Nightfall came, pouring rain beat against a decade-old black Charger. The rain, fell hard and fast, making it hard to see through the window. With all the dings, the dented front fender, and rust spots on the rear, nobody knew this was an off-duty vehicle. In the darkness of night, beneath heavy rain, nobody noticed the lone detective sitting there, hunting a serial killer known as The Ripper.
Jackson Cross was from the south, spending most of his career in a small Mississippi town. Growing up near Paris Mississippi he wanted to escape his humble beginnings and work somewhere with more action. River City, after eight in the army and five in Mississippi, promised opportunities and action. It took two years before he was in the investigators' division and less than a year later, working Robbery-Homicide. The years behind him lead Jackson to sit on the side of the street on River Drive, holding onto an empty bottle wrapped in a paper bag with one hand and his free hand on his pistol.
"Cross, check-in," Jackson heard in his left ear.
"I'm negative here," he answered, tapping on the earpiece microphone.
Jackson thought to himself, how am I going to catch up on sleep with the thirty-minute status checks. He knew he was under the watchful eye of the surveillance team. Two uniformed officers and a detective were on a twenty-four-hour rotation in an empty apartment down the street. From the eagle-eye point of view, the corner apartment on the fourth floor, the entire street was covered in both directions. At each end of the street, the ground teams were stationed out of different vehicles. An old delivery truck with a six-man tactical unit sat idling on the side of the road to the north, parked across the block from the nightclub, Teals. On the south end of River Drive, six blocks from Jackson sat a pick-up with a man and woman eating take out. They were from the local sheriffs' office.
The lead that had them all there, something Jackson found, pointed to a pick up pattern between the points of interest on River Drive. River City's newspaper had unearthed the story of a serial killer working in the city and while they failed to discover that there were six murder victims already, they soon would learn the truth and the chief of police was feeling pressure from the city managers' office. Jackson formed the task force, with help from a friend with the bureau. He managed to get the financing for the hours and funds to bring in tactical support and sheriffs' investigators. Now, he needed all the work to pay off.
"Cross," Jackson heard in his ear. "This is Lieutenant Trask."
"I already answered negative," he explained, wondering if the twenty-year desk jockey remembered negative means the officer is fine.
"No, son, I've got to pull my men off the detail. You've had a week with us out here and you’ve got nothing to show for it."
Jaon knew it was the truth. They had been on location for nearly a week, moving from spot to spot while trying to be on that stretch of River Drive when the next victim was targeted. At that time, nine officers were occupied and unable to respond when needed. All they had to show for the monumental effort, was six drunken college kids creating a disturbance, two bar fights, and a couple of reckless drivers running a race in supped-up Camry's. The patrol units in the downtown sector were swamped because of the extra calls, calls that came from the surveillance teams the past six days.
"Damn it!" he said aloud as he acknowledged the sheriffs' were pulling out. "I appreciate you guys helping this week. I'm sorry we didn't find our guy yet."
Lt. Trask was back in the delivery truck, irritated that he was pulling his men off the detail without finding the man they were looking for. He radioed back to Jackson as the driver started the engine.
"I hate to do it, Jackson. If you get a more solid lead, let me know and I'll come out myself, even if it's off the books," he told him. "Watch your ass, Amigo."
"Ten-Four John, you too," Jackson replied as he lit a cigarette.
As Jackson flicked his cigarette through the cracked-open drivers' side window, ash drizzling down the side of the faded black door, anyone passing by that paid attention could tell he was there a while. The pile of cigarette butts numbering past a dozen. He really wanted to drop it for the day, but there was going to be another victim any day now. The kills were less spread out, one after the other and Jackson feared they may already be too late. Looking at his watch, it was ten o'clock on a Wednesday night. The area was less populated now than it had been all week, mostly because of the heavy rains. Scratching at his beard, which desperately needed to be shaved, Jackson smelled his coat sleeve and realized he needed a shower as well.
"Alright, ladies and gentlemen, let's pull out. Team one, go now, team two and three at the fifteen and thirty-minute point."
He waited for them to acknowledge the order. As each team acknowledged the order to pull out, Jackson rested his head against the car door. After the teams pulled out, Jackson was going to give it one more hour before calling it a night. After that, he would pray the killer just wasn't ready yet, that they could find him before he struck again.
An hour passed by with nothing of interest happening and Jackson started the engine of the Charger, hearing it roar to life perking him up and giving him a much needed secondary burst of energy. Peeling away from River Drive, Jackson steered his department issue cover car towards Kissimee Street. He lived in a quiet building there, on the third floor. Most of his neighbors were professionals, working types that lived lives of quiet solitude at home. There were a few two couples in the building and a smattering of singles like himself, none of whom knew Jackson was a cop. Most of the residents thought Jackson may be a dealer or involved in something insidious, particularly because the largest majority of his visitors were from the police department.
