By the time they got Jim in an interrogation room, his lawyer sat next to him.
“Look, Jim, I just want to know who asked you to record Ashley Jensen.”
“My client can’t answer that. He doesn’t know. He has told you that multiple times. Now, why are we really here? Are you charging my client?”
“Why don’t you let your client answer his own questions? Jim if the tapes weren’t for you, then who were they for?”
Both men across the table stayed silent, waiting each other out.
“Are you charging him or not?” The layer asked finally breaking the silence.
“Well, we found enough drugs in the office packaged to sell it. So yeah, we are charging him. Possession, and intent to sell for now, but I am certain there are more charges coming. Like illegal gambling.”
“You have no proof for any of that. Furthermore, did you have a warrant to enter my client’s place of business?”
“We were invited in by Rae Lynn. My partner found the drugs on her desk. Sitting out in the open.”
“Do you really expect me to believe that?”
“Yeah, how do we know you didn’t plant the drugs yourself, Detective?” Jim interjected.
The attorney put his arm up to shut Jim up. Jim turned and looked at the man, who stared hard back at him. Jim sulked down in the chair.
“You have no proof of illegal gambling. Videotapes, audio recordings, surveillance of any kind, sworn testimony, other than from a convicted felon, whose word is garbage anyway. You’ve got nothing detective.
“ You don’t know who I have talked to. I do have a player who sat in one of these games, and this player is credible, Ben bluffed. He knew Stephen Duke wasn’t what a jury would consider a credible witness, but he pressed on anyway. The woman your client had recorded is dead. If she wasn’t recording someone against their knowledge and consent is against the law. If it wasn’t your client, it was someone at that game or associated with it. Jim, who was at the game then? Who asked you to record Ashley?”
Before the attorney could respond, he heard a knock on the door. Ben got up and answered it. Chief Signari signaled for Ben to step out of the interrogation room. There were two men in suits in the hallway. Ben knew by the look of them, who they were.
“Ben, this is Agent Larger and Agent Yee from the FBI. Gentlemen, this is Detective Carter.”
“We aren’t charging Jim Danwood. He is free to go.” The Chief Signai said.
“He’s under investigation for a whole slew of federal charges Detective Carter. We need him.”
“ What? This guy knows more than he is telling us about a serial killer who is brutally raping and killing women in this city. Right now he is our only solid lead.”
“Can you prove it?” Agent Yee asked.
Ben grew angry, his face grew red as his fingernails dug into his palms from clenching his fists so tightly.
“I know this guy is the key to this case. I just need more time with him. I am sick and tired of picking up his victims who have been discarded like trash on the side of the highway. Look we won’t charge him, but we can still question him.”
“No, if his lawyer learns you aren’t charging him, they’re going to walk. Can we charge him with something small, just to slow him down, buy us some more time without jeopardizing your investigation?” Marty asked.
“I am sorry, no. You need to cut them loose, the both of them.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ben asked, the annoyance thick in his voice. “We have been searching for this maniac for three months now, this is the first bit of evidence that we have, and you are telling me that I can’t question the guy connected with it? You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Ben calm down.” The Chief said. “You know this is how this works.”
“Look we tried to get down here as soon as we could once we heard you’d picked him up. There is more at stake here than a trumped up drug charge.”
“Hell yes, there is, the lives of the women of this city. Drug charges aside, I just need this guy to talk about who asked him to record one of my victims. I am betting our guy was at this poker game Danwood runs.”
“Sorry man, you can’t go digging into the gaming. We have been building a case for more than two years around this game. You have to walk away.”
“This is bullshit!”
“Ben! Take a walk, go cool down.” The Chief said.
Ben knew the chief wasn’t asking. Ben walked out of the hallway where the five men in the conversation had stood, he had to get out of there. He turned around and walked back in.
“What about Rae? Is she off limits too?”
“Yes. Walk away from this Carter. We aren’t asking. You are going to blow two years worth of work here.”
“You tell that to the families of these women! Danwood knows more than he’s saying. We can make a connection from Danwood to the last victim.”
“I am sorry, I really am but you are going to have to leave Danwood and Rae alone, period.”
“This is Bullshit!”
Ben walked out of the station, he had to cool down, he had to walk away from the first solid lead he had at that ate at who he was as a person. He needed to think, there had to be another way to get this information. He paced down the sidewalk thinking. Stephen Duke, he needed to talk to Duke. He pulled out his phone and dialed his number. The phone rang and went to voicemail. He tried again.
