The Ice Pick Killer – Chapter Ten

When Slaughter looked at Burke, raised one eyebrow and smiled, he knew there was no question who was going to interview Pittman.  He wondered how long it would take her to rip off his balls, shove them down his throat and leave him screaming for his mama.  As much as he wanted to witness what was sure to be a masterpiece of emasculation, he stayed to interview the staff.

A quick call to Captain Meade suggested he throw Powell a proverbial “bone” and ask him to be the one who contacted and interviewed Suzanne.

As clerks and reporters started coming into the building, he spoke with them individually.  After two hours, he felt as though they were reading from the same script.  “He was a nice guy.  We don’t know anybody who didn’t like him or at least didn’t like him enough to kill him.”

One of them said “you know, there was always that member of the public who didn’t like an editorial or a story we ran but they usually just called and bitched him out.”

While talking to them, Burke noticed an elderly man, standing just far enough away to hear the conversation but not close enough to take part.  After thanking the employees, Burke walked over to the gentleman, introduced himself and asked his name.

“John Foote” he said.  He appeared nervous and uncomfortable.  Burke asked him if he was okay and he said “if you want to talk, we need to do it privately.”
“Okay.  What do you have in mind?” Burke asked.

Foote asked him if he knew where “The Lounge” was.  Burke told him that he was familiar with it and Foote said “meet me there at seven o’clock tonight.”
“Do you have some information about Mr. Mulder?”
“I just think you should know a little more about him.  He’s not the boy scout everybody wants you to believe he is.”
“Okay.  I’ll be there.”

A quick call to Slaughter went unanswered so he left a message. “Apparently, Mr. Mulder had a few skeletons in his closet.  I’m meeting a Mr. Foote tonight and I’ll get the skinny.  Hit me up when you get time.”

Seven o’clock came and Burke was already at the Lounge when Foote walked in.  Still looking nervous and scanning the bar as if he was doing surveillance, he sat down.

Foote quietly asked if what they discussed was going to be confidential.
Burke grinned and said “unless you’re going to confess.”

Foote didn’t even crack a smile as he began.  “Here’s what I know.  I’ve known Mulder casually for twenty years.  Before he came to work here, our interaction was mostly at banquets and ceremonies and seminars about journalism.”
“He was always a secondary player, in the background but it was well known that he wanted to be in the forefront.”

“He was married to this exotically beautiful Egyptian woman for almost forty years.  After he got fired and came here, he had to leave her behind but it was only supposed to be a temporary job anyway.”

“I’ve been told that.”  Burke said.

“Well, he started seeing some woman here.”
“Suzanne?”
“Yes.  I know I’m old fashioned but I believe in the sanctity of marriage and the vows we take.  Anyway, he started seeing Suzanne and actually had her move in with him while he was still married.  He would go see his wife on the weekends and kept this other woman a secret.”

“His wife eventually found out and immediately filed for divorce.  That didn’t sit right with Mulder and he began a smear campaign against her. He told all of their friends that she was trying to ruin him and he did his best to turn their son against her.  I heard he was sending her threatening texts and emails and vowed to ‘gut her’ when he said she was trying to take everything he had.”

“Once, the entire newsroom heard him slam the phone down and refer to her as that “life-sucking, soul-destroying terrorist bitch.”

When Pittman hired him…”

“So you know Pittman?” asked Burke.

“I’ve known him for fifty years.  He actually gave me my job here.  He and Mulder never got along so when he gave him a job it raised a few eyebrows, particularly mine.  I remember once when Pittman went on vacation, Mulder said “if Karl Pittman dropped dead in the middle of the newsroom floor, not one person would get out of their fucking chair to check on him and that includes me…but I will lick his ass all day long if it means getting what I want….and what I want is his job.”
“Ultimately, he got what he wanted.”

“I also know that Mulder has ruined a few careers, including a young girl who came to work for him.  Everybody knew he had a crush on her but she let him know that she wasn’t interested.  Her stories suddenly started missing deadlines and we all knew Mulder was behind it.  She was eventually let go for incompetence.  I tried to get her to confront him or go to the publisher but she was afraid.”

“He damn near destroyed her reputation.  She had to move in with her parents because she couldn’t find another job.  He trashed her to everybody who called for a reference and it took her a year and a half to find another job.”

Burke asked if he would tell him her name.  Foote told him that he’d rather not.  “She’s working for a paper in California now and I hear she’s doing well.”
“Do you think she holds a grudge?”
“No.  She was a real sweetheart.”

Burke said “tell me a little more about the relationship between Mulder and Pittman.  I was told that they were pretty good friends now.”

“I’m sure Pittman thinks they were.  His ego would never allow him to think that somebody wouldn’t actually believe the sun rose and set at his command.  I mean, he was the most brilliant editor I have even known but that ego never allowed him to see when he was being played and Mulder knew how to play him.”

