A Distorted Minds Contest entry
|The man walking toward me was fairly young. He was probably twenty-five to my fifty, but I certainly looked better at the moment. The old saying “rode hard and put up wet” came to mind as he made it to my desk. In better times, he’d look just fine, with a full head of light brown hair and green eyes, but presently a mess. I might have been bald and a couple of inches shorter than his six feet, but I’d had some sleep in the past few days. He looked like he hadn’t, but it wasn’t an unusual sight for us.
“Are you Detective Kopps?” He asked without a trace of irony regarding my name.
“I am. What can I do for you, mister…”
“Sampson, Greg Sampson, sir. And I’m here to report a missing person.”
“Well, have a seat, Mr. Sampson.” I motioned to the chair by my desk and reached for a form.
“Thank you. Please, call me Greg.”
“Okay, Greg,” I plucked a pen from a holder. “Tell me who’s missing and any details you have.”
“It’s my wife, detective, and she’s been gone for three days.”
Sampson explained that he worked for a large company in the city, but worked a few days from home, and was almost always working on his computer into the night. On Saturday three nights before, he had worked past midnight and fallen asleep at his desk. He said he’d apparently woken up, taken a shower, and gone to bed. Yet, he had no memory of doing it and had woken up late Sunday morning to find his wife was not in the house. His first thought was that she went with friends to brunch, but after some calls, it was a dead end. As evening fell, he made calls to the two local hospitals, the only jail in our little town, and our one cab company. She was at none of those places, and no pickups had been made at his house. The next stop was our station, and after he waited another twenty-four hours as asked, they sent him to me. Usually, when a wife goes missing, we immediately check out the husband. I’ve been doing this for almost thirty years, though, and I’m tough to fool. Greg Sampson was genuinely distraught, I was sure of it, but we had a procedure.
“Greg, what you’ve told me is very helpful, and we’re going to do our best to find her,” I told him.
“Thank you so much, detective.” He sighed almost with relief.
“When my partner gets back this afternoon, we’ll stop by your house. Is that okay?”
“Sure, I guess,” He responded. “But why?”
“Well, it’s pretty standard, and it’s mostly to get fresh eyes on anything you might have missed.”
“Okay,” He conceded. “When?”
“Is 2:00 okay?” He nodded and I added, “Try to disturb as little as possible, it’ll help us.”
“Sure. Fine.” He got up, shook my hand, and left with his head hanging down.
When my partner, Jack Madison, came in after lunch, I told him about the missing person. He was fairly interested in the details and my take on it all, because not much happened in our boring little suburb. He asked my opinion on the husband, and I gave it. I told him I didn’t think there was a chance in hell he had anything to do with her disappearance. Jack was skeptical.
We decided to grab Jimmy to take pictures. He was our only tech, and also the only reason we had such a great tech lab. His real name was Stanley, but he lived up to his moniker of “Jimmy the Geek” to a tee. Everyone knew his talent was wasted in our department, but we were glad to have him. It was 1:30, so we got ready quickly and headed to the cruiser, and Jack stopped.
“I got time to grab a cup of coffee, Mike?” He asked me.
“I wouldn’t. I think it’s from last night… It’s so bitter I still have a bad taste in my mouth.”
“Sounds like your ex-wife!” He grinned as only he could, with a face made for Hollywood.
“Worse…” I said with a grunt and kept walking.
The three of us pulled up in front of the Sampson home, a two-story cookie cutter, which was about right for the neighborhood. The three of us walked to the door and Jack knocked. After a couple of minutes, the door opened and we were invited in. We explained what we were doing, the areas and items we would like to be shown, and why it was important for us to document everything in writing and with photographs. We looked through the rooms and asked questions of the owner. All the luggage was still there, no clothes were missing, and no signs of a struggle. It wasn’t until we went outside that we found something strange. Jack went one way, and I opened a small garden shed.
