Friday, September 23, 2005

The Luck of the Dice

Copyright 2004 - Bruce Gaughran

Rev. 3 - 03/08/10

Jimmy’s father had always told him that Yahtzee and hunting were a lot alike.  In Yahtzee, you never knew what combination of numbers was going to come up, but if you were smart and lucky, it would always be a winning combination.  Similarly, with hunting, you never knew what game would end up in your sights, but if you were smart and lucky, you would bring home the kill.

Monday, May 19 – Rural Manchester County

After finishing dinner and cleaning up, Jimmy opened the closet and pulled out his favorite game - Yahtzee.  He walked over to the kitchen table, opened the box, pulled out two dice, and threw them down on the table.  The dice tumbled and spun around several times before a ‘4’ and a ‘6’ came up.  He picked up two more dice from the box, shook them twice, and threw them down.  This time a ‘1’ and a ‘3’ came up. 

“Thirteen was definitely going to be someone’s unlucky number,” he mumbled as he counted down thirteen names on page 46 of the Manchester County telephone book.  His fingers traced over the name as he commented, “J. A. Iverson, 414 West Walnut, North Bergen.” 

He wondered for a moment if J. A. was a man or a woman.  Often women only used their initials in the phone book to disguise their gender.  But, in reality, Jimmy didn’t care what gender the person was; all that mattered was that the Mr. or Ms. Iverson still lived at 414 West Walnut.

The only question left was when.  He picked up the last die in the box, shook it three times, and threw it down.  This time a ‘1’ came up.  Well, Iverson certainly was unlucky.  ‘1’ meant Monday and today just happened to be Monday. 

Picking up the Army-issue 45 pistol and ammunition clip from the kitchen cabinet above the sink, he rammed the clip into the handle of the automatic and slid the receiver back.  When he released the receiver, it made a clicking sound as the bullet seated into the chamber.  Jimmy loved that sound because it gave him a sense of power. 

Next, he carefully slipped the surgeon’s scalpel out of its homemade carrying case, and ran his thumb along the edge.  Yes, it was nice and sharp, just the way he needed it. 

If someone were to watch him as he prepared, they would immediately recognize that he was a perfectionist.  Jimmy was a meticulous planner.  He left nothing to chance.  That was why he had never been, nor ever would be, caught.    

He reached underneath the sink and pulled out his gym bag.  Placing both items carefully into the bag, he scratched off these two items on his checklist before packing the rest of the tools of his trade.  Cotton gloves, surgical gloves and booties, one set of intern’s green scrubs, one surgical mask and cap, two pair of cotton socks, one bottle of ether, one box of cotton, one heavy-duty trash bag, a can of lighter fluid, a Zippo lighter, gray sweatpants and sweatshirt, jogging shorts, a pair of white tennis shoes, a box of Handi-Wipes, and a collapsible cooler with a chemical icepack.  He carefully placed every item into the bag, checked it off the list, and zipped the bag closed.

Taking the bag with him, he walked into the bathroom.  Using a straight razor, he shaved his face, his eyebrows, and head, showered, brushed his teeth, plucked his nose hairs, and cleaned and trimmed his nails.  Jimmy always wanted to give a positive ‘last’ impression.  As he cleaned up, he hummed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony … placing extra emphasis on the ‘Da-da-da-DUM!’ 

Walking nude back into the bedroom, he carefully unzipped the gym bag, removed the jogging shorts, scrubs, tennis shoes, and one pair of socks before zipping the bag closed again.  As he dressed, he looked into the mirror and admired his physically fit appearance.  The washboard-like abs, powerful quads, and strong upper arms reflected a person that cared about his body.  It just goes to show what clean living and a healthy diet does for a man.

After one final check of the list, he carried the bag out to his ’96 blue Ford Taurus and carefully placed it on the passenger-side seat.  As he pulled out of the driveway, he stopped to pick up the evening paper.  He quickly scanned each page and was disappointed when he did not find any mention of ‘the Collector’ until page 6.  There, in the lower right corner, was a three-paragraph article with the heading, “Police no closer to identifying the Collector.”  Jimmy smirked as he read ‘the Collector’ in the heading.  The Manchester County Free Press had given him that name after the second murder.  They assumed that he was collecting the organs from his victims as some kind of prize. 

