His first communication was a letter. The envelope was handwritten in block letters and the letter itself was written in his offhand because the penmanship was childish. I knew it was him because he included some details of where we had gone to arrest him that no one else would have known.
Look, it didn’t have to be him because cases like this bring the cranks out left and right and I was getting a couple-three letters every week. Confessions, you’ll never catch me, watch your back, stuff like that. But they have no information that shows they know nothing the public wouldn’t know. But including some details about his apartment showed it was him. Very professional.
Getting a letter from him was not particularly scary or even unnerving. I was the public face of the investigation from the beginning so he knew who I was and my work address could be had with minimal effort. It’s rare when criminals communicate with us this way, but hardly unprecedented. Usually, it’s because they need the attention but, in this case, I think he genuinely believed he was not a killer. People are really good at deluding themselves, including criminals. But he was. We had evidence that he shot the ambassador and if you don’t think he was part of the train explosion at the Games you are deluding yourself, though that’s not my lookout.
It went from there. His missives were infrequent. In fact, his second didn’t arrive for a few months so they weren’t even regular. Sometimes I’d get several in a month and sometimes not for a year. It didn’t affect the investigation at all because there were no clues. No fingerprints and the stationary was the crap you could pick up anywhere. There was nothing to trace. The postmarks were from all over the city, too. We thought we might be able to narrow it down based on where he hadn’t sent a letter from, on the theory that he left his neighborhood every time, but that was a no-go, too, because he sent them from every section of the city.
I didn’t really get scared until he used my home address as a return address. Christ, I still remember that. My heart froze. He knows where I live! It was not in any way, shape or form a coincidence. He had gone out and found out where I lived and wanted to let me know he knew that.
He had to have followed me. It’s the only way. Real estate sales are public records, of course, but our house wasn’t in my name, it was in my wife’s name and her maiden name to boot.
I’ve been a cop a long time and I am always aware of my surroundings. I like to think I would have noticed somebody following me. Well, I definitely would have noticed an amateur following me because a lot of my route home was on foot. A professional tail can be difficult to pick up, even for a fellow professional. I walked to the subway then usually to the bar for a cold one or two, then the couple of blocks home. Later the criminal would tell me how he had gone about finding my house and I must say he did his work very well, with admirable patience and diligence. Well, it would have been admirable had he not been stalking me, of course. But he was not an amateur.
We started taking precautions after that. There were a couple of city employees at my home and I had escorts to and from work, indeed, anytime I left the house or office. This caused problems. You tell your family a killer knows where you live and there are going to be problems. I told them every letter, or most every letter, went out of its way to declare they weren’t in any danger and there was no reason not to believe that, but while you are reassuring them in the back of your mind you’re wondering who in the hell knows for sure?
I’m still not entirely sure why he started calling me. Letters, and me putting an ad in the classifieds, seemed to be a good way of communicating because there was no point to our communicating except for me to notice him and to drive the stake deeper in my heart that I had no idea where he was and no reasonable expectation of ever catching him. After we caught him I asked him why he started calling me and he said he didn’t really know for sure, either, it merely seemed to be the next step, though the next step to what he was unable to say. The first call came at my office. I answered and he said our code word and I was so taken aback I had nothing to say. That gave us something in common because he couldn’t find any words, either, and he rang off. He called right back, though, reiterating his nonsense that he didn’t kill the ambassador and the possibly true statement that he didn’t mean me or my family any harm.
I called him right back. We have some resources here and maybe we could trace his location. Or maybe we couldn’t. It was academic because he didn’t answer. He called regularly for a while. It was not surprising that a different phone number popped up on my screen every time. As usual, he was taking no chances. A lot of the reason we catch criminals is that they are stupid, but this guy never was. He knew what he was doing. He would have made a really good cop.
Usually, our chats lasted only a few seconds. I’d answer and he’d say the code word and ask if I was still off my rocker, thinking him a killer. I’d say yes and ask where I could pick him up at and he’d say something or other and hang up. I was actually getting a bit bored with it all.
