tagNovels and NovellasThe Sentinel Ch. 13

The Sentinel Ch. 13

byJPMMURPHY©

Jack sat in the living room watching Jan on cam as she reclined in bed on top of the covers, waiting patiently for 'cyber' Lisa to appear. Sharing her desktop again, they had decided she would push Lisa tonight to come and visit, explaining how lonesome it was. Jan would tell 'cyber' Lisa she had confirmed that her 'lover' Fred would be in Miami, and they were planning a get-together on cam Friday night instead of tonight. Maybe, Lisa could be here and 'add a little spice' to things.

He watched as Jan opened her mail program and idly started the process of logging on to check her mail when the phone rang.

"Jack. What the hell are you two doing in tonight? You should get out and kick up your heels, if you know what I mean." Juan seemed in a jovial mood.

"Right, cabron, and get run over crossing the street and end up in a wheelchair again? Then I'd have to let you run the company forever," Jack replied in jest, trying to match Juan's mood as he watched Jan going through her mail. "Or, is that the plan?"

Juan's warm chuckle spoke more of being glad he'd caught them in than a rebuke for not being out working his legs. "Naw, this thing is getting entirely too big; you think I want to be tied to running this monster?" Jack could tell there was more Juan wanted to say.

"You and Jan busy later? I was thinking a late dinner?"

"Where are you, Juan? The office?"

"Sure, I'll be here until 9:30. I was thinking we could go to that Italian place down in Soho. Bet you haven't seen Momma Rosa in years. Give me a call."

"Okay, if we haven't called by the time you're ready to leave, then call back."

Hanging up the phone, Jack noticed Jan standing at the door from the bedroom, a concerned look on her face. He suddenly felt guilty for having let his guard down, leaving her unobserved for even five minutes when they were waiting for 'cyber' Lisa to connect.

Standing, he walked to her and started to apologize, but she brushed it off with a wave. "She's coming," was all she said, and Jack froze in his tracks.

"What?"

"I got a mail from Lisa; she said she'd be here sometime Friday evening." Jan just stood there, leaning against the door frame in panties and bra with an expression that went from concern to conservative neutrality as she waited for Jack's reaction.

"Did she say what flight? How she would arrive? If she was here already?"

"It was brief. She said, thanks for insisting, and that yes, it might do her good so she would be here Friday night. She wasn't going to tell me exactly what time so she could surprise me and maybe, even you, well, Fred."

Stepping closer, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her lightly on the side of the neck while his arms wrapped around her shoulders as if fending off some unknown assailant. Guiding her to the couch, they sat down in the glow of his computer screen for a few minutes.

Kissing her again, he explained that Juan had called and invited them out for a late dinner. "Maybe, we need a break right now before we decide how to handle this."

An hour and a half later, a stretch limo picked up a couple bundled up for a Manhattan winter evening on the town, and they huddled in the back without talking as it carried them back to the Pond office to pick up Juan.

*****

Linda sat exhausted in a sports bar, a couple of blocks from the office. The Captain had picked her up as promised, and there'd been little talking in the car. Arriving at the office, she had sat quietly in front of his desk without protest, listening to he and Ruth explain what had been happening and what was planned. Considering her misstep with the undercover FBI agent in New York, there wasn't much she could do but participate. The Captain hadn't mentioned it, but she was sure he would if she alluded again to the fact she had quit.

"So what do you think, Tom?"

Reaching in his jacket, Tom pulled out some folded papers, opened, and flattened them on the table between them as she took a drink of her beer. She recognized them immediately as the special 'short list' of possible suspects he'd given her what now seemed like a lifetime ago. Sorting through the pages, he pulled one to the top before asking, "Did you ever look at these?"

"I assigned them and meant to, but, to be honest, no, I didn't."

Running his finger down a page, he stopped and turned the stack so she could read the information he was pointing out. Following the line of information out from his finger, she paid special attention to the name in parenthesis at the end.

Looking at Tom to see if he was smiling or this was some kind of joke, she saw he was dead serious.

"Are you sure about this?"

Pulling the papers back and taking a drink of his own beer, he regarded her, trying to gage her reaction before responding.

"Sure, I'm sure. And we confirmed half the information from his own laptop when he was invited to take a little extended leave time."

Linda was stunned and suddenly confused. But she knew it wasn't true. She knew where she had to be, and all this was just wasting time.

"That's bullshit, Tom. John may be a racist asshole, capable of killing, but I don't think he's smart enough to pull off all of these."