Jimmy intently read and reread the three paragraphs, paying close attention to any references to the on-going investigation.  He laughed as he read that the police continued to use the Federal and State databases to find any possible links to the seven victims.  Jimmy only knew of one link, the Yahtzee dice.  The dice decided who would die and when.  No one died on a Sunday.  No victims’ names were ever on pages 17-20, 27-30, and so on, of the telephone book and no one was ever that number of lines down the page since the dice did not have a 7, 8, 9, or 0.  He also had the option of deciding how the two dice read.  A 3 and a 4 could be 7, 34, or 43 depending upon how he felt that day.  Boy did he like Yahtzee.

Monday Evening - North Bergen

Driving the thirty-three miles into North Bergen, he hummed what he remembered of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  Jimmy liked most classical music.  It was very calming, especially right before a collection.  What a great name.  There was something about the way composers like Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Mozart could create perfectly harmonious music.  Perfect in every way.  Just like his collecting

A few miles outside of town, he pulled into a QuikMart to use the phone.  He dialed the number he had memorized earlier that day and after three rings a female’s voice answered the phone.

“Mrs. Iverson,” he inquired.

“No, this is Ms. Iverson,” was the response.  “Who’s calling?”

“I am calling for the Christian Children’s Relief Fund.  Could I take a few moments of your time and explain how this non-profit organization helps our poor and needy children?”

“No thank you,” was the immediate response.  “And, would you please take my name off your calling list?”

“Why certainly, ma’am.  I am sorry to have disturbed you.”  Jimmy hung up the phone, shook his head, and mumbled, “She’s not much of a Christian woman if she isn’t prepared to help some starving children.”  Jimmy then chuckled at Ms. Iverson’s request.  After tonight, Ms. Iverson's name will be permanently removed from many lists.

Thirty minutes later, Jimmy watched the look on the woman’s face as he carefully sliced opened her adnominal cavity.  Still conscious, but no longer feeling any pain because of the ether, the woman calmly lies on the floor only slightly aware of the organ removal process.  With the skill of a surgeon, Jimmy carefully removes each organ, packages it in a zip-lock bag, and places it in the collapsible cooler.  Then, when it was time for the heart and lungs, Jimmy leaned forward and focused on the woman’s eyes.  With the initial slice, he watched the life slowly and quietly slip away.  He sat back on his legs and took a deep breath.  Removal of the heart and lungs were always anti-climatic and rather disappointing to him.  Oh well, such is life.

Tuesday, May 20 – Manchester County

Jimmy was up early and walked briskly down the driveway to pick up the morning paper.  Before he was back inside, he had unrolled the paper and glanced at the headlines.  At the top of the first page was, “The Collector Strikes Again.”  In bold letters right underneath was, “The police are baffled as to the killer’s motive.”  Wonderful, I am first page material once again.

As he sipped his tea and listened to Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Jimmy read the entire story of the gruesome murder … their words, not his … of this twenty-year-old college student.  “No fingerprints, no one saw anything, no clues” – the reporter was really putting down the police department for their lack of progress on these eight murders.  The reporter used the words serial killer again with a reference to these ‘Bundy-like’ murders.  Now that made him mad.  He was no Bundy! 

As Jimmy prepared his breakfast, he reread the article again.  Pulling out a pen from the junk drawer, he repeatedly scratched through the words ‘Bundy-like’ until the newspaper tore.  Frustrated, he crumpled up the paper and tossed it in the trash.  Bundy was an animal.  The Collector is a scientist, a surgeon, and an artist.

Even with his frustration over the reporter’s choice of words, breakfast this morning was excellent.  The best he had eaten in close to a week.  The smell of it was still in the air and it made his mouth water.  The sausage was especially good.  He could hardly wait to try the new kidney pie recipe for lunch.  Thank you, Betty Crocker and Ms. Iverson.

Tuesday Morning – Police Headquarters, North Bergen

Detectives Jena Young and Andy Donavon sat in the chief’s office awaiting his return.  Chief Davis finished his press conference and returned to his office shortly after 9:30.  As he entered, both detectives sensed the chief was not a happy man. 

The chief fell into his chair and took a deep breath.  “What is going on, guys?  Why can’t we find this joker?”  He gave a long sigh and rubbed his temples before continuing.  “Jena, I know you briefed everyone at roll-call this morning, but go over it once again for me.”

