Momentum By Valerie Bradley-Holliday
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By Valerie Bradley-Holliday
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Copyright © 2005 by Valerie Bradley-Holliday
A good friend told me fear is simply false expectations appearing real. In this case, she was wrong. While looking through the cafe doors, my spine tingled as the blood left my head. If any expectation existed, it was wiped clean from my mind at that moment. My eyes scanned the scene. People were slumped in chairs or lying on the floor. To a glancing eye this would have looked like the after effects of a huge party, with everyone hung over and trying to sleep it off.
But these people were motionless with their torsos slumped awkwardly over tables and counters. The eyes of the dead stared out in an incredulous, doubting look. Their eyes begged the question: How could this happen to me? Their swollen faces attested to the passage of time. Their tinged blue lips suggested poisoning.
What is this chemical weapon that is in the hands of a killer? This question gnawed at my brain, unrelenting. The cook made the call. Thankfully, the wait staff is still alive. Had anyone of them not stuck to the Universal Precautions and decided not to use gloves, they would have joined their customers in this macabre death scene.
"What do you think Sania?" "What happened here? John Gillispie, Chief of Police's needling questions kept company with her earlier question, magnifying her sense of dread.
Quietly, in respect to people whose meaningless death was mocked by the sunshine streaming through colorful curtains to light on table clothes and bright tableware, I whispered "Momentum."
John Gillipsie was Chief of Police, chief skeptic, and chief pain-in-the-butt from Sania's perspective.
Suddenly, John blurted out "he's never done anything like this before, of this, this . . . magnitude."
"No," Sania whispered. "This killer's name makes a clear statement. The type of victim doesn't matter, this is about accumulation. Momentum has been killing people off at an exponential rate to the power of two starting from the second set of victims."
"How do you know that?" John asked.
"I've been paying attention." Sania flatly intoned.
"How can you tease out what is one of Momentum's killings and what isn't?" John unceasingly picked at Sania's brains.
Sania, her frustration mounting, said: "Hasn't it been apparent to you? It's so obvious! Their eyes, John, their eyes are always open and there is never any sign of struggle. Even though each group of victims has been killed differently, two factors always remain: all their eyes are open and lack of struggle."
"My God," John gasped, "there are sixteen people in this room. The next time Momentum kills, there will be 256 people. John ground his fists into his tired eyes out of frustration and anger.
"John, John," Sania said soothingly while patting his huge back. Her head cranked back as she strained to look in his eyes.
"As long as I live, there won't be a 'next time.'" John practically knelt to look at Sania face-to-face.
"I have known you all my life. I remember mom letting me hold you in my arms. I know when you are tired, go home Sania."
"As much as I hate this, I have to survey the scene. Leave the lab technician. I will see you in the morning and she cuffed him in the arm with all her might."
"Ouch, slugger! I can't leave you alone here. I’ll leave a couple of guys posted." John resumed his protective role. Sania knew that she would have to tell her adoptive brother the disappointing news.
"Returning to the scene of a crime is not Momentum's way, and if you carefully scrutinize criminal arrests, that isn't most criminals way. Momentum, he or she, operates like the wind by sweeping in and sweeping out. Leaving those officers here will only put them in unnecessary harm's way against an enemy they will never see."
Suddenly, Sania's mind kicked into high gear. The clues in the room caused her mind to snap to attention.
"John, order everyone out of here. Have all the employees decontaminated. As much as you don't like it John, I want the FBI in on this."
"Decontaminated, what . . .? John's mind just didn't shift gears that fast.
"Yes, and quickly, John! I will call ahead at the hospital." Unclipping her cell phone, Sania speed dialed her friend Jordan. "Jordan, this is Sania, I have roughly 40 people coming to you to be treated for Soman exposure."
"Sania, is this a joke?" A small voice sounded through the phone.
"I'm not laughing Jordan. No, Jordan," Sania was adamant now, "and if you see what I am looking at you'd know just how unfunny this is."
"More tinny noise coming through the cell phone receiver, Sania nodded her affirmative. Good guy. Jordan, I have to sign off."
"Wow, okay. Jordan assured, "we'll be waiting in our biochemical/biohazard suits."
Sania commanded, "John where are we at with the FBI?"
"They regret to inform me," John said as if a recording, that they can not spare people due to large scale terrorists threats in the Washington, DC." John looked whipped. "They did offer one solution. They offered to send Cooper Sharpton."
No one in the FBI wanted to work with Cooper Sharpton because they either ended up dead or disappeared. Sharpton, Shar for short, had a reputation as a renegade. The FBI was always pawning him off to the police. Sania, had the reputation to have been the only surviving partner that Shar ever had. So, to the FBI, Shar was the perfect solution. John looked up with his brotherly face and was prepared to say something.
"Don’t." Sania warned. "Just tell me his flight number and when he’s landing."
After giving her the information, John became racked with coughs that doubled him over.
Sania flipped her phone open, "Jordan, I have another customer for you—John." Damn, Sania thought to herself, I am going to need a biohazard suit to come back in here and check things out.
"Sania," Jordan said in a lilting voice, "I will have my latest Paris design waiting for you."
"Thanks Jordan." Sania ventured to ask her friend, who also was apparently a mind reader, a question. "Jordan, what do you think of my working with Shar again."
During the long pause that followed, Sania could picture Jordan posed there his finger on his chin as if he was contemplating some major discovery, his high velocity mind going through all the scenarios.
"Whew," Jordan responded.
"Is that it? Is that all you have to say Jordan?" Sania said.
"Sania, I think that you should make that decision." Jordan, diplomatic and friendly, always said the right thing.
At the airport, Sania spotted Shar waiting in the airport foyer, her heeled-shoes clipping a brisk staccato on the floor as she made her way over to him.
"Shar, don’t give me that look, this is strictly business." Sania’s tone was sharp.
"Okay," Shar straightened up and adjusted his tie, his eyes still twinkling, "Sharpton reporting for duty?"
His huge framed dwarfed Sania’s. Barely concealed muscles let their presence be known, even under his suit. Shar’s face sported a scar that went from his right ear to his jaw line. The scar added character to his face, like a warrior mark. His dark hair in sharp contrast to his bright green eyes had a startling, utterly attractive effect. And he knew this.
