The Telephone Killer by Paul J. Stam

A local television station is the link between a murderer and his victims. But why is he killing seemingly random people? An insurance salesman, a police officer and a hitchhiker; the police cannot connect the victims to each other much less to the killer.

The questions haunt Vince Williams as he takes charge of the task force set up to stop the serial killer. When the team comes too close to answers, the killer makes a bold and very personal move against Vince. As Vince races to find the killer and rescue his fiancé, he is haunted by the killer’s calm promise to destroy the woman Vince loves. Vince will do anything to save her. Anything.

Chapter One

“KWBD Newsroom, Ralph Moore speaking.” He wasn’t happy about being assigned to answer the phone. He was a reporter, not a receptionist.

“Ah, Mr. Moore. I recognize your voice. I just want to say how much I appreciate your reporting. You are the best reporter KWBD has. By the way, Mr. Moore, what time does the Newsroom clock indicate?” the man spoke softly. His voice was low, melodious, cultured, and captivating. There was something about the voice and the fact the man had complimented him that made Ralph look at the clock and answer him.

“Nine twenty-three,” Ralph said, wondering why he was answering the man.

“Good! Our time pieces concur then, which means that in thirty-seven minutes, or at ten o’clock this morning, if everything goes as I have planned, there will be a sizable explosion in the downtown area resulting in considerable property damage and hopefully significant injury and loss of life. Because you are the station with the lowest ratings, I’m giving you the scoop on this,” the caller said and hung up.

Ralph sat there for just an instant debating whether or not the call was a hoax and then decided even if it was a prank, it was a terroristic threat and that was a crime. He dialed 911.

“This is Ralph Moore at KWBD. I just got a call about a bomb threat,” he said when the operator answered.

“One moment please and I’ll transfer your call to the police,” said the operator.

A police officer came on and identified himself. “A bomb threat to the station?”

“No,” said Ralph. “As best I can remember, the man said the bomb would go off somewhere downtown at exactly ten this morning. He said there would be lots of property damage and he hoped people would get hurt.”

“Was there anything else?” the officer asked.

“Well, he asked what time it was.”

“Did it at all sound as though the threat was against the station?”

“No. He said downtown and we’re not really downtown.”

“Okay. We’ll be right on it. Don’t go away, Mr. Moore. We may want to talk with you some more,” the officer said and the line went dead.

Two detectives showed up at the Newsroom within seven minutes to talk to Ralph about the call. Other officers rushed to position bomb squads and swat teams as inconspicuously as possible around the downtown area. Explosive sniffing dogs went through the most congested buildings and streets. The officers wanted to keep everything very low key.

The Mayor, the Police Chief, the Direct of Civil Defense, and the state Director of Homeland Security all agreed the threat seemed indefinite but would be taken seriously, but without warning the public. They could not possibly evacuate the whole downtown area in a safe and orderly fashion in twenty minutes. If they were to tell the public about the threat, there would probably be more loss of life due to the panic than if there really was a bomb.

When the detectives left, Ralph considered calling his wife. The authorities asked the station not to make any broadcasts about the threat or call friends and family. There were those who still called relatives who worked downtown, advising them to get out of the area. Ralph didn’t like his colleagues disobeying instructions. He was a law-abiding citizen who never exceeded the speed limit except accidentally.

Ralph’s wife worked on the nineteenth floor of the First National Bank Building and he was hoping the bomb would be placed on the eighteenth floor, directly under her office. He hoped she would be one of those killed in the explosion. He would be free from her and be able to collect on the $100,000 life insurance policy they had on each other with a double indemnity clause that would get him $200,000. He couldn’t be that lucky, but it was pleasant to think of her being killed.

* * *

At nine forty-five, Ferus Vitium pulled into a four-level parking ramp a block away from Delany’s Pub. He was a slim man with steely gray eyes. Despite a calm and controlled demeanor, his heart had that wonderfully warm increased tempo of excitement. In the pit of his stomach was that exciting flutter which he always felt when someone was about to get what they deserved.