Walking up the stairs Jackson felt the exhaustion of the past six days catching up with him. This was his first trip home in that time and he anxiously looked forward to resting his head against a pillow. Getting inside his apartment, he dropped his keys on a table, right next to a lamp inside his door. It was darker than normal, the light has burned out. Jackson could still see well enough in the middle of the white painted walls and with light shining in from the streetlamps outside.
Jackson took a shower, relieving himself of the stench he now carried with him. Days running and gunning with the boys had taken a horrible toll on the haggard-looking detective. Sitting down on the edge of his bed, a towel wrapped around his waist, Jackson fell back, staring at the ceiling tiles above him. He started his nightly ritual, counting the spots in the tiles, making it only to forty-seven before his eyes became heavy and the dim lights of his apartment gave way to the darkness.
"Ugh…" he sighed, waking up to the sound of his cell phone ringing in the distance.
Jackson felt disgusted at the idea he needed to wake up already and angrily fumbled around for the phone on his nightstand. Still groggy from the three hours of sleep he managed to get, he nearly knocked over the lamp next to his bed. Putting the phone to his ear, Jackson answered. He listened to the dispatcher, a young twenty-three-year-old named Nicki, explaining the reason for the call. A young woman on North Isle Avenue had just been taken and there was a vehicle description. The Sheriff and the State Police Chopper were already in the air looking for the vehicle.
Jackson recognized the vehicle description as being similar to one used in the last two abductions. The bodies of the abductees were found the next day, both cut open, the bodies drained of nearly all their blood. He relented, knowing it was a long shot but it could be the ripper. Putting the phone on speaker, he started getting dressed. Three hours sleep must be enough, he was going to have to go back to work.
"Give me ten minutes and then send the information and a location update to my phone. I'll catch up," he told Nicki.
Minutes later Jackson ran out of his apartment building and to his Charger. The engine roared to life, the tires spinning as the charger sped out of the apartment parking lot and onto the street. Jackson, exhausted and weary, sped around cars in traffic. Running hot in an undercover car was inherently riskier than in a squad, minus the lights and sirens. Just six minutes went by before Jackson pulled up alongside the tail units following the target van from a quarter of a mile behind. He could see the van and it did match the description Nicki read him. Jackson picked up the radio, calling ahead to the interceptor units.
"Alright, ladies and gentlemen, as soon as the van exits the city limits we move," he ordered.
Jackson pulled up in front of the tail car preparing himself to apprehend the target vehicle. His adrenaline was rushing through him and his hands trembled slightly. After being involved in a couple of hundred takedowns, Jackson still enjoyed the rush of the action and the thrill of the kill zone. Eight years in the terror-wars and then moving onto being a police officer Jackson spent his life in the zone and self admittedly was addicted to the action. In Afghanistan, he racked up an impressive list of accomplishments in the field and brought home his bravery to use on the streets.
The time had come and Jackson sped up in front of the van, turning sharply right to block it in behind the patrol cars. He hurried out of his car, pulling his sidearm out as he rushed to the back of the charger Jackson saw the driver, a bearded Caucasian male wearing an olive drab military coat. He stared into the eye of the drive through the site picture in front of him, his movements coming from muscle memory more than intent. Jackson went onto autopilot during the events in the kill zone, knowing if anything went crazy it was the wrong people that ended up dead.
He screamed, "Get out! Get out of the car with your hands in the air!"
He repeated the orders as he watched the other officers taking up positions around the van. Nearly ten officers were there and two helicopters overhead. Spotlights shone on the van, the noise of the choppers echoing across the highway drowning out the shouts and screams of the police.
The driver nervously stepped out of the vehicle, his hands in the air. As Jackson was ordered to the ground; his movements deliberate and controlled, two patrol officers moved in on him before slamming him to the ground. Once the suspect was in custody Jackson ran to the back door of the van, peeking into the rear. He reached up and pulled on the handle. There was nobody there. Were they too late? Where was the girl from the report?
"God Damn it!" yelled Jackson.
He looked around seeing several patrol officers.
"You, start tearing the van apart. Find fibers, any signs of tissue, blood or sweat if its' in there," he ordered.
He pointed at another squad, "You two over there; find the witness and interview them again. If this is our guy, he's either killed her or stashed her somewhere to do later."
Angry, aggravated, and tired, Jackson ordered the suspect taken back to the station. He followed shortly after the squad left with their man in tow. He pulled out his phone, flipping downward thru his contact list. Jackson found the line that read Chief, pressing the name and activating the call. Three rings in and a tired, older sounding man answered the phone.