Jena flipped open her notepad and, before beginning, read what was on the page.  “Chief, this guy … or gal … is good.  We still don’t have one lead.  In all eight murders, nothing was left behind that could be linked to the murder.  No forced entry, no witnesses, no sexual assault, no fingerprints, no DNA, other than the victims, NOTHING!”  It was Jena’s turn to take a deep breath.  “I’m sorry, boss, but this case has Andy and me as frustrated as you.”

Davis knew the two were frustrated.  He also knew that they were both first-rate detectives.  “Have you found any links between any of the victims … any links at all, for that matter?”

Andy fielded this question to take some of the heat off Jena.  “No, boss, we have the FBI and the State Bureau running every possible scenario.  Nothing at all links any of the victims.  Even stranger, nothing links these murders with any other murders anywhere in the country.  Jena and I hate to admit it, but we are stymied.  We believe it might be time to bring in the Feds on this one ... that is, with your permission, chief.”

In Davis’ 23 years on the force, he had never had a case as frustrating as this one.  No evidence, no leads, no links, nothing.  Perhaps it was time to bring someone in.  Their lab was understaffed and using 1970’s technology.  When he approached the county council for additional funds to update their lab equipment, they had turned him down.  Manchester was just a sleepy little county where the worst criminal offense was a speeding ticket or shoplifting.  Hell, even if they had evidence, they would have to send it off to the State Bureau for analysis.    

Shaking his head, Davis grumbled, “As much as I hate to admit it, I think you’re right.  Let’s bring the Feds in on this one.  In hindsight, we should have brought them in a month ago.  But, before making the call to the Feds, call to the State Bureau and let them know what we are doing, okay?  We don’t want them mad at us for going over their heads.”  Davis sat back in his chair and stared at the ceiling.  “What else can we do to catch this guy … or gal?”

“Well, we have been consulting with a Criminologist at the Bureau,” Jena jumped in.  “She is also a profiler.  She has the usual guesses.  The ‘unsub’ is a white male, between 30-to-40 years old, single, educated, and comes from a broken home.  He was probably traumatized as a child … possibly abuse.  Collecting the organs is his way of looking back upon each victim.  The organs are a kind of trophy to him.  Without any additional clues and any links between the victims, she can’t say much more.”

“With that information, we have narrowed it down to a little over 15,000 possibilities in the county,” Andy chuckled.  “That is, if the murderer lives in the county.”

Jena recognized the chief’s negative facial expression with Andy’s comment, and continued, “The profiler believes we should issue a county-wide notice asking everyone to be on the lookout for anyone fitting this description.  I am hesitant to put something so weak out there for fear that we will be chasing down dozens of false leads and end up not working the case.”

Davis stood up and began pacing the floor.  “I think you’re right, Jena.  We don’t want to panic everyone in the county.  On the other hand, we should probably put out another statement, similar to the one we gave the press last month, recommending that people lock their doors, and be on the lookout for anything or anyone suspicious.  We probably shouldn’t need to say it, but remind them to call 911 if they think they have any information related to this or any of the other cases.  I’ll also talk to the council about offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of this murderer.  A little money usually gets more action than civic pride.

One more thing, I would like you two to give a daily briefing at the morning role call.  We need everyone working this case.”  The chief paused for a second as if he was thinking that he missed something.  When nothing came to mind, he asked, “Do you have anything else?”

Jean and Andy looked at each other and simultaneously responded, “No, boss.”

“Okay, we’re done here.  Now go out there and catch the son-of-a-bitch before he kills someone else.”

Chief Davis fell back into his chair, pulled off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands.  I just need seven more years and then I can retire.  If we don’t find this killer soon, the council might want to replace me … and who can blame them.  They don’t want excuses; they want these murders stopped.  Seven more years and I can walk away from this and never look back.  Seven more years, then Angela and I can sell our home and move to the lake. 

Monday, May 26 – Manchester County

As Jimmy pulled into his driveway, he stopped to pick up the evening paper.  Ever since Thursday’s edition, there had not been any mention of ‘The Collector’ or anything else about the case.  He frowned as he read the headlines.  The FBI had been brought into the case.  The addition of the FBI might put a new wrinkle in his collections.  Boy did he like that word.  Even though he was meticulous in the planning and execution of his little adventures, he was now dealing with the Feds.