Tom pulled another sheet of folded paper out of his pocket and pushed it across the table before returning to his beer. Unfolding it, Linda leaned over the table on her elbows and started reading. It was a list, showing a correlation between John's whereabouts, obtained from work records, and the time of each murder which now included that of his own wife.

Four were on weekends and within a few hours flying time. The day his wife was murdered, his car's exit time from the parking garage was logged. According to the medical examiner, it gave him ample time to drive straight home, shoot her, and leave her upstairs, waiting for someone else to discover the body. The last murder which was actually the third in the series took place on a Tuesday, and office records indicated John had called in sick on Monday of that week and returned Thursday after the killing.

Linda slumped back into her chair and took another drink of beer. Picking up all the papers, Tom folded them carefully before putting them back in his jacket pocket. Picking up his beer mug, he leaned back in his seat and waited on Linda. He knew she was a good investigator and wanted her to draw her own conclusions.

Some pre-game sports program was on the widescreen TV, and the bar was loud as people had their last hurrah with friends and coworkers before Thanksgiving.

"I don't think so, Tom," was all she said before digging in her purse to throw a five on the table.

Watching her walk away from the table, Tom wondered if showing it to her in black and white would be enough. He'd left the other name off the short list because it seemed a little absurd, rather like the fox guarding the hen house, but now he wondered.

Linda had changed since taking on the task force. Aside from the expected hectic schedule that went with heading up a task force of this size, there was a myriad of other demands that came with increased responsibility. He'd watched her become withdrawn - a loner.

He'd been surprised and had even tried to shrug it off as someone immersed in the medium they worked in. But her adamant brush-off of John as a suspect, left him wondering if the fact Linda had 42 chat names that he'd been able to trace to her was a sign of something more sinister than immersion in work.

He hoped not.

*****

John sat at his desk in a bourbon-soaked daze, ogling suzi-q-zi as she stretched, naked on top of her bed. Dropping the wadded Kleenex on the floor, he groped for his pants and stood with a sway, pulling them up to fasten and buckle them before falling hard back into the chair.

"That was fuking graet," he typed, managing to misspell half the message.

Rolling on her side, suzi-q-zi looked at the message and decided she needed to reel this fish in a little.

"Glad you enjoyed. Now, when you gonna introduce me to a real man out here so I can really get my rocks off."

John stared for a minute as his mind processed what this black bitch was saying before finding the keyboard to respond.

"You're just a black cow that's good for one thing, and I just took care of that." Hitting the ENTER key a little harder than was needed, his hand waved around the desk until it found his drink.

"Right. What is that you carry around in your pants, you cracker? A snub-nosed 38? LMAO." With that comment, she'd indicated he had a three-inch dick and thought it was funny as hell.

Slamming his drink down, he got his hands back on the keyboard and typed frantically. "Listen bitch, you wanna know what I can do with this? Tell me where and when, and I'll show you what it's like to be with a real man."

There it was - just what she'd been waiting for. But she had to be sure he was mad enough; she had to make sure casual sex wasn't the only thing on the agenda.

"What ya gonna do, tickle me to death? LOL"

John could feel the red as it moved up his neck. His ears burned, and his vision went blurry from the rage. She'd be easy. He could do her easier than he had Marge; there was no connection between them, no established public relationship that could tie him to her. All their chats had been private, and he hadn't talked about her or invited any of his 'chat buddies' to watch or participate after that first night.

"Put up or shut up, bitch," was all he typed while Sara watched his movements. He typed pounding the keys; then he sat glowering at the camera with a lecherous snarl on his face, waiting for her response.

Pouting into the camera for several seconds, suzi-q-zi turned to her laptop and typed "I'm sorry; I was just playing again. I thought you would know it by now." Hitting ENTER to send the message; she turned back to pout once more like a scolded school girl.

John watched as she played a hand across her nipples and pinched one between her fingers. Lifting one of her legs, her hand slid down to her crotch where a finger disappeared before trailing back up her body to her mouth where her pout encased it as she sucked animatedly. Sorry bitch, John thought, I've had enough of your games.

"It's okay, suzi-q-zi. Listen, why not?"

"Why not what," came back from suzi-q-zi.

"Let's get together. You can even bring your boots and play all you want"

Sara felt a little rush at playing the game. She felt a bigger rush when she contemplated winning. But she had to be careful; she didn't want to make it too easy.

"WOW. I don't know. I'd love to, but really, we don't even know each other."

"Hey, we've made love everyday for almost a week, and I don't think there's any part of you I haven't seen yet. EFG." John added the Evil Fucking Grin to draw her in, to say, 'hey, we've done it all; let's consummate'.