"You never turn off the charm do you?" Sania feigned disgust.
"Rarely," Shar said, "with a great smile on his face."
Sania studied him. His face is a mask of tired and tragedy mixed together. He’s been through something really bad this time. The circles under his eyes, the lines around his mouth and the stubble on his face spoke volumes. We are so different. Sania couldn’t stop the thoughts from flooding her mind.
He went straight through the FBI academy, strictly by the book. The FBI didn’t want me, they just wanted my mind. They didn’t like the psychological finding on me. I barely passed their doctors’ medical exams. I was just within inches of weight and height requirements.
You name it, Shar was "the man" and I wasn’t. So the police department, in the eyes of others at the bureau, was a poor second choice. I do not fit at the police department either. As a police woman, I am taunted by men and women, their most common line being: "You can work in business making millions, you could be in academics and business like that Gustav, whatever his name is guy.’
"What’s the matter?" Shar noticed Sania’s face turn downcast, then hard. Why does this always happen when we meet, Shar thought, she must hate me deep on the inside.
"Sania, you look like you could use a hug." Shar’s baritone, like liquid silk, covered her. Noticing the sensation his voice caused, pulled Sania out of her reverie. Leave it to Shar to come up with a corny, over used expression to cheer me up, Sania thought.
"You do too, big guy." Despite the long ride, he smelled nice, clean and very masculine.
"Let’s get out of here," Shar, without my permission which is so typical, enveloped my hand in his. Rather than battle nature, I leaned into his large frame. As Shar walked, I was swept along with him and the crowds of people parted around us like waves. Leaving a wake of people behind us, Shar was like a flagship and I his dingy. At this moment, I didn’t care if I thought of myself in those terms as long as it lessened my anxiety. We made it to the car and I was grateful.
"It’s still bad isn’t it, the agoraphobia? Shar’s brows creased deeply emphasizing his concern.
"Yes, I said faintly, shocked at my own timidity. When I got to the car, I pulled away from him. "I’ll drive."
"Whoa, okay." Shar raised his hands up and away from me. "What say, we stop on the way, I am in the mood for a big Cannibal steak, fried lightly so it’s steaming.
"No, and what you just said nauseates me, Shar."
Shar really knows how to push my buttons, when we were on our first assignment he did it as a way of keeping us alert. Now, I think he purely enjoyed himself getting a rise out of me.
"Shar chuckled, "I can still get a rise out of you."
"You bet. Besides we have got to get down to business when we get back. If I know John, he’s quarantined . . . . Oh no, forgot, he’s . . . .
"What’s the matter, Sania?"
"John’s in the hospital."
The words were cold and left me feeling leaden.
"John’s in the hospital with exposure to Soman."
"Oh my God, Sania. How could that have happened? I thought Soman dissipates?" John asked.
"Yes, it does. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened at the crime scene. I better call work to make sure they cordoned off the whole area." Sania hit a key on her mounted cell phone, "Norm, I make sure that the crime area is completely quarantined.
"It is? Who ordered it. I might have known." Sania gave a slight turn to Shar.
"John ordered it after he was committed to the hospital."
Sania, hit a key and then redialed Jordan. "Hello Jordan, we have to talk business." ‘We have to talk business’ was a cue that Jordan and Sania settled on a long time ago as a signal that personal information or information they did not want to share with others as yet, was strictly forbidden to talk about at the present time. And she definitely did not want Shar to get wind that she had doubts about working with him.
"Jordan, the whole place is quarantined, just me, Shar and Erin, yes Erin, are going to need to go back in there."
"Well, I will have three slamming fashion ensembles waiting for you and payment is that you have to talk to me, exclusively."
Ugh, Sania thought Jordan can be such a menace.
"What did he mean by exclusively?" Shar asked.
Sania, ignoring the true meaning of Shar’s question said, "Oh Jordan is referring to the biohazard suits that he will have waiting for us at the hospital.
"Second question, who’s Erin" Shar said, "Erin sounds young and you know I work alone."
"So Shar, is working with me considered working alone?" I know that I sounded petulant but his vigilante attitude unnerves me at times. And I also know that this is no time to be a vigilante or unnerved, we have to keep our heads or Momentum will destroy us. I looked over at Shar, there was that "be handsome grin" again, which unnerves me in a different way. His teeth fairly glittered and although whatever dark days he spent chasing down America’s most wanted, his dark, rich skin still looked youthful.
"Hey, keep your eyes on the road, Lady!" Shar chuckled.
"It’s Ms. Gillipsie to the likes of you, Mr. Cooper. Shar, you are a welcome sight." I felt tears in my eyes. As usual, I was too emotional, too involved and too close to my work and partner. Just what the FBI’s psychological tests predicted. I hate when the FBI are right, at least about me, I had to smile to myself. My next thought spackled over my curled up lips.
"What’s up, one minute your grinning and the next your down." Shar asked in his attempt to keep up with my moods.
"I have to go to Langley and tell him that I put Erin on the case."
"Great. I knew it not only is Erin young; she is a relative of the mighty Langley. I’ll go with you."
"I was hoping that you would say that Shar. It’s pretty late but you know that old man has a lab in his mansion, like a mad scientist. So, he’s probably up tinkering with something." Sania stated.
When we pulled up to Langley’s gate, we could still see the lights on. I walked up to the voice box and was greeted by an electronic female voice. "Dr. Langley cannot be disturbed at this hour. Come back tomorrow. Click."
I dialed back. Having been Langley’s student in the past, I knew how to use a voice that would get his attention. "Look, I know that you’re there Dr. Langley, it’s about Erin."
Following a buzz and then a click, the front gates swung open. Dr. Langley’s voice sounded through the voice box.
"Hello Dr. Gillispie, I am in my study. My butler’s retired for the evening so you will have to show yourselves in. We drove up to the front door and let ourselves in. On the outside everything looked old, stately. On the inside everything was high tech. The old man loved "his toys." Dr. Langley even had mobile walkways installed up and down hallways. We went into his study directed by pulsing lights on both sides of the hallway. His study was extremely dark. Shar and I stuck close together. The door clicked behind us leaving us in utter darkness. Then we heard a whirring sound behind us. We turned quickly around and there was an outline of a figure blacker than the surrounding darkness of the room. The person had goggles on which emitted the whirring sound and had green strobe lights around the rims.