After preparing dinner, Jimmy sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of Burgundy wine and a plate of liver and onions.  As he savored the first bite of the fresh liver, he thought back twenty-five years ago to his first deer-hunting trip. 

He could not have been more thrilled when he shot his first buck - a five-pointer.  As happy as he was, his father was even more thrilled.  He slapped Jimmy on the back and raced him down the hill to the buck. 

"That was a clean shot, son.  You really are a chip off the old block.  I’m proud of you, boy."

When they reached the deer, his father pulled out his hunting knife and cut into the buck's belly.  Jimmy thought he was going to throw-up as he watched his father saw into the abdominal cavity.  Jimmy stepped back in horror when his father buried both his hands inside the buck’s belly and began to scoop out its guts.  When his father pulled out his hands, his arms were covered in blood all the way up to the elbows.

His father smiled while lifting a bloody mass of guts up towards him and asked, "Are you ready to enter into manhood, boy?"

Jimmy remembered how horrified he was at that moment.  He started to back-up, but tripped over a log and went down hard. 

His father laughed so hard that tears came to his eyes.  "What's the matter, boy; you aren't scared, are you?"  As Jimmy stood up and brushed himself off, his father cut off a chunk of the organ he was holding, reached out, and stuck the piece into Jimmy's mouth.  "Come on, boy, chew it up good.  It'll put hair on that chest of yours."

The last thing Jimmy wanted to do was disappoint his father, so he took a deep breath, closed his eyes, chewed, and swallowed the meat.  Surprisingly, it was not bad.  He immediately noticed the pleasing texture, but even more surprising was the warmth and magnificent flavor.

After a couple of more hunting trips, Jimmy had acquired quite a taste for fresh organs.  Over time, he found it easy to satisfy his tastes by making regular hunting trips.  It became far more difficult, however, once the Army drafted him.

Fortunately, Jimmy shipped out to Vietnam right after boot camp.  Even more fortunate, his company commander assigned Jimmy to a RECON company that spent most of its time in the bush.  All of a sudden, he found an unlimited supply of fresh organs.  The only difference was that these were human organs ... Viet Cong.  It happened on his first ambush operation in the Mekong Delta.  Jimmy’s platoon surprised six VC – killing them all.  As he checked to make certain that Charlie was dead, he noticed that one of them had a gut wound from the shrapnel of a M-79 grenade and the VC’s organs were hanging out of his opened abdominal cavity.  Instead of repulsed by the sight, he found himself mesmerized by it.  There, hanging out on the left side was what was left of one of the kidneys.  Without even thinking, Jimmy reached down and ran his fingers along the top and sides of the organ.  He lifted his fingers to his mouth and sucked the blood off them.  Memories of past hunting trips flashed before his eyes. 

Why not give it a try?  Jimmy pulled out his jungle knife and sliced off a chunk of the kidney.  As soon as he tasted it, Jimmy’s pallet immediately recognized that this was far superior and more fulfilling than any animal’s organs.  It was wonderful!

At some point in his first Vietnam tour, Jimmy began to enjoy the act of collecting the organs almost as much as preparing and eating them.  There was something exhilarating about watching a person die.  After several experiments, he found that if he was careful, he could keep a person alive for a good portion of the organ collection process.  Initially, and mostly through trial and error, Jimmy experimented with his victims by changing the order of the organs removed and watching the effect of the removal on the person.  After more than a two dozen experiments, he had perfected the order to a point where he could now keep a person alive until he removed one of the last two vital organs, the heart and lungs.

As Jimmy’s first tour of duty ended, he realized that once he left Vietnam, he was also leaving a never-ending supply of quality meat.  There was only one thing he could do; he re-upped for another tour. 

Unfortunately, his two years were up far too quickly.  After returning to the States, he found himself hunting deer once again, but it was less than satisfying now that he had tasted the good stuff.

After leaving the service, Jimmy went to work for the local funeral director.  This was a purposeful career move for him.  He wanted to learn more about the human anatomy - especially about the body's organs.  During this training, funded by the G.I. Bill, he also became very proficient in the use of the surgeon's scalpel.  He became so good with the scalpel that the mortician commented several times that Jimmy could be a doctor.

