on your wife, if you had one…” Sandra looked at the green car and shook her head.

“Can you believe what I’m saying?” she said, nearly in tears. “There’s a woman over there.”

She turned to walk away and again felt Brown’s hand on her arm. This time his grip was softer. At that moment another detective walked up and whispered something to him.

“Sandra,” he said, “you have another message.”

She pulled the phone from her inside coat pocket and looked at the message. She took a deep breath.

“That’s it,” she said. “It’s over for me. I’m done. He says he won’t send me any more messages from that phone. You’ll have to figure this one out on your own. You’ll have to figure out how to get in front of this guy, instead of always being two steps behind him.”

“Do you really think he’s done with you? I wouldn’t get too comfortable with that last message.”

“I’m done. Don’t you understand?”

“Until we catch this guy, you haven’t heard the last from him.”

Next time (June 8): “Handcar Regatta,” by Santa Rosa author Frederick Weisel. The killer makes his move.

Martin Espinoza is a staff writer for the Press Democrat.




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