"What the hell?" Shar blurted out.
Shar expressed my sentiments exactly.
"No need to cuss, Mr. Cooper. It’s just me." Langley stated nonchalantly. "Lights on."
I was blinded momentarily. Then I got a closer look at the goggles.
"Do you like them," Langley asked me with marked enthusiasm.
"These are night vision goggles, I market a cheaper variety and the kids just love them. As I consider Langley’s mental condition, I can’t help but note that he is dressed completely in black. He’s thick, white hair stands out in tuffs all over his head. He almost looks maniacal, no obsessed, is a better word. He flits from one area of the room to the other and bombards us with unceasing talk, specifically minutiae about how he transformed the military goggles he was wearing into a usable version for the kids. Specifically, how his greatest hobby was transforming his work for the military and other government agencies into toys for kids, like a warped Santa Claus. Everything about Dr. Langley elicits a question, but he hates being asked anything. He prefers to try to anticipate what a person might say and he is usually wrong.
Empathy, for all of Gustav’s genius, is where he lags well behind the rest of us. "So, I imagine you’re here to tell me that Erin is far too brilliant to be wasting her God given talents on a career in the police force. Whatever possessed her to decide to go there is beyond me?"
Whatever possessed her indeed? I know, I think to myself. Erin has a big heart but Gustav can’t see it even though that’s why he loves her. She may have his brain but she has her dad’s heart. Gustav, senior, never appreciated his son much. Gustav, junior, was a big bear of a man with a hearty laugh that totally confounded his father. I use to visit to watch the two of them interact. Their interaction would remind me of an atom. Gustav, senior, was an electron, always trying to duck and dodge his son’s gregariousness, but being drawn into his foolish pranks anyway. Gustav, junior, was the proton, all fiery and vigorous. He lavished his love on everyone. He was a brilliant psychiatrist much to his father’s disappointment. Until confronted by an adult son, Gustav never wanted to admit that his son did not want to be like him. And Erin was their little neutron, lively like her father but studious like her dear poppy. And thankfully, for my sake, she did not inherit Grandpa’s flakiness. She’s not unconventional like Langley senior, but I know Erin is going to be hard to handle in the field. I knew it and I was guilty for using her the way the FBI and police used me—I needed her mind not her experience. She was fresh and really didn’t know anything about the field. At least my brief stint at the FBI did more for me regarding learning to work in the field, then just providing me with the opportunity to meet the "charming" Cooper Sharpton. Just as I thought of him, I turned to look and found him smiling at me.
"What are you grinning at?"
"Well, you seem a little nervous Sania. You, who use to tell me, ‘the big man’ (he put his fingers up to emphasize the quotes—yet another one of his infuriating gestures) "puts his pants on like everyone else."
"Okay Shar. This is his granddaughter we are talking about and get this, she isn’t field ready." I glance over at Langley to see if our conversation has drawn his attention, unsurprisingly, it has not. He’s still prattling on about those goggles.
"Whoa, you didn’t tell me this Sania."
"Well, I am telling you Shar!"
"I can’t be a party to this, not on my watch, not this time!"
"Shar, I don’t have a choice."
"You do Sania, pick someone else. Please." Shar’s green eyes darkened and he reached out a hand and placed it gently on my shoulder. Shar always places his hand on your shoulder as if he is trying to make a strong emotional connection. At least the FBI didn’t drill that out of him. Shar still had all these little visual cues. If he acknowledges you, but does not like you, he gives curt little head nods. He tried doing that to me and I pointed out what he was doing and told him flatly that I did not like it. Actually, I wasn’t that kind, I told him that he looked like a doggy, bobble head that people put on display in the rear windows of their cars. He stopped doing that "nod" thing, at least with me.
"Sania," Shar pleaded.
With Shar and Erin both on my hands, I am way over my head here. I have to try and tame a maverick. I have to try and train a lamb. And do all this while catching a killer.
"Sania," Shar said in a constricted voice, "quit day dreaming.
Dr. Langley here has switched gears on us and has been talking to me about one of his other hobbies when he travels. He studies the effects of the parasitoid ciliates on Krill. Shar gave me a look of desperation that pleaded for me to save him. Obviously, Shar’s curt head nods were completely lost on Gustav.
I held up my hand and said, "Dr. Langley, its about Erin."
"Yes, do tell me about Erin. Come sit here, Sania. What is it about Erin? Did she get promoted out of that hell hole, which you call a police lab?"
"No, I am taking her into the field." No sense of postponing the inevitable, I am glad I told him flat out, now here comes the explosion. The blood rose so quickly in Langley’s face that I thought he was going have a heart attack. His carotid artery now stood out in stark contrast to his surrounding skin and he also had a vein I now discovered on his face that appeared to be ready to burst. It always helped me to focus on the details of a person before they were ready to unload their anger on me.
"Outrageous! You, Sania of all people have the audacity to suggest such a thing for my Erin! How dare you!" Spittle flew out of his mouth with the words. I also noticed in a detached way that his fists were balled up and he was moving toward me. I have never in my life known this man to be physically threatening, but the way he looked at this moment in the twilight of the room, I almost felt compelled to draw my semi-automatic pistol.
"Doctor, I am not suggesting it. Erin is going. She’s put in her paper work several times for a transfer to my department. I have managed time after time to argue that we needed her skills more in the lab. It has been the only way I had to justify our keeping her there."
"Well, argue some more, Sania." Gustav moved in like a bull moose. Despite his age and size, he was agile. He almost laid his hand on Sania but saw her hand resting lightly on her magnum.
"I’m warning you, Sania, she’s my ward." He clenched and unclenched his fists in utter frustration. Suddenly his shoulders slumped and he looked puny in his massive library. Gustav was dwarfed by the high ceilings and the oversized, blood red leather furniture. The soft light, meant to comfort and provide peace, left his now pale face looking jaundiced. Sania felt sorry for him.
"No, she’s not your ward and she has not been for two years. She has been through all the training." In the back of my mind, I kept hoping, for once, Langley would overlook the obvious. Not a chance.
"She’s been trained," Dr. Langley said, "but not in the field." Okay, I’m thinking this old man might have a coronary. I swear that I can see his white hairs raise up on his head and neck. He is standing so close to me, I can count the pores in his face.