Burke suggested that maybe Pittman found out that Mulder wasn’t the friend he thought he was and exacted revenge.  Foote chuckled and said “are you kidding?  If somebody slit their wrists, wrote it in blood and had video to back it up, Pittman wouldn’t believe it.  His self-importance left him deaf, dumb and blind.”

Burke asked Foote to tell him a little more about his personal relationship with Pittman.  “Did you get along?”

Foote said “we did.  I’m grateful to him for giving me a job, especially at my age.  And I knew that all I had to do was let him think that he was God.  I let him wear his crown and he pretty much left me alone.”
“So, you play the game, too?”  Burke said.
Foote shook his head and said “pretty much have to if you want to survive.”

Foote apologized and said he needed to get back to the paper to insure the deadlines had been met.

Burke said “one last thing.  Do you know an editor named Ellison Caldwell?”

“Shoo…boy, do I.”

“Do you know if he and Mulder knew each other?”
“I imagine at some point, they met but I have never heard of any conflict between them.”

Burke said “I’ve heard he’s a piece of work and I understand there was bad blood between him and Pittman.”

Foote stood up, threw down a few dollar bills and said “I guess a piece of work is a nice way to put it but I’m not sure bad blood would be the term I would use.  It was more like an intense, white-hot hatred that burned more intensely than the fires of Hell…….but”

“if you think Caldwell’s an asshole, I’ve got a big news flash for you.  Compared to Pittman, he’s an Eagle scout.”

 

To be continued______________________

 

The Ice Pick Killer – Chapter Nine

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_______________

The Ice Pick Killer – Chapter Eight

The next day Burke, Powell and Slaughter were called into Captain Meade’s office for a briefing.

Looking at Powell, Captain Meade asked “what have you got, kiddo?” Powell shook his head and said “nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero…what the little boy shot at in the dark.  The telephone company is working on getting a list of all the numbers incoming and outgoing and they’ve promised to at least have Jackson’s and possibly the Moore’s by the end of the week.”

“How about you, Burke?”

“We’ve got computer geeks trying to hack into their emails.  They can find them even if they’ve been deleted but depending on how they used their computers, those spaces could have been filled in with other files. Then of course, there is no way to retrieve them.”

“Family members and friends are trying to come up with a list of acquaintances but you know, Captain, not all family members and friends know everything.  I mean, my father wouldn’t be able to tell you who my friends are.  Hell, Captain.  Do you know who my friends are?”

“You have friends?” asked Captain Meade.  Burke sneered and said “very funny, Captain.”

Captain Meade said “seriously, I don’t want suppositions and excuses. I want results.”

“Slaughter, what have you got?”

“I got some pretty interesting information about Østergaard but nothing that could link him to any of the other victims and apparently I talked to ‘the most interesting man in the world’.”  She and Burke looked at each other and simultaneously laughed out loud.

Captain Meade said “okay, what am I missing here?”  Powell was wondering the same thing.  What had happened between Burke and Slaughter?

Slaughter said, “I just interviewed some jackass who thought he was Gods’ own gift to the world but he didn’t know anything.  I imagine standing in front of a mirror, singing ‘Mr. Big Stuff” all day long would preclude any inclinations he had toward murder.”
Again, she and Burke shared a glance and laughed.

Powell, observing a never before seen interaction between them thought to himself “and so it begins.”

Captain Meade’s phone rang and before he answered it, he instructed them to “get out there and find something.”

While they were making plans for their next step, Captain Meade called them back into his office.  The color seemed to have drained from his face as he was wiping sweat from his forehead.  Grasping his Bible, he hesitated a few seconds before saying, “we’ve got a tenth, guys.”

Powell said “are you fucking serious?”  Captain Meade said “yes, I’m serious and kiddo…how many times have I told you that I don’t like that kind of language?”
“Sorry Captain,” said Powell.

“Alright, who’s going?”

“Slaughter and I will go,” Burke said, as they looked at each other and smiled.

Powell couldn’t hide his irritation.  Before Slaughter came on the scene, it was always Burke and Powell.  The go-to team.  The cracker-jack team. The A-team.  The dynamic duo.
Now, it was Burke and Slaughter and Powell was feeling like he was going to be relegated to nothing more than their glorified secretary.

Captain Meade said “okay.  Powell, you stay on top of everything here. You need to get started on another warrant and I’m thinking this one is going to be damn near impossible.”

“Why is that Captain?” asked Powell.
What he really wanted to say was “why not put Wonder Woman on it?  She doesn’t seem to have any problem getting what she wants.”

The first sign of the green-eyed monster was emerging.

“Freedom of information only goes so far,” Captain Meade said.  “We may be talking about sensitive and confidential information that could potentially destroy somebody’s reputation, cause a scandal or even put somebody in harms’ way.”

“I don’t understand,” Powell said.

Captain Meade picked up the local newspaper from his desk and said “this guy was the editor.”

 

 

To be continued____________________

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____________________