John couldn't believe his luck as he walked across his basement floor, screwdriver in hand, looking for the board that hid his stash. No, he didn't have anything better to do Thanksgiving Day. The kids were off with an aunt, and for some reason his name had never come up in the invitation. Of course, what could he expect from Marge's sister? Stumbling on a box of Marge's things he'd brought downstairs to be thrown out, he cursed as he saw the damage done to the board as it pulled free too quickly. Who cares he thought; I'll dump it all tomorrow.

Carrying the jacket and other items upstairs, he put it all in a small gym bag he used for summer softball league. Yes, tomorrow would be a special day for suzi-q-zi.

*****

The Sentinel sprawled on the chair watching the dramas play out on different screens. The chat in one room was flying across the screen as the occupants verbally abused some poor soul that had ventured an opinion contrary to that of the majority of its occupants.

Using passwords pulled from the tattered notebook at the Sentinel's elbow, a few private chats were open with their cams on. Everything, from sex to violence, bathing to cooking, could be found.

The rooms seemed exceptionally full, and the Sentinel wondered if that was due to the upcoming long weekend. Everyone was squeezing in that last thrill before Thanksgiving tomorrow with the family.

The Sentinel would not be having a Thanksgiving meal. There would be no celebration with family or even friends this year. It had all become so consuming - the virtual reality - drawing in the innocent and spitting out jaded cynics that visited the darker side of human nature more frequently than the human psyche could tolerate.

Looking at another screen, the Sentinel's eyes settled on suzi_blue and her boyfriend as they said their lingering goodbyes. Making vows for an electronic date on Friday evening after family activities subsided, the Sentinel began to wonder if a mistake was about to be made. Could it be that Jan was not the chosen one?

Settling lower in the old leather chair, the Sentinel wondered. Well, that should be settled soon, the Sentinel decided.

*****

Jan did more than fall into Jack's arms when they arrived back at the apartment; she surrendered. She'd watched the tearful reunion as Momma Rosa hugged Jack close and cried while Jack responded in kind.

Rosa's had been a favorite haunt of Lisa's and Jack's when she was in town, and Rosa had been won over early by the quiet couple that always sat in the corner booth in the back lingering over wine as their candle burned down to signal when it was time to go. Decent people with money had been her conclusion, and she felt that was a hard combination to find. Through tidbits here and there, she'd learned enough of Jack's story to know his parents were both dead, and he had no real family. It had become her mission to make them feel at home whenever they came in.

The meal had been great, and the wine even better. Juan had brought his wife; a leggie blonde that might have been mistaken for the classic stereotype until you talked to her for more than two minutes. She had a quick mind and subtle sense of humor that would easily leave the best of the best in the lurch if she decided they deserved it. Mary was far from the bumbling, dumb blonde.

"Juan's Mexican; they're pushovers for the rubias," Jack had said.

"Naw, Juan was in search of intelligent life after hanging out with you for so many years," had been her quick response.

The table had been the same one he and Lisa had used so many times before, but oddly enough, there were no soulful glances or reverent touches as he guided her into the booth beside him, no reminiscing or tearful eyes. There was only a quiet meal with another couple that capped a week of triumphs as Juan explained the Big Two were a 'done deal'. Corporate lawyers would have the paperwork hammered out for review over the Christmas holidays with an anticipated signing on the day Jack had promised to return to the office.

Mary had raised her wine and locked eyes with Jack to toast his return to 'real life' and, as a side bar, to his miraculous escape from the armrests of his wheelchair. It seemed the most important point to her was that he was out and about with or without his 'wheels'.

As they let them out at the apartment building, Mary had grabbed Jan's arm and said, "You do realize the invitation to our house for Thanksgiving tomorrow was not a casual afterthought? We will expect you two around noon." Mary's furtive glance at Jack, who was standing outside the door talking quietly to Juan, said the invitation was meant to make sure he continued to get out and about and didn't find an excuse for a quick retreat.

"We'll be there, count on it."

Now, lying in the arms of this complex man, listening to his breathing slow and deep, Jan felt sated and content. There had been a brief moment when it dawned on her that they needed to plan for Friday - to decide what to do, how to handle it. Jack's finger on her lips and the quiet shushing had been all she needed to leave it all behind for the time being. There was entirely too much to live for and enjoy at this moment to mire it down with talk of deceit and revenge.

"Stay with me, Jack," Jan whispered.

Sleepily rolling on his side, he draped an arm around her and pulled her close as if in response but continued to sleep.

"Keep me safe," she whispered, softer this time and was surprised when he whispered back.

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