"You’ve gone too far Sania. I will have your badge for this."
"Not likely, Shar piped up. Remember, her brother is the Chief of Police. Dr. Langley, like a child in the throws of frustration, started biting the knuckles on his right hand. Now all the blood was draining down his neck and I think leaking into his shoes. He stood there, shocked at his own vulgar emotions.
"Sania, I do apologize. He reached out his big hands and clasped both of mine. Please forgive me. Mr. Cooper told me that your brother is very ill. I have been a rotten host. Please, both of you have a seat. I want to start over."
"Dr. Langley, we haven’t got time to . . . ." Shar reached out and put his hand on my shoulder to shut me up. Dr. Langley went out and returned with a haphazard stack of cookies, chocolate and fruit and a pot of strong, aromatic black tea.
"I am grateful for this—Shar and I have not had a chance to eat anything. Thank you."
"You see I can’t possibly let you use Erin on this case."
"Dr. Langley, I tried to put it as gently as I could. I’m here, we’re here, I gestured to Shar, to let you know that’s all. It isn’t an issue of your permission, Erin made her choices and I am just honoring them."
"Just honoring them, you say." Langley’s brow furrowed. "I know this is going to be bad." At seeing Langley’s face, Shar visibly cringed. As anyone who ever experienced one of Langley’s lectures and lived. Shar begin to speak up. "We will provide her with all the best . . . ."
"Shut up, Mr. Cooper. I saw what your protection consists of. Look what it did for Sania. He pointed at the scar on my chest as if he could see it through my blouse. Langley knew how to strike low blows and this was a low blow for Shar. What Langley did not know was Shar had many more scars on him as he fought tooth and nail to save me from my own hardheadedness. I was the one who wanted to spearhead that fruitless drug operation that went from sour to bad to critical in a matter of minutes. No one truly had time to react properly and a lot of bad guys, cops and innocents died that day. It was a mini Armageddon no one who lived through it wanted to think about. I looked at Shar’s eyes and they were darkened by tears. Damn, Langley could be cruel. Before I knew it, Langley grabbed my arm and pulled my sleeve back.
"Is this your idea of protection, Mr. Cooper." He exposed the burn scars up and down my arm. "That psycho Mitchem had her for ‘only two days,’ before you shot and killed him. Isn’t that right Mr. Cooper?"
I thought, why did he have to use the Shar’s words against him?
"You sir, have nothing to say to me. I am sorry Sania but you don’t seem to be hearing me. I don’t want Erin involved!" I pulled my sleeve down. Fighting down my emotions, I addressed Langley.
"Dr. Langley, Gustav, as I said before, it is totally out of our hands. Erin put in her transfer to our unit."
"You mean she’s totally leaving the lab?" Langley was incredulous.
Not finished speaking, I keep talking. "I am not saying that I don’t need her. I do. I have 256 people counting on me. Momentum is killing people by the power of two. His next number is 256. We have to stop him before he reaches this number because the next number is 65,536 thousand." That could be a whole town.
Shar looked at me and said, how do you know that? Maybe its . . . ."
I put my hand up. "Shar, I am not in the mood to argue mathematical permutations with you. I’m getting out of here."
"Wait, Sania. I’m sorry." I knew he was desperate and his poor attempt at hurting me and Shar into getting us to take Erin off the case had given me a migraine. Besides, I had no time for sentiment.
"Save it Dr. Langley. If you want to discuss Erin’s career choices, do it with her. Weak with exhaustion, I let Shar drive although I could tell that he was dealing with jet lag from his flight. "We are going directly to the crime site. We will meet Erin there." My brain was screaming and my mouth felt like it was full of paste.
"Don’t you think you should get some rest," Shar looked deeply concerned.
"No. The crime site was cold this morning, who knows what traces are left and it is supposed to rain."
"Let’s get there," Shar agreed. "Do you think Erin will wait for us."
"I think Erin will want to go back to the lab, permanently."
"The crime scenes that bad?" Sania you know that I have seen bad.
"Yes. And worse, I believe Momentum has Schizoid Personality Disorder not Antisocial Personality Disorder, like the police keep pushing. We have tried baiting, which typically works with people with Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), but Momentum has not respond in anyway. With Momentum there is no marked sense of purpose to the killings that criminals with APD have, I believe people with APD derive intense pleasure from killing their victims. But Momentum’s murders are mechanical, a means to some unknown end that I haven’t determined."
Shar ever the skeptic. "So, what you are telling me is mostly speculation?"
"Shar, it is all speculation. I will call it conjecture. Here is what I think."
"I hate monologue," I smile faintly at Shar to indicate a mild jest. "Momentum is a chemical technician. I believe he or she works in close contact with chemists and chemical engineers. I think Momentum works in an experimental laboratory in which he or she is entrusted to perform a variety of procedures. Here, Momentum works alone. He or she can be cold and emotionless passing without much notice. In fact, the police laboratory technician fits the profile for a schizoid personality disorder. I would go with APD but some things just do not mesh completely. Credence for the profile of a person with SPD is identifiers that this person is introspective, solitary, and may lack any social activities or friends. And every one of our techniques that we have used with individuals with APD has failed with Momentum. We can’t seem to draw Momentum out. SPD meets the criteria for a disordered person and it fits that this type of person would not respond to praise or criticism. What is shocking but most apparent at the murder scene is Momentum’s insensitivity to social norms. Momentums’ detachment to the victims is complete, even to the opening of the eyes. Shar this is what disturbs me the most. The use of the eyes to convey something, at first glance it seems very personal. But it all seems mechanical, like Momentum derives no pleasure from the act—methodical. . . ." I start drumming the fingers of my right hand on the dashboard as I drive this annoying habit even bugs me but I always start doing that when I just can’t make things mesh. We arrive in front of the Café. "Shar, we have to suit up. Our mobility won’t be good."
"Sania, what, what the . . . .," Shar is immediately on edge.
"Here is your biohazard suit, we can’t take any chances." Quickly, my attention is drawn to a person in a biohazard suit retching by the curbside. Oh, wonder of wonders, it’s Erin. I clap Erin on the back to get her attention.
"Erin, this is Mr. Cooper Sharpton, Shar for short."
