The Ice Pick Killer – Chapter Seven

Slaughters’ next call was to Ellison Caldwell.  He was running a Fancy Food Distributor franchise, headquartered in Peoria, Illinois.

She introduced herself and he flippantly said “Murphy, huh?  Strange name for a woman.  Anybody ever call you Murph?”  Slaughter tersely replied “not more than once.”
“I understand you’re a retired newspaper editor.”

He said “yes I am.” After a few minutes of conversation, it was clear that he was quite impressed with himself and truly believed that the newspaper industry was now faltering simply because he had chosen to leave the profession.

It was also clear that he actually thought that he was going to be able to manipulate the call into an interview about the wonder that was him.

“I’ve taken file clerks and turned them into award-winning journalists.  I’ve taken mediocre writers and turned them into successful novelists.  I’ve overseen ongoing articles that have come close to winning Pulitzer Prizes.  I have turned second-rate editors into top-flight, highly sought-after instructors.”

“I have almost single-handedly succeeded in saving many papers and ultimately turned them into profit-makers.”

Slaughter coyly said “so you were the sole reason for their survival and therefore, by default, your departure was instrumental in their ultimate demise because nobody is as good as you?  Fair enough.  I’ll let you wear your crown but that’s not the reason for my call.”

She could hear the disgust in Caldwells’ voice when he said “okay.  What is the reason for your call?”
“I’m investigating a series of deaths and I believe you were acquainted with one of the deceased, a Mr. Larz Østergaard.”

“Yes.  I knew him and I heard that he was killed.”  The self-promotion continued when he said “I don’t know if you’re aware of this but I used to head up the investigative reporting department at several newspapers and I would be happy to give you a few pointers.  I have numerous awards for my work.”

“I’m sure you do,” said Slaughter. “I’m sure you have accolades and plaques that you take down, dust off and show to your friends who stop by for a beer.  I’m sure they’re appropriately impressed but I’m not talking about finding some political figure with his pants down around his ankles in front of the wrong woman.  I’m talking about a murder.”

“Fine,” Caldwell said.  “I just thought a little background information about myself might lend some credence to our conversation.  I’m not some Joe Schmo off the street, you know.”

Clearly tired of playing the “I’m the smartest person on the phone” game, Slaughter said “being the excellent journalist that you obviously believe that you are, I will let you tout your own triumphs in your autobiography but this is not about you.  See if you can focus for one minute and tell me what you know about Mr. Østergaard.”

She knew she had angered him when he impatiently quipped in monotone, “okay.  I know he was from Denmark.  I know he sold us our new computer system.  I know he liked to drink and play golf.  I know that most of the women thought he was charming and good-looking but I didn’t personally know him other than to nod if we passed in the hallway.”

“Did you know any of his friends?  You say women thought he was good-looking.  Do you know if he dated any of them?”
“I don’t have a clue.  I wasn’t his social calendar keeper,” said Caldwell.

“Did it bother you that women thought he was good-looking?  I mean it seems to me that you would be a little put off by somebody who garnered some attention.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Caldwell asked. “It means exactly what you think it means,” said Slaughter.  “It’s been my experience that men like you don’t do well with competition on any front and that leads to the question, did you have a problem with him?”

Caldwell gruffly said “no, I didn’t and just for your information, I’ve had more than my share of attention from women and I enjoyed it.”
“But you obviously don’t enjoy it when one of those women aren’t enamored by your self-important bullshit.”

Slaughter had to move the phone away from her ear when Caldwell literally screamed, “this conversation is over!”
She said “the conversation will be over after I ask a few more questions.”
“Go ahead,” growled Caldwell.

“Did you know George and Lisa Moore?”
“Nope, can’t say that I did.”
“How about Marvin Jackson?”
“No.”
“How about David Ludlow?”
“No.  Who are these people and what do they have to do with me?” asked Caldwell.

“They’re victims and we’re trying to connect them somehow,” said Slaughter.

“Well, good luck.  I’m afraid I can’t help you.  Is that all?” asked Caldwell.

“One more question.  With your winning personality and being a self-proclaimed savior, why did you retire from the business that you were so clearly responsible for saving?  Could it be possible that you were forced out?”

Slaughter smiled as she heard the phone disconnect.