"It's me," Jackson announced. "We've got a suspect in the interrogation room. I'll be at the department in a few minutes. I need to know how much you've got my back."
Jackson heard the chief ask the question, wanting to know what he meant. He explained that there was a missing girl, an eighteen-year-old student. They had the van and the girl was gone already. If she wasn't dead, it meant she was restrained somewhere, tied up, and probably gagged. They could not afford to waste time. Chief Jones warned Jackson not to take things too far. He offered to back him, but only within reason and if it didn't hang himself or the department out to dry.
"Understood, sir," he announced, understanding that he was on his own.
Twenty minutes later Jackson walked into the interrogation room. He now knew that the suspect's name was Barry Soto, a thirty-year old computer salesman. So far the search of the van had nothing for the forensics teams to use. The description of the van was a match but that, essentially, was all that he had to work with.
"Mr. Soto, I'm Detective Cross and I'm sorry to have kept you waiting," Jackson announced coming into the room.
"What's this all about?" asked Mr. Soto, still handcuffed to the table.
"Officer, you can remove the cuffs," Jackson told the patrolman stationed with the prisoner.
"Sir, with respect, you were driving a van that was a dead ringer for one used in an abduction in the downtown area tonight. If you could just tell me where you were during the past two hours, I'm sure we could get this cleared up."
"Well, I actually just got into town about thirty minutes ago. I came down from Chicago for a meeting," explained the driver, Mr. Soto.
"Sure, that's what I thought. Why don't you come with me?"
Jackson escorted Mr. Soto out of the interrogation room and down to the parking lot. He told the suspect that he was free to go and that he would take him to the impound to get his vehicle. Mr. Soto sat in the passengers' seat of the car as they drove off into the early morning hours, Jackson yawning constantly as he drove. Jackson made small talk, driving up the riverside and towards the outskirts of town. As they reached the north edge of the city limits, he pulled off the road, crossing railroad tracks. Past the tracks, the charger was rolling down an incline. Jackson pulled off the side of the road, next to a fenced-off area.
"It's in here, Mr. Soto," Jackson lied as he opened up a gate to the fence.
Once inside Mr. Soto looked around, not seeing any cars. He turned around, looking at Jackson, confused by what was going on. Mr. Soto was stunned as he turned around. Jackson had a Tazer drawn and aimed at the man.
"Wait? What are you doing?" the man stuttered before screaming out in the early morning hours.
"The girl, where is she?"
"W..w..what girl?" Mr. Soto answered, stuttering through the tazing as Jackson repetitively pressed the trigger.
Soto laid there exhausted, sweating profusely and in the greatest amount of pain he suffered ever in his life. He stared at the tired face, the exasperated look of Jackson Cross and it scared him. Soto never felt more afraid than he did lying there inside that fenced in scrapyard. He held his hands up, pleading with Jackson to stop.
"I swear, I haven't done anything to any girl. I don't know why you keep asking," the exhausted man plead.
Jackson pleads with the man in front of him to tell him where the girl was, where he killed the others at, knowing he was risking a lot on this tactic. He put away his tazer, considering a harsher tactic. Jackson pulled out his pistol, rushed towards Barry Soto, and knelt down, his knee on his stomach. He was incensed that another victim was out there somewhere, somewhere he couldn't find them without making the bearded man beneath his knee talk.
"All I want is the girl," Jackson sighed, his frustration and anger giving way to the exhaustion in him.
He had played this game before, in Afghanistan, many years ago as an interrogator. The things they were authorized to do in the name of the greater good, the mission; they turned Jackson and many of his old crew into less soldiers and more run of the mill thugs. Jackson felt his heart racing, cocking the pistol in his hand. If the girl was alive, it would take a miracle to find her.
"Last chance," Jackson warned, aiming between Soto's eyes.
Jackson squeezed the trigger slightly. In a flash, Barry Soto changed from a suspect to a corpse.
The next morning Jackson woke to a phone call from the Chief. He rolled over, seeing his dirt-covered clothing lying there, the dirt from burying Soto's body all over his floor.
"Hello," he mumbled.
"Jax, we got him," the Chief said.
Jackson stuttered, "What?"
The Chief explained how they found the van on the riverside, in a cul-de-sac.
Tears streamed down Jacksons' cheeks as he realized what he had done. Before the chief would get off the phone, he ordered Jackson into the station to handle the interrogation. Jackson agreed to come in, as he picked up his pistol.
About the Creator
I have always enjoyed writing and exploring new ideas, new beliefs, and the dreams that rattle around inside my head. I have enjoyed the current state of science, human progress, fantasy and existence and write about them when I can.