"Hello Erin." Shar digs down in his pocket, "here’s a breath mint."
Erin turned from just plain red to a deep beet red.
"Nice Shar, nice." I say, "Always the gentleman." I turned to Erin. "Erin, when you’re ready, we all have to go back in. I would say that you should have waited for us but done is done."
Still looking wretched, Erin spoke up. "I think that I found some things, but I want to follow your walk through."
Shar pulled me roughly aside. "Tough little cookie, I will give her that."
"Well Shar, let’s suit up." When we came back, Erin looked more composed.
"Ready," I asked.
"Ready," Erin said meekly.
I address Erin and Shar. "First, let’s go to the back of the restaurant. I believe Momentum checked this place out many times before deciding on its location."
Erin piped up. She excitedly added, "I found something." Erin excitedly sweeps her flash light by the threshold of the backdoor. "What is that dark thing, it looks like a nut."
"Good job Sania! I am thinking is Erin for real, talking to me like this. I have to smile. "It’s a Betel nut or rather a seed. Its proper name is the Areco Catecha and it is chewed for mild stimulation and feelings of well being usually after a meal."
"Now, I am excited. "How many shops sell Betel nuts?"
"Thanks to Erin, we are narrowing Momentum’s field of play. Boy, are we on a roll!" Shar smirks like an adolescent.
Erin stood stony and silent. The last thing I wanted.
"Shar, stop it. Erin’s is not use to your type of humor."
"Humor? Didn’t you say yourself, Momentum may be a Schizoid Personality, they don’t have relationships period with anyone except a first degree relative. I can’t see this person walking into a shop on a regular basis."
"Shar, I told you that all I had was conjectured maybe this person has a different form of APD. I don’t care, I just want to catch Momentum before anyone else dies.
Shar diverts his attention back to Erin. "So, what’s the chances of finding that haystack Erin?"
Erin looked directly at Shar. "The Betel nut comes from a palm tree native to Malaysia and it is grown in China, India and the Phillipines. But here in the United States in this city, I can almost guarantee it is sold at one or two head shops on the North side of town but they won’t admit it."
I didn’t ask but I sure wanted to know how Erin knew.
"Now comes the hard part, when we go in let’s make a thorough sweep of the room. Momentum walked through the back here. He hesitated at the threshold, momentarily his hand rested here on the door jam. Notice the slope of the dust—but of course no clear print. Momentum is relatively tall unless he or she has big feet. I wish that I could tell from the shoes prints but the lab informed me that they were tennis shoes, probably new because there were no distinctive marks. Just like Momentums other crime scenes, apparently money is no object."
Shar looked like a dog whose hackles go up. "I see what you mean about the eyes. All staring, yet what are they looking at? Something else puzzles me, the cooks, the waitresses. Why are they alive and how did the killer get in and out without their noticing?"
I started to open my mouth and Erin interjected, "I can answer that rather easily. Look up—clear, plastic tubing."
"Yes," I added, "some gas was piped in. But if a gas was used, how did the sixteen people manage to ingest Soman laced water and then die? Somewhere, some how, Momentum was watching. Check the lights, the vents, the outlets, there may be cameras hidden. He or She watched until each of these victims, young and old, ingested the poison and then quickly introduced the gas."
"Dr. Gillispie," Erin nudged me, "I just noticed something else. Their heads, their heads are all turned to the East." "That’s what I couldn’t place earlier."
I blame it on fatigue but I noticed Momentum was simply using the bodies with no remorse and it repulsed me. "I have to go back and review the files and look at the position of the bodies. I’m not looking forward to this. "Erin, I want your help, it will give you a brief respite, well-deserved respite from the field." Shar didn’t hear. He was busy pulling open a vent panel.
"What did you find Shar, a camera?"
"Sania, look at this. What is it?" Shar, who pulls out a personal digital assistance with a small video screen.
"I don’t want to view this."
"Nor, do I." Shar said, flatly.
"You do the honors, Erin." Shar handed the PDA over to her. She pressed the appropriate buttons matter-of-factly. And the tiny screen showed a tall figure covered head to toe in a white burka, only the arms were exposed and hennaed and the nails painted red. The image had the affect intended—haunting. At no moment did the tiny figure cease movement. The hands flowed back and forth in intricate poses.
Shar immediately lost his patience. "What kind of crap, nonsense is this?"
Erin, face intently on the tiny figure, said it is mudras. Mudras in Buddhist art are symbolic postures and gestures. Mudras basically consist of hand gestures and finger postures. Over and over again, the tiny figure made the same gestures in its macabre but ancient dance.
"Well, Erin!" I knew she had more to tell. She had this annoying habit of being so totally engrossed in what she was doing that she neglected her surroundings, not a real good practice if she planned to do field work.
"He or she wants us to know one thing—Kshaya." She said it as if me and Shar knew what the heck she was talking about. I was starting to have a bad, low sugar moment. "Listen Erin, break it down for us!"
"Kishaya, Kishaya--Total dissociation and destruction."
"So, how does this help us understand Momentum?"
"Well, she or he is very complex and has trained in Eastern arts, at least ancient folk dance. Also, mudras go beyond just a dance. Meaning "sign" or "seal" in Sanskrit, mudras have meta-physical significance tying a physical form to the infinite. If anything, this let’s us know that the reason Momentum is killing people is to make his or her imprint on the Nether World, to become immortal and completely apart from this world in a real sense. Keep in mind this is not Buddhist teaching, this is possibly what is going on in Momemtum’s mind."
"So, the more people, the bigger the imprint," I said. Shar and Erin shook their heads in agreement. "That’s simple." I said.
"But . . ., Erin started."
Shar interrupted her. "But why leave this tape and make sure that we find it by taking the time to turn everyone’s face toward it."
Erin almost perceptibly raised her hand. Yes, I was thinking, she is too damn young to be out here. Doesn’t she know this isn’t a class exercise?
"I have two theories," Erin said shyly. "One could be completely unfounded and the other I don’t like to think about."
"Erin, I damn well do not have the energy or the inclination to play 20 questions with you." I was growing weary of her school girl charm but it also could be because the feelings in my empty stomach were over riding my reasoning ability.
"Well, one is that in order to reach Momentum’s Nirvana (Truth), he has to have witnesses. But to me that is not as likely, as maybe, he would like to take the one person along who has almost caught him—you."
"Hmm, so Momentum is demonstrating some APD after all." I looked from Shar to Erin and back. "I can’t do this anymore tonight."
"I know what you mean," Shar agreed. "I see dead people."
"I swear you have got some sick humor Shar," I jabbed him in the ribs with my elbow."Well, this is more than I can take." Erin and Shar looked at me. "Did I say that out loud?" I hate to mention hunger and food under such grizzly conditions but I am famished. The cookies Langley gave us wore off some time ago.
Shar’s stomach, as if on cue, rumbled loudly.
"So, when and where are we going to eat? I know Bankok Gardens.
How about Thai? Erin, you come along, I want to work out our next steps. But before we do that, I want to go get some previous pictures from Momentum’s other crimes. I have a strong feeling that I have missed something important since you pointed out about the Mudras." Alas, the powers of the Western mind overshadowed by that of the East. I never would have seen that.
Erin, modestly, "I lived in India and did some of my early mathematical training there. My grandfather thought it would be important"
"Cheers to dear old granddaddy!" Shar said.
Erin, colored like mad.
I could not stop pushing, Erin. I could not tell if it was a little jealousy or just this mad, big thumb that Momentum had me under. When ever Shar entered the picture, my mind gets a little jumbled and there was the danger.
"Erin, you and I, will go to the evidence room and pick up those pictures. Shar, save us a table at the Bankok. I know that you remember that Thai restaurant." Nope, I figure, its just low blood sugar. Shar is no emotional threat to me anymore.
When Erin and I arrived at the evidence room, we had to traverse several boxes. I always felt claustrophobic in this room but my intent to catch Momentum made my insecurities minor.
Erin, went right to work, pulling out packet after packet, I decided to focus on similar, copycat crimes. Just in case I made a mistake, thinking Momentum was a copycat. With Erin’s information about the Mudra’s burning in my brain, I kept trying to profile Momentum but I could not even pinpoint the gender.
Erin, had one of the packet’s pictures spread out before her. I could see her out of the corner of my eye. Sitting hunched over a table, scouring each one. "Hey Erin, I am going to go get this stuff signed out."
Erin, sat there in the dark contemplating, each picture carefully. Suddenly, her eyes rest on one picture in particular. Her eyebrows raised in disbelief. She quickly pockets the picture.
"Filling out those documents, suck." I say to Erin. She jumped so hard pictures fell to the floor. "You’re jumpy and I am bleary eyed." I do not feel gruff toward her anymore, poor kid. She has been through a lot. She may have helped us on the case with her betel nut discovery and the mudras. At least we are looking for a needle in a smaller haystack.
I pat her on the shoulder. "Come on, let’s go meet Shar. I guarantee the food is very good and after a hot meal we can call it quits for the night."
"Erin, why don’t you drive." I had not slept for nearly 48 hours and Shar who took my car to the restaurant had not slept for almost twice that. Shar and I were both beat.
After leaving the evidence room, Erin and I drove to meet Shar and arrived at the restaurant at noon. As I figured, Shar could not wait and decided to order for all of us. Actually, it looked like he ordered everything on the menu. He had this pleasant, gastronomically correct grin on his face.
Erin, looked ashen. "Okay, if I leave you two."
I guess things were too much for her. "Sure, but meet me early in the morning."
"Sure thing," Erin responded blandly. She was visibly shaking. She left abruptly.
"Shar, what say we call it a night. I can just take out some of the food you ordered.
"Sure, I already paid for it." Shar patted his belly.
Erin, drove well beyond the legal speed limit to her grandfather’s house. The indecent hour did not matter to her grandfather as far as Erin was concerned and she was ringed through the gate immediately.
As soon as she crossed the threshold, she was treated warmly by her grandfather.
"Poppy, I have something to show you. It’s bad, very bad."
"Does this have to do with Sania’s police work?" Dr. Langley asked snidely.
"Yes and no, please sit Poppy!" Erin’s voice was becoming strident with anxiety.
"Erin, you have not called me ‘Poppy’ in years. What is going on? I am getting you out of that police department . . . ." Before Langley could start a tirade, Erin cut him off.
"Kulap!" Erin blurted out.
"Kulap?" Langley asked.
"Kulap, Kulap, Kulap—you know grandfather!" Erin, was almost out of breath.
"Yes, Kulap is Thai for rose. So." Langley was befuddled.
"Kulap Turang," Erin said weakly.
"That strangely effeminate man. Brilliant scientist, though. I respected him and he had such great potential but he died, as we all almost did in that nasty explosion." Langley responded.
"I loved him," Erin stated.
"Well, I did not hate him Erin. He just did not seem right for you." Langley retorted.
Erin dug down in her pocket for the picture she took from the evidence room. "Look."
"If this is one of those nasty crime photos with someone’s guts hanging out, I’ll . . . ." Langley started.
"Shut up! Look, Erin grabbed a magnifying class on. In chairs facing each other, were two neatly arrayed bodies, Momentum’s first victims. But in the background, was a fireplace and on the ledge were several neatly arranged pictures. The pictures all seemed very ordinary, with nothing out of place, but Erin spotted it immediately, in one frame was a picture of Kulap Turang or at least someone who looked similar—the hair was red and long and the face was heavily made up. The resemblance was unmistakable.
"My God!" Langley responded with dawning recognition. "How could he have survived that explosion? We barely did and he was closest to the blast."
"We barely did and maybe he barely did as well." Erin said.
"Let me fill in the gaps." A smooth voice came from a darkened corner of the room.
Langley’s face blanched and he grabbed his desk to keep from falling over.
Erin, stayed—rooted to the spot. Coming out into the light was Turang, or a female form of him. There seemed to be nothing male about him. He moved across the floor liquidly, his high heels softly clicking. He sat in Langley’s chair and crossed his legs.
"Erin, you are so susceptible and pleasant. I have been playing with you for some time using auto-hypnotism. Didn’t you think it at all strange that now, of all times, you decided to get out of the lab and work one of the toughest police cases. You have been my eyes and ears—everyone thinks I am going to attack a school, a business, but I am going to, correction, you are going to kill everyone in the police department with this." He held up a small vial. "Sarin, of course," he said with a smile.
"All eyes will point to you, Erin, since you will be left holding the bag, well vial. You will release this into their ventilation system."
"Why, Kulap?" Erin’s eyes begin to swell with tears.
"In your heart, you know, you must remember—Langley. Langley, your grandfather is a vile man, are you blind to his misdoings? He caught me prostituting. I was trying desperately to pay all my college debt and he blackmailed me. Made me work on his project all hours and took all the credit. But what really hurt is that he would not let me see you. You were the one bright thing in my days. Now, the only way I know to break him is through you. I can not tell you everything but this is the only way that I can make him pay. It has taken me years and many lives and many visits to see you. You have a strong will not like Langley. Langley lunged for his desk draw.
Kulap, clicked a metal, dog training clicker. Langley slumped on the floor like a rag doll.
"Kulap, please don’t." Erin pleaded.
"My name is Rose and Erin, although I still care for you, the past is just that past. Neither you nor Langley, ever turned to look for me. I screamed for you. You had to hear me. I saw Langley take the time to let one of his prize lab animals out of his cage but not once did he respond to my screams. You had to have heard me."
Erin thought back to that night. The lab in perfect pristine order and a darkened, fire ball the next. Langley grabbing her roughly, all the animals crying out, she strained trying to hear now what she couldn’t that night. A reedy cry, like that of one of the monkeys rang out. Her eyes widened with recognition. There was a wall of flame there. No one could get through.
Erin spoke softly, "Please Kulap, Rose, no one could get through that fire."
"Kulap," banged on the desk. No one tried, I was the one in trouble, yet I managed to get out through a back window. My bottom half was a mess. Thankfully, I had good friends—street-wise friends, willing to fix me up for a price. The heaviest news that I heard is that the doctors could not easily restore me and that I might consider sex reassignment therapy since it matched my personality. I felt dead to my former self any way after you and Langley left me to die.
"Langley," Kulap gritted his sparkling white teeth, "taking all my ideas and becoming famous was the final straw."
Erin begged. "Please, Rose, consider what you are doing."
"Erin, I have given this considerable thought." Kulap snapped his finger and handed Erin the vial. Run along."
"Okay." Erin turned on her heel and walked out of the mansion and into her car and sped off.
"Now, to meet with your friend, Shar." Kulap knew exactly which hotel Shar stayed at and decided to try and manage a chance encounter. Kulap sped down the road in Langley’s sporty new car. No one seemed to care, least of all Langley’s neighbors, thinking he was some trollop Langley was exercising his male menopause with. Kulap had to laugh out loud. All was well.
Kulap arrived at the somewhat ostentatious hotel to see Shar walking up the street. He looked tired. Good, good. Kulap feigned rifling through his purse when Shar came up; Kulap dropped the purse and all the contents fell out. The green chiffon, halter dress floated in the breeze.
Shar’s eyes gleamed. "May, I help you."
"Yes, my name is Rose." In one fluid motion, Kulap help out one perfectly manicured hand and in the other a mist, which he sprayed in Shar’s face. Shar’s large frame slumped and Kulap quickly called for help as the two, looking much like a couple, walked through the door. The hotel clerk was much more interested in Kulap’s cleavage to worry about Shar’s state and gave them his door key and helped them inside. Once inside, Kulap worked quickly, tying Shar down to the bed before he came too. He pulled the makeshift sheet rope, of torn bed clothes, so tightly that Shar would not be able to wriggle free.
When Shar woke up, Kulap was inclined over him and leaned in so close that he could see the Chrysanthemum print in the green chiffon dress. Shar did not try to struggle but eyed Kunlap with fire in his green eyes.
Kunlap purred, "Good, your awake. I want you to call your friend, Sania over. You will do this willingly?"
Shar shook his head knowing that if he would not agree, that this person, must have some way of making him do it.
"Are you not curious as to whom you are addressing?" Kulap asked.
Shar shook his head, "No." Then blurted out, "Sania’s old boyfriend, she tends to immasculate her men".
Kulap winced and struck Shar hard with the back of his hand. He climbed off of Shar, dialed and held the telephone for Sania.
Shar put on his charming face and when Sania answered, said, "Hello Sania. I couldn’t sleep can you come over and join me for a drink. Come on, please do not make me beg and afterwards in a low, sweet whisper, he said "we can ‘SFAQL.’ Okay", Shar said, "we’re on. See, you in about half an hour, I am in Room 451."
Good, Kulap thought, good. I can kill two birds with one stone. "What does SFAQL stand for?" He pulled Shar’s hair until his head went so far back the bones cracked in his neck.
"Oh, you would like that red, we could take your little S and M show on the road! SFAQL stands for Suck, F. . . ."
Kulap punched Shar square in the mouth so hard it knocked one of his perfect teeth lose. All the while, Shar laid in satisfaction knowing that Sania knew the real meaning—"Shoot First Ask Questions Later" and she would bring back up.
Kulap, sat in the chair next to the bed. In fifteen minutes, the door burst open and Sania, her hair slicked back in a tail to keep her hair out of her eyes shot Kulap in the shoulder. Before he could respond, she took his gun. Four more officers entered in full, combat gear and cuffed Kulap. Sania cut Shar’s bonds and hugged him tightly, forgetting protocol for a moment. Some of the officers stood their blinking.
This is Momentum isn’t it?
Shar, stood up rubbed his wrist and said, "Yes. But I am not sure why he would give himself up so easily. Something’s wrong."
In the meantime, Erin was crawling through the ventilator shaft at the police station. She kept trying to think. What do I need to remember? What do I need to remember? Then her phone went off. The cell ring out in huge echoes in the cavernous ventilator shaft. The sound echoed out the vents and alarmed the police officers on duty.
"Hello," Erin answered.
"Erin, where are you." Sania demanded.
"Where am I," Erin’s voice echoed. She hung up.
The police officers on duty sent a few of their finest through the ventilator shafts. Sania, called the Precinct. "What’s going on there?"
"Oh, Sania," the officer at the desk sounded light hearted, "some nitwit is dinking around in the ventilator shaft."
"Evacuate everyone, now! I do not know the whole story, but Erin has been sent there to poison everyone. Get everyone out."
"We just sent a few guys down there to get whoever the lunatic was out of there." To, Sania’s way of thinking that was a few to many. Be that as it may, the officer sent a warning over the Intercom to clear the building. Trusting Sania’s word, every officer on site left the building without hesitation knowing Momentum had sent Erin in. Even the officers in the shaft were evaluated through the nearest vents and out the doors.
Sania pulled Shar aside. "Shar, Erin is in there alone now. I do not know what to do and they have informed me that Momentum is not talking. Whatever she is holding is deadly beyond belief."
Shar, with a little twinkle in his eye, said "let’s check out the purse." Remembering Momentum must have had something to make Shar talk, even when he did not want to. "I do not know which of these sprays does the trick, but do not use that one—it knocks you out for hours."
Sania and Shar drove quickly to the hospital where they were holding Momentum under guard. Apparently, the shot she gave him made a clean exit and he was easy to fix up. Momentum glared at her. "The famous, Sania." He spat with disdain.
"I don’t have time for your idle chit-chat," Sania, sprayed one of the misters in his face. It smelled of orchids. No, I guess it isn’t that one. Next, she sprayed another bottle, nope this smelled like peppermint. She sprayed another and Momentum’s eyes begin to glaze over. She could see he was struggling. "What did you do to Erin?"
"Wouldn’t you like to know?" And he spit in her, face. Shar, picked up the bottle and sprayed until Momentum’s face was moist with the chemical. "Erin, save her." Momentum was speaking in an entirely different voice. Ethereal and childlike, "I don’t want her to get hurt." He sent her away with something awful."
"What was awful?" Sania started grounding her teeth in agitation. "He said once Erin did this last thing he would become light and her death and the others would set him completely free, where nothing on earth had power over him. Who are you and why are you helping us?" Sania fought the impulse to ask too many questions because she had to get to Erin.
"My name is Rose and Kulap does bad things and blames them all on me. He has let me get hurt, real bad hurt. He knows Erin and I like Erin, I have always liked Erin but her grandfather hates me."
"Erin, what did he do to Erin? He talks to her in the night, in her sleep and makes her do things. He clicks this metal thing and snaps his finger, sometimes he clucks his tongue and like a little kid, he started clucking his tongue.
"Okay Rose, okay," Sania said, patting her hand, "you have been very helpful. Would you like some ice cream? Oooh, ice cream and she begin to clap her hands together delightedly. Officer, please bring some vanilla ice cream for Rose." Rose, smiled at him brightly, even the color of Kulap’s eyes looked different, bright and guileless. The confused officer complied.
Sania, called Erin again. Desperately, she tried snapping her fingers and clicking her tongue. She asked Shar to drive her over. Nothing, seemed to work. Erin seemed stuck. Which was good for the moment, except what was she holding. What was her level of exposure? God, what would she tell Langley?
While driving with his right, Shar was still rummaging through Momentum’s bag with his left hand. "What’s this? It was just a little metal thing."
"That’s it!" She laid a kiss on Shar so hard, he thought he would lose control of the car. He thought, nothing like tension, to get Sania’s libido up.
"Erin, listen carefully. Sania, clicked the little metallic thing."
"Erin, can you hear me. Where are you?"
"Shar, when I get there, I have to go in after her."
Shar stopped the car. He grabbed Sania gently by both shoulders. He moved in so close to her she could see herself reflected in the large pupils of his eyes. "I will go in after her and you stay on the phone. Okay?"
She moved in to kiss him.
"No, or I will not be able to do this if you kiss me. I want to live too. Believe me."
Shar, started up the car and sped to the Precinct Office. He pulled up in front and stepped inside and entered the ventilator system heading towards the air exchanger. It was not long before he saw Erin, crouched down in the shaft like a rag doll.
"Come here, Erin. Erin started to crawl toward him. Something in her left hand was clucking against the metal of the shaft.
"Stop, Erin. I’ll come towards you. Erin, let me see your hands."
Erin, held out both hands limply. A clear, glass bottle lay precariously balanced in one. Shar’s face broke out in perspiration. He crawled swiftly and took the bottle and phone from Erin’s hands.
"Sania, I have whatever it is. I am coming out. I can come back and get Erin but I recommend sending a suited up person to get her."
"People are on their way in their biohazard suits, I called out on the radio."
"I hope you called for a shrink too. I am shaking like a leaf. It has never been this bad before."
Shar, moved like a cat walking on hot coals. He stepped over to the open biohazard container and gently laid it in. The two suited people screwed on the lid and carried the container to the waiting van. Two other people dragged poor Shar to a free-standing decontamination chamber. When I finally got to see him he was wet and hairless as a baby. Even with all his muscles, he looked pretty demoralized.
I would like to say there is a happy ending but there isn’t. The therapist working with Erin said there is no way to get at all the layers that Kulap Tupang, alias Momentum, set in her mind. At least we got the connection. In almost all the cases, I have ever worked I usually do not find out the ‘whys’ nor do I usually care as long as the person is caught. But Kulap’s motive was a simple, pure revenge.
As for Langley, he still lives in his own world. His hair is whiter. He doesn’t talk about Erin. I tried to talk to him and it is as if he has forgotten his granddaughter altogether. Momentum’s plan of revenge to hurt Langley by hurting his grand daughter failed. The irony is that Langley’s knowledge that he helped to create Momentum was too much for his mind, so he blocked out everything associated with Momentum including his own grand daughter.
I decided to quit the force and become a fulltime psychiatrist—private practice. Shar, decided to teach criminal justice. The guys and gals at the Precinct threw us a big party, my brother in front of everyone told me what a large pain in the butt I was and he was glad Shar was driving me far away. Then every one of my colleagues hugged and thanked me. And my now, bald-headed Shar drove me far away. The hardest was leaving my big hearted brother Jimmy.
To my friend, I told her fear is real. People considered brave are often the most scared individuals, but more scared of what will happen if they do not take action than if they do. I told my friend that fear makes people: forceful, enlightened, antagonistic and righteous. I also told her that sometimes operating on that fear causes us to do the wrong thing, like Shar stepping in like a lone wolf and almost getting us both killed and definitely scarred for life. And sometimes, it comes out right, like catching Momentum. The answer is, despite fear, we have to take action.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA. Copyright © 2005 by Valerie Bradley-Holliday