The phone rang as he drove down Halstead towards Pilsen where Duke lived. Ben expected it to be Marty wondering where the hell Ben had gone. He looked at the number but did not immediately recognize it. He answered it.
He recognized the voice and started to speak when the car next to him veered into his lane.
“Shit!” He yelled as he veered my car over into the other lane, dropping his phone.
“Hello? It’s Rachel. I am sorry did I catch you at a bad time? Hello Ben? Are you there?”
He pulled his car back into my lane and picked his phone up off of the seat.
“Hello, Ben? Are you okay?”
“Hi, Rachel. Sorry.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. I am glad you called.”
She let out a deep breath, “why is this so hard?”
There was an award pause.
“Would you like to go to a movie and maybe dinner sometime?”
“I would love to. When would you like to go?”
“Do you have plans on Tuesday?”
“Tuesday would be perfect. How about 7 pm?”
“Okay. I’ve been thinking about this and I really want to give this another try, if you are want to?”
“I would like that very much.”
“Okay, Tuesday then. I will see you then.”
“I am really glad you called.”
“Me too. Bye Ben.”
Ben hung up his phone and set it on the seat next to him. He loved the sound of his name spoken by her. He wondered what prompted her to call as he parked his car on the street, a block away from Duke’s house.
He got out of the car and checking out his surroundings this part of Pilsen was still rough. It was after dark now. He walked to Duke’s place, walking up the set of cement steps. He rang the bell twice before an older Hispanic came over and opened the door.
“Can I help you?” She asked, her accent thick.
“Hello, I am looking for Stephen Duke, is he in?”
She eyed me, wondering who I was.
“He’s not here.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“Are you a cop? Why do you want to know?”
“Actually I am, I am a detective. It is really important that I speak with Stephen.”
“He isn’t here. He has not been here in three days. His officer was here earlier looking for him too.”
“His Parole officer?”
“My partner dropped him off last night, here.”
“I was home all night and didn’t see Stephen.”
“Are you saying he did not come home last night?”
“No, he didn’t.”
“Do you have any idea where he might be? Where I might be able to find him?”
“No. He rents a room from me. It’s not like him not come home.”
“Look he isn’t in trouble, I just really need to speak to him. If you hear from him, will you please give him my card. It is very important.”
“I don’t think he is okay.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s not like him to not come home. He missed his check in with his Officer too. Stephen wouldn’t do that. He is working hard to be a good man, get his life right. And.. “ she paused.
“Well it’s strange that’s all.”
“What is strange?”
“Everyone seems to be looking for him, worried about him, except for work. They haven’t called her once looking for Stephen. That just seems, odd to me.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“Wednesday morning. Before he left for work he said, he’d be back in time for dinner and church. He always walks me to church on Wednesday nights.”
“Has there been anyone else that has come by to look for him?”
“Some guys came by yesterday afternoon, they said they were his friends, but I’ve never seen them before. Do you think something happened to him? I pray that he is okay.” She grabbed the silver cross on her necklace around her neck.
“I am sure he’s fine,” Ben said. “Please have him call me when he comes back.”
He knew Stephen wasn’t fine, it was no coincidence that his only link to the killer and his connection to taking down James Danwood was now missing. The lady closed the door and he turned back for the car. He pulled out his phone and called Marty, who picked up the phone almost instantly.
“Hey, where did you go?” Marty asked.
“To question Duke again. You dropped him off last night, right?”
“Did you see him go inside?”
“I didn’t stay and watch, why?”
“His landlady said he didn’t come home last night. I have tried to call him a couple of times today too, no answer. The landlady said his P.O. is looking for him too.”
“That’s not good.”
“No. How much do you want to bet Danwood knew Duke was talking to us and that’s why we can’t find him?”
“I’m not taking that bet. But I do have some good news, we’ve got a good looking list of players. While we can’t investigate the game or Danwood, this is a pretty nice list. As long as we are quiet about it, the Chief is going to look the other way.”
“That is good at least.”
“Hey while I am thinking about it can you run a check on a name for me?”
“Got a D.O.B?”
“No, but he was married to a Rachel Lawson. Previous address is 4458 Lilac Drive.”
“Lilac Drive as in your Lilac Drive? I take it this is off the record? What am I looking for here?”
“Assault, anything domestic.”
“Okay. Is this the girl you are dating? Rachel Lawson.”
“Yeah, the way she talks about her ex, it makes me wonder.”
“Shouldn’t you wait for her to tell you the story?”
Ben knew his partner was right, but his gut told him there was something dark to Rachel’s story.