At a nearby café he slipped into a seat by a window where he could see the corner where Delany’s Pub was located and ordered a cup of coffee and whole-wheat toast. Delany’s was the place where all the true Irish gathered on St. Patrick’s Day for green beer and Irish stew. It was a two-hundred-year-old, red stone building on the fringe of the skyscraper area and two blocks from the picturesque waterfront. Delany’s was on the list of historic buildings and was maintained in the original style and furnishings. In the restrooms, the partitions between the booths were New England marble. The toilets were the old-fashioned kind with a varnished oak box around the copper water tank attached high up on the wall with a chain and oak handle one pulled to flush the toilet.

At exactly one minute and thirty-two seconds past ten, there was an explosion in Delany’s Pub. When the fire was put out and the investigation completed, the bomb squad determined the device had been placed in the water tank of one of the toilets. It had been enclosed in a plastic container to protect it from the water. It did not affect the function of the toilet, except to reduce the flow of water when the toilet was flushed. It was a crude device of dynamite with a simple twelve-hour timer, which meant it had to have been put there after ten o’clock the night before.

The real damage occurred when the explosion broke through the wall to the kitchen on the other side, breaking the gas lines and igniting the gas. The dishwater was killed, and the cook and a helper each suffered second and third degree burns. Others suffered injury from flying debris, but most of the customers and employees got out safely.

The six o’clock news mentioned the death and the injuries, but not many people personally knew those people, whereas everyone knew Delaney’s. There was more genuine regret over the destruction of Delany’s Pub than about the people.

* * *

“Do you mean to tell me you knew it was going to happen and you didn’t call to warn me?” Jessica Moore sat leaning forward tensely in her chair. Her tone of voice and the arch of her back told Ralph exactly how angry she was.

Jessica was a beautiful woman. Many strangers would guess her to be a runway model rather than a CPA in the accounting firm of Banning, Banning and Devon. She had black hair, which she wore fairly long to frame her very white complexion and set off her blue eyes. Her unique coloring always attracted attention. But there were times when the blue eyes could be menacingly cold.

“I couldn’t call you, Jessie. The police wouldn’t let any of us at the studio call out.”

“If you really wanted to call you could have found a way to do it. You could have gone to the bathroom and used your cell phone or something.”

“And what would you have done, left work and come home?”

“Maybe. But that’s not the point. The point is you were not in the least bit concerned about my safety.”

“I was concerned about your safety which was exactly the reason I didn’t call you. I knew you were safer staying right where you were.”

“How could you know that? You didn’t know where the bomb was. It was downtown where I was. But that didn’t matter to you because you weren’t downtown. You were safe in your studio across from the shopping center. If the caller had said the bomb was in the shopping center I’ll bet you would have gotten your ass out of there.”

He didn’t like these arguments. He didn’t like arguments of any kind. They saw so little of each other their life together was acceptable most of the time, but there were times when they argued that he knew he would kill her if he thought he could get away with it. He was very glad when the phone started ringing, interrupting their argument.

She reached over and very deliberately pushed the speaker button. The way she pushed the button was like she was squishing a bug. ‟Hello,” she said, very sweetly.

‟Mrs. Moore, may I speak to Mr. Moore, please?” the voice asked.

‟He’s busy right now. If you leave your name and number I’ll have him call you back.”

‟I’m afraid that would be inadvisable. I talked to your husband this morning about a bomb I had set and I just wanted to follow up on our earlier conversation.”

She turned to look at her husband and the expression on her face was a combination of both fear and awe. She turned back to talk to the speaker phone and rather meekly said, ‟Just a minute, I’ll get him.”

‟This is Ralph Moore,” he said moving closer to the phone.

‟I hope I’m not interrupting anything important, such as dinner.”

‟No, my wife and I were just talking,” he said, looking toward Jessica.