It was during this period of training that Jimmy became 'The Collector'.  At first, the collections took place out of state and over random weekends, but his appetite for fresh organs became insatiable.  The trips were also too time consuming, expensive and one more important thing.  He found that it was difficult to make a body disappear.  Besides, Jimmy was proud of his surgeon’s skills and wanted the world to know it.  After ten collection trips, Jimmy decided it was time to stay a little closer to home.

After washing up the dishes, Jimmy reached for the Yahtzee box in the closet.  Jokingly, he yelled, “7 come 11,” as he threw the first two dice down on the table.  A five and a two came up and Jimmy yelled, “All right!”  He then threw the second two dice down and yelled, “Come on 11.”  This time a pair of ones came up.  “Snake-eyes,” he yelled and then giggled.  “Players choice,” he mumbled as he pulled out the telephone book from the kitchen’s junk drawer.  Jimmy looked at the second and the eleventh name on page 52.  Anthony L. Damon and R. Davis.  Neither stood out, so he did the next best thing, “Eny meny miny moe, catch a …”  R. Davis was the winner.  He memorized the rest of the information before putting away the phone book.  Next, he threw the last die and a six came up.  “So, R. Davis gets a reprieve until Saturday.”  Jimmy glanced towards the refrigerator wondering whether there was enough meat to last through the end of the week.  He knew he could not break the rules of the game.  R. Davis was just lucky.  He hoped Davis enjoyed his last days on planet earth.

Friday, May 30 - FBI Temporary Offices, North Bergen

Jena and Andy arrived at the Holiday Inn at 2:30 in the afternoon.  They nodded to Sam Stevens, the owner, as they walked through the lobby.  Rooms 113 and 114 were now the official ‘temporary’ offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Andy knocked on the door to 113 and had to wait several minutes before Special Agent Rita Sanchez admitted the two into the control center.  Agent Sanchez did not greet the two detectives; she just turned around, walked back to the third laptop, sat down, and began scrolling down the screen.  Andy could not resist and said, “Good Afternoon to you to, Rita.”  Rita did not even look up from the screen.  Jena jabbed Andy in the ribs and gave him a dirty look.  Andy just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

Both detectives were immediately impressed with the set-up.  The Feds had replaced the beds and furniture with office furniture and equipment.  Four laptop computers were on one long table.  A combo-printer, fax, and copier were located on a small table next to the PCs.  Cables and cords ran everywhere inside the one room, but Andy noticed that they were all duct taped to the floor to minimize any tripping accidents.  All FBI agents must have OSHA training.

Special Agent Mark Griffin walked into the room through the side door to 114 and stopped dead in his tracks – surprised to see the two detectives.  “Well, hello.  I didn’t know we had company.”  Rita glanced up from the screen and gave one of those ‘like you really care’ looks.

Jena did not want to waste the agents’ time, so she jumped into the purpose for the visit.  “Chief Davis asked us to come over and get an update.  He has a meeting with the mayor in about,” Jena looked at her watch before continuing, “two hours.  Is there anything new you can share?”

Reflecting her disdain for local police officers, Rita did not even bother to look up.  Mark, who had come from the police ranks before entering the academy, was slightly more appreciative of the local’s role in crime prevention, and asked the two to step into his office – pointing to the door to 114. 

As they entered, the detectives noticed the meeting room had two large blackboards along with a small table and six chairs.  Taped to the south wall were pictures of the eight victims along with a cheat sheet reflecting the date, time, and location of each murder.  On a small table next to the door was a coffee maker, a box of donuts, a half-eaten bag of chips, and three colas.  The trashcan next to the table was overflowing with fast-food bags and Styrofoam cups.

Mark closed the door behind him and motioned to the chairs.  “Please sit down.  You have to forgive Agent Sanchez; she is rather focused and doesn’t take interruptions well.”  Mark pulled out a chair and sat down.  “Now what can I tell you?”

Jena put on her best smile, thanked Mark, and sat down.  “As I mentioned, Chief Davis has to brief the mayor in a couple of hours.  He was hoping to include an update on your activities over the last few days.”

Mark briefed the two on everything they had accomplished including the setting up of their temporary office, logging onto the national criminal database, and their discussion with the FBI’s best profiler in Washington, DC.  They had sent DