En route, information was coming through to Slaughter and Burke about the victim. He was found face down in the parking lot, next to his car with the door ajar as if he was ready to get in.
His head was resting in a pool of blood, that had come from an ice pick wound to his left ear. His wallet was still in his back pocket and the car keys were still in his hand. It was estimated that he had died some time before midnight.
When Slaughter and Burke arrived, they noticed security cameras and immediately asked for the tapes. When viewed, it unfortunately revealed that his car was just out of range. The cameras were focused on the entrance of the newspaper and the only vehicle seen entering the premises was a delivery truck driving to the rear of the building.
The newspaper was called the Local Daily Ledger. One of the police officers said “you know, some of the townsfolk call it the ‘Local Daily Liar’.”
Almost all newspapers had monikers, especially when they didn’t slant toward what was conceived to be popular opinion.
Slaughter didn’t read newspapers and she had her reasons. She lived in a world of death and murder, accidents and suicide and she didn’t want to re-live that world in print. She never gave interviews in person or on the telephone.
Her view was that she did her job and the reporters could do theirs. Any information they needed could be obtained, like Captain Meade said, through the Freedom of Information Act. When asked if she didn’t feel a bit hypocritical with that approach, her answer was a cool “no.”
It was a relatively small newspaper housed in what resembled a collection of modified trailers, set far back from the main road. Although not hugely profitable, it had maintained a steady and loyal readership. With the guidance of the former editor, special interest features had been implemented, such as a wildly popular online site for the favored state football team.
Slaughter and Burke met with the publisher, Kelly Woods. She was clearly distraught but gave them as much information as she could. She said that he did a good job for the paper but she didn’t socialize with him and could think of no reason anybody would want to harm him.
“He was married to a woman named Suzanne and I believe he has a son by a former wife. Other than that, I really don’t know much about his personal life.”
Burke asked if she knew any of his friends or acquaintances.
“No, I don’t, other than a few people in the newsroom but they may have just been work related friendships. I think he and the former editor are friendly outside the newspaper.
“Slaughter said “so if we read the names of previous victims….”
Woods said “they would mean nothing to me, other than we ran stories on their murders. Has anyone called his wife?”
“We’ll take care of that,” said Slaughter, “and we’ll need access to his computer and his company issued cell phone.”
Woods said “that’s not something I can authorize and due to the possible sensitivity of the contents, that may be impossible. It’s not that I don’t want to co-operate. There are things to consider, such as information about confidential informants we rely on, information concerning ongoing investigations as well as personal information.”
Slaughter said “if there’s obtainable information that might help us catch his killer, why wouldn’t you want that?”
Woods said “as I mentioned. It’s not that I don’t want to co-operate. There is just too much potential for invasion of privacy and that is, as you know, a protected right bestowed by the fourth amendment of our constitution. You can get a warrant, but I will tell you up front that I will use every resource I have available to fight it.”
“Understood” said Slaughter. “Can you tell us what you know about the victim?”
Woods said “his name is Stan Mulder. He is 66 years old and has been at the paper for the last five years. He had previously worked for a highly successful, independently owned newspaper in the upstate until one day, he was unexpectedly fired. I don’t know why and I didn’t ask. Initially he was only hired by the former editor, for a six month, part-time special project.”
“You mentioned that Mr. Mulder and the former editor were friendly outside the confines of work. What is the former editors’ name?” asked Burke.
“His name is Karl Pittman.”
Slaughter asked how they might get in touch with him.
“He lives in the next town. I can give you his phone number, if you like.”
Burke asked what she could tell them about Pittman.
“Well, Mr. Pittman had been Mr. Mulder’s previous editor at the upstate paper and he too was fired…for cause.”
Burke said “really. And what was that cause?”
Woods said “I heard it was because of the way he treated his employees but I was not the one who hired him. That was my predecessors’ decision and I never found the need to read Mr. Pittman’s personnel file.”
“There was a wide-spread rumor that the relationship between Mulder and Pittman had been pretty volatile. Word had it that they butted heads on more than one occasion and their dislike for each other and screaming matches were renown. Mr. Pittman can be a bit, shall we say, vitriolic and abrasive.”
“Knowing the rumors, did you not question why he hired Mulder?” Burke asked.
“I didn’t” said Woods. “I imagine he knew how he felt, having himself been fired. Mr. Pittman also loved to have total control and hiring Mr. Mulder I’m sure, gave him a sense of empowerment but any grudges they may have had against each other seem to have been put behind them as they apparently became close friends. I know Mr. Mulder asked Mr. Pittman to become a notary so that he could perform his marriage to Suzanne.”
“So Mr. Pittman suddenly became ‘Mr. Nice Guy’?” asked Slaughter.
“I wouldn’t say that” Woods said. “Mr. Pittman had a few altercations here, mainly with the Human Resources representative that resulted in her exit from the company but he was the editor and was free to hire and fire at will. I personally didn’t have much interaction with him. I know he was not very well liked. Don’t misunderstand. Nobody denied that he had talent but everybody hated him. That being said, the bottom line is, he made this newspaper better.”
“And…Mr. Pittman is a master manipulator. I knew he wanted to retire and when Mr. Mulder’s job was ending, I allowed him to more or less coerce me into making Mr. Mulder’s position full-time with the promise of ultimately becoming the editor.”
“I didn’t regret the decision. Like I said, Mr. Mulder has done a good job for us.”
Slaughter looked at Burke and quietly said “Pittman sounds like Caldwell.” Before he could respond, Woods said “Ellison Caldwell? Now, there’s a story.”
“What do you mean? Did you know him?” asked Slaughter.
“Not personally but I’ve heard rumors. Apparently there was some very bad blood between him and Pittman. People used to say it would have been a toss-up as to which one of them was the most hated man in the profession but frankly, my money would be on Pittman.”
To be continued_______________