‟That is very commendable. So few husbands and wives talk any more. Communication is very important, that’s why I’m calling you.” He spoke in that low, controlled, reassuring voice Ralph heard that morning. ‟You are going to be the means by which I communicate with the authorities. Through you I am going to tell them when I’m going to kill someone and from time to time I will give them clues as to who I am. Let me say this. No two crimes will be the same. I like variety, don’t you?” There was a slight laugh in his voice when he said that. ‟The other thing is there will be no pattern of crimes with which the authorities can work.”

‟Why?”

‟The why of it, of course. Everyone wants to know the motive. Well, let’s just say I bombed Delany’s because I like the English and I don’t like the Irish.”

‟No. I mean why me?”

‟Oh, that why. Because I like you, Mr. Moore. You and your station are going to know everything I do before anyone else. If you’re smart you will work it so people will be listening to your station just in case you have a special bulletin about something I’m about to do. Now I realize this is going to create some inconveniences. For example, the police are going to want to put a tap on your phone to record all the things I say to you. Please convey to Mrs. Moore my sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may cause her,” the voice said soothingly.

‟Oh, that’s all right,” Jessica blurted out afraid of angering the caller.

‟I see we are on a speaker phone. Well, that’s good. Saves you having to tell your wife what we talked about, doesn’t it, Ralph.”

He heard the click of the caller hanging up ‟I guess I’d better call the police and tell them about this,” he said.

‟Not now, Ralph. Call them in the morning. I don’t want some cops running around here asking questions until all hours of the night.”

‟Detective Sloan said I was to call him immediately if I got another call, even if it was the middle of the night. He gave me his home number.”

She had a resigned look on her beautiful face and said, ‟You’re such a wimp, Ralph. You think you have to do everything the cops tell you. Maybe you should ask Dr. Aspen why you’re such a wimp.” She was about to say something more, but was interrupted by the ringing of the phone.

He pushed the speaker button and said, ‟Hello.”

‟I forgot to mention, Mr. Moore, you don’t have to let the police into your house to listen in on your phone. They have all kinds of equipment now-days to do it from outside the house. The only reason for them wanting to be inside the house is so they can coach you as to what to say and what to ask each time I call. It doesn’t make any difference to me.

‟Now their psychiatrists will tell you the reason I am telling you all this, and through you them, is because I want to be stopped. That is not it at all. The reason I am telling someone is because I am smarter than all the police departments and their psychiatrists put together. I can tell them what I’m going to do before I do it and they still will never catch me. Be sure to tell them I told you that.” There was chuckling in the melodious voice at the end just before he hung up.

‟I have to call Sloan and tell him about these two calls,” Ralph said as he pressed the disconnect button and then got up to get the card Sloan had given him with the telephone numbers on it.

She turned her head looking at him and nodded. ‟If the police don’t catch him soon and he keeps calling us we could become famous, couldn’t we?”

‟Yes, I suppose so.”

‟We should have taped those two calls. From now on, we have to keep recordings of every call we get and keep notes of everything we do, Ralph. When it’s all over you could write a book or we could sell our story to some TV show,” she said, excitedly getting up to go to find the tape recorder. ‟Don’t call Sloan until we have the recorder set up, Ralph. Tomorrow I’m going to buy a good, voice-activated recorder.”

***

At age 13 Paul hunted big game in Africa with his father, not as a sport but to provide food for the station. He’s had a leopard’s face six inches from his own in the middle of the night where the only thing protecting him was the mosquito net. He has single handedly sailed a 38 foot ketch from Tahiti to Hawaii. Another time with only his wife and 13-year-old son on board, he sailed their 42 foot cutter through a hurricane.

Paul has been a construction worker (while going to college),a sailboat skipper, and university teacher and administrator before and after his sailing days. Paul is now retired and lives in Hawaii where he spends a lot of time on the potter’s wheel making bowls and mugs and at the computer writing.

Click here to buy: The Telephone Killer

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