“Jimmy! C’mere…” He walked over. “Take a shot of that shovel. That looks like dried blood”
Jack came around the shed and said, “Guys, come look at this!”
“Oh, man…” I said as we got to the back of the shed. The dirt had obviously been disturbed.
“What’s the move?” Jack asked me.
“Take the cruiser, call the D.A. on the way, and get us a warrant for the property.”
“What about me?” Jimmy asked.
“You stay with me and we’ll keep him busy,” I replied.
I looked at my partner. “Get the crime scene guys out of the city, too. We’ll need them.”
It took well into the night, but we found Mrs. Sampson buried behind the shed in a shallow grave. Her husband had already been taken into custody, weeping and proclaiming his innocence. I couldn’t believe I had been so wrong about a person. We had taken several items from the property, including the work computer Sampson had been using. During the subsequent investigation, Jimmy found something unusual and came to me with it. It turned out while the killer had been working that night, he had also been downloading songs from some website by a group called The Lancers. I’d never heard of them, but our tech was younger and had actually been to a concert. But that wasn’t the odd part. The last track he had played was erased, and it was a bitter break-up song dealing with the murder of a girlfriend. Jimmy gave me a copy of the lyrics, which would ultimately be introduced at trial, but I wanted to know more. I set up an interview with the lead singer of the band and met with him before a show.
“It looks like several people have downloaded your music from, uh…” I started flipping through my field notebook.
“BandUp.” He said. “It’s where we put our music so fans can download it for free.”
“Free? Why wouldn’t you sell your music?”
“Not time yet. We’ve gone from a local band with one album to regional with five.” He replied.
“And then?” I asked.
“And then…” He paused. “And then hopefully you go national and get to make money.”
I nodded and he continued, “Right now we get by on concert revenue and private gigs.”
“Tell me about the song Neverlasting Love.”
“What?” He seemed startled. “How do you even know that song?”
“It’s available for download.” I was using Jimmy’s lingo. “On the same site with your other stuff.”
“It shouldn’t be… Our old bassist wrote it about his girlfriend. Real creepy shit. We never play it anymore.”
“I know, I read the lyrics,” I said. “It almost spells out the crime we’re investigating.”
“Yeah, this is the third time, too. We figured people had bootlegs from our old concerts.”
“Yeah, and we’ve gotten some seriously bad press from all of it.” He grimaced. “Anything else? Almost showtime.”
“No, I think I’ve got everything, thank you. And hey, good luck!”
“Thanks man. If you want to watch the show, stick around.” He smiled.
“I just might,” I said, knowing there was no chance I would.
The trial of Greg Sampson was fairly quick. Aside from a hearing on his mental capacity, which did not go well for the defense, not much was in doubt. The evidence was undeniable, and with no recollection of the events, there was little the defense attorney could do to explain away the facts of the case. In the end, Sampson was found guilty of first-degree murder, among other lesser crimes, but I still had nagging doubts. My partner, who testified along with me, felt it was a just verdict. He was also happy with the maximum sentence allowed by the state, which was life without the possibility of parole.
In a small apartment two states away, where The Lancers had never played, a man watched the news about the results of the trial. It’s the third one he’s seen on the major network news shows, and he knows for certain now. They’re never going to make it. He smiled to himself and thought about the fruits of his labor. He had gotten the song at a concert and added a subliminal track to it. A simple message, really. Kill your girl and bury her out back. Then delete this song and go to bed. It repeated for the entire song that was over eight minutes long. He’d learned how to do it on the internet, which was a learning ground for all kinds of nefarious activity. He had also found a password cracker online to access the BandUp website and upload the doctored song. The site downloaded from several "mirror" servers, and he knew just which one to delete to leave no trace of what he had done. His reading had told him it would only work on a small percentage of people, but a few would be enough. The man felt bad for the people who killed their loved ones, but sometimes collateral damage was inevitable. After all, he thought, it was really the band’s fault. They never should have fired him as their manager in high school.
(WC - 1700)