One conversation did go a bit longer. I told him the very best way for him to show his innocence was to enter custody. The courts could sort it out. He didn’t really believe that so I told him to get an attorney and have him contact me and I think that intrigued him, but it never happened.
Nothing will compare with the fright of seeing my home address on his envelopes, but him sending me pics came pretty close.
Actually, the pics of me weren’t that bad. I shrugged it off. He’d been pestering me off and on for years now and all this meant was he had found a new medium for bothering me. Big wow, as we used to say growing up.
The first pics were of me walking down the street, apparently from the office to the subway station, judging by the time of day. It was winter and I was leaning forward a bit against the cold and in one pic I was looking right at him. Apparently, the camera was in his glasses or, perhaps, a hat. Nothing of this encounter rings a bell.
I’ll be honest, I was getting frustrated. Come on, I thought, kill me if that is what you are going to do. This pansy-ass dickhandling is not doing either of us any good. If you want to bring it, bring it now and let’s get it over with. If you really mean me no harm, and I didn’t think he did, go, disappear. If I haven’t found you after three years well, you’re better than me. Congratulations, go, enjoy your life underground, but stop pestering me. I was so frustrated I placed a classified ad in our usual section that said his time would come and he would regret this. A bit much when you’re paying by the word, but I was so moved.
As it was, we sent some agents to visit the handful of novelty stores that dealt in spy stuff, including the store he bought them at, but nothing came of it. We never did have an accurate picture of what he looked like. All we had was the ancient pic from when he had been incarcerated back home. He was very good at disguises and he could look like anyone.
I didn’t hear from him for at least a year, maybe longer. I believed he meant no harm because Jesus Christ, he had certainly gotten close enough. If he’s smart enough to use a concealed camera he’s clever enough to use some James Bond-ish method to kill me. I was living by his sufferance, which was difficult to take but, again. if he wanted me dead I’d probably have been gone way earlier.
I didn’t tell the family about the pics of me but the wife and were on the outs by then, anyway. She didn’t want the risks for herself or the kids. It didn’t matter about me. I take risks for a living. I was as accepting of the risks as I was cognizant of them and if I didn’t accept them I would have done something else with my life. But my wife didn’t like the risks and she certainly didn’t like the kids having to share in them, either and she had a point and it caused the problems you would expect. Why couldn’t I find him? Why couldn’t I do something else with my life? I had a degree, there would be other doors open for me. I had options.
Well, I looked into it. I had to. I owed it to my wife and kids. Corporate security offered some possibilities, actually, it offers a lot of possibilities nowadays, and so did teaching, but corporate security is 90 percent dickhandling and teaching bored me.
Now, if there had been a credible threat to my family, yeah, maybe I’d be supervising protection for some CEO somewhere. But I’ve been at this a long time and assessing danger and risk is what I do and there wasn’t a credible threat. Not even a non-credible threat.
All I ever wanted to be was a cop. It’s my earliest memory. Long after others outgrew playing cops and robbers, I still wanted to play cop. After I got out of the service, where I was also a cop, it was all I considered doing because I always figured a man isn’t doing himself or his fellow beings any good by going against his grain. What else was I supposed to do? Under these circumstances, I told my wife I would remain a cop. For her part, she acknowledged there wasn’t much of a threat to the kids, but she disagreed with me remaining a cop so she left. I couldn’t really blame her. She was hardly the first cop spouse who fled. It is not an easy life and I’ve long said, only half-jokingly, that when a cop retires their spouse should get a pension, too.
We literally did not have a clue where he was except it was presumed he was in the city. There were the usual halfwit sightings overseas, everywhere from Paris to Finland to Senegal, as well as sightings here in the States and in town. There were a lot initially, but they petered out over time. Plainly he had prepared for this. He had ID, he had money and he had a place to live and you don’t gather that stuff after you’ve gone on the run. You plan for those things in advance and you do it on your own and it would not have surprised me if the Firm knew nothing about these plans.