A few minutes later, Burke called to tell her that he was headed back to the station and asked if she had managed to connect with Caldwell.

Again, he was pleasantly surprised when Slaughter let out an unexpected giggle and said “this man is so full of himself.  It was difficult to get anything out of him, other than what a consummate expert he thinks he is. He rattled off a list of accomplishments that was as long as his dick, I think. So in other words, he’s done nothing.”

 

 

To be continued_________________

 

The Ice Pick Killer – Chapter Six

The next day, Slaughter walked into the office and handed Burke and Powell eight warrants.  “We’re not going to get one for Østergaard but maybe we’ll get lucky and it won’t matter.”

After she walked out of the room, Burke and Powell looked at each other with raised eyebrows.  Powell said “how the fuck did she manage to get those warrants so quickly?”  Burke quietly mumbled “she probably threatened to use the five-point-open-palm-exploding-heart technique.”

Powell laughed and said “or she pulled an Erin Brockovich and performed sexual acts.  Eight blow jobs in one day.”  Burke said a simple “hey” with a tone.  Powell, a little confused said “what’s that about?  Are you defending her honor?”  Burke said “I just don’t think that was called for.”

Powell said “is that all it is?  I mean, I see the way you look at her and don’t get me wrong.  I see the attraction.  It’s kind of like a moth being drawn to a flame but just be careful.  You might get burned, pal.  You do know that she’ll eventually go back home, right?”

Burke responded with “you know what?  I think she’s interesting but I’ll tell you one thing.  You’ll never see me getting involved with another detective.  There’s too much potential for it to get messy and with her? We’d probably have to flip a coin to see who was going to be on top. Besides, she scares me.  She intrigues me…but she scares me.”

Powell said “I know what you mean but there’s still something about her, isn’t there?  Mysterious and sort of dark.  Makes you wonder what she’s like outside the office.”  With a hearty laugh, he said “hey.  Maybe you should ask her to have a drink with you sometime.”

Before Burke could finish giving him the proverbial hairy eyeball, Slaughter came back into the room and said “okay, boys.  You’ve got the subpoenas. It’s time to stick your hands in the mud, do some noodling and see what you can find, but be careful.  You never know what you’re going to catch,” then laughed and said “or lose.”

Powell said “what is noodling?”  Slaughter said “seriously?  You don’t know what noodling is?  What kind of hillbillies are you?”  As she walked out, Burke and Powell did a quick Google search.

It was a good analogy for what they were up against.  Sticking their hands into a hole, not knowing what was inside.  They were going to be sticking their noses into peoples’ private lives, not knowing what deep, dark secrets may be hidden and yes, it could be dangerous for them.  After all, nine people had died and they had died for a reason.

That afternoon, Slaughter was able to track down one of the retired editors, named Jake Hill.  The call was fortuitous as he was thirty minutes from leaving on a two-week cruise.  He had heard of Østergaards’ murder and told her that he would be happy to offer any help he could.  He said he knew him well, thought he was a decent person and seemed to be genuinely saddened by his death.

There was only one thing that he was a little hesitant to divulge.  When Slaughter promised that it would remain confidential, he revealed the secret that Østergaard had shared with him about an experience he’d had on one of his many visits to the States.

He had awakened one morning in the hotel, on the floor, completely naked and had no memory of the night before.  Like the crime scenes, nothing was disturbed and he hadn’t been robbed.  Slaughter said “and he had absolutely no idea what had happened?”  Hill said “none.”

That same day, he needed to drive to another newspaper about eight hours away. Running late and apparently still drunk from the night before, he was pulled over speeding.  When he didn’t seem to be quite lucid, he was given a breathalyzer which resulted in a DUI charge and a trip to jail.

Trying to avoid embarrassment and humiliation, he contacted his employer overseas, who arranged to pay his bail.  It had been kept hush-hush because it could have potentially had a negative impact on his business relationships with the newspapers.

Slaughter asked if he could give her the names of any of Østergaards’ friends.  Jake said that of course, he considered himself to have been a friend and had spent time with him in bars and on the golf course, but said there was a difference between being “friendly and being friends.”  He said he would give it some thought, let her know and begged off the conversation due to time constraints.

After they hung up, Slaughter made a note that she didn’t have the chance to read the names of the other victims.

 

To be continued____________________