Sometime after this, I got promoted and I figured, hoped, that would be that. The investigation, such as it was, now belonged to someone else. He worked for me, so the overall responsibility was mine, but the day-to-day aspects, which mainly consisted of giving up all hope, belonged to him. I figured this was the end of it.
I figured wrong.
The second time he scared the crap out of me was when he sent me pics of my kids. Actually, this made me angrier than anything. Enough already. You’ve long made your point. Stop this.
The wife and I were long separated. Like all cops, I try to keep my family out of my professional life, but sometimes there is nothing you can do. The criminal later said he merely searched my last name along with some local schools and bingo, there they were, accomplished students with an official school event coming up and you can’t do much about that. Someone hell-bent on creating mayhem is going to create mayhem.
There are cameras everywhere at the school and we had coverage of him from the time he walked into the time he walked out. There was no way to recognize him. He looked like an old man. Some kid’s grandfather. He came in, wandered around a bit, got pretty close to me, took some pics. Coverage of him ended, though, after he left campus.
You might think his live, you-are-there coverage of me at the amusement park would have scared me but no, it was more exasperation than anything. It had to have been dumb luck we were there at the same time. I could believe that because dumb luck was how we captured him.
My cell vibrated a couple of times and there it was, a pic of me from behind sent by the criminal. This marked the first time in the entire investigation I was certain of his whereabouts. He was in the same amusement park I was.
I looked around. Nothing, no doubt because I was burdened by the fact I was looking for someone by himself. The thought he was part of a group didn’t occur to me and if it had, good luck, because I only had everyone in the park to sort through.
I summoned help. I called the office and told the weekend agent in charge exactly what was happening. She called the fair office and in fairly short order there were security officers milling about. A few minutes later police showed up.
Missed him. We scoped out the video coverage and still nothing. It wasn’t until we showed him the video coverage, more out of curiosity than the presenting of evidence because outside of pestering there really wasn’t a crime involved, that he pointed out himself and the women he was with. He blended in perfectly. As a threesome leaving the park, especially with a prize, they weren’t suspected of anything more than enjoying themselves. It’s not surprising the arriving cops walked right past him.
One of his own turned him in. Some woman, probably a spurned lover. We didn’t really check her out too much. She told us about him and gave us his address, said he was with the Firm and was the suspected ambassador killer we were looking for. It all happened pretty quickly.
The arrest warrant from the original indictment was still good because felony arrest warrants never expire, but we can’t go hooking people up based merely on an anonymous, nighttime call. We sent some agents to tail him and when the description more or less added up I started making arrangements to go get him. They took a bit longer they should have and we weren’t able to move till after 2 am.
We still don’t know who told him we were coming. The Firm, honestly, is very good at what they do. They operate here, of course, but they’ve never really branched out into kidnapping as they have over there. They just run their rackets. It would follow their plants would be difficult to track down. Evidently, he came across the warrant right before we were about to execute it. I suspect because word had made it across the pond that we were moving on someone and had a warrant and someone contacted someone here in the city.
We didn’t miss him by much. I’m pretty good at this and I reckoned when we got to his door he was just getting in his taxi one street over. His front door was unlocked and his bedsheets were still warm. We ran to the back exit, which we should have had covered, of course, and that door was unlocked, too. We searched the alley and between some houses and out to the next street but nothing. A search of the cab companies showed a pick up on that block at the time we showed up, but that, too, led to didley squat. The drop off point was no help. We did our legwork in the area, there were some hotels he could have checked in to, but he was too smart for that. He probably ducked into the subway or caught another cab.
But we did miss him. We followed standard procedure, of course. We flooded the town with fliers and his pic was on TV every hour on the hour. Ports of entry were covered and every hotel front desk clerk in town knew what he looked like.
But we aren’t magicians and we don’t have magic fairy dust to sprinkle. He went underground and I privately thought good luck finding him because he probably planned for this and someone bound and determined not to be found, and who is not stupid, will be very hard to find.
I still have everything he ever sent me. Had we never found him I probably would have tossed it or donated it to the Museum of Police Failure, but now that we have him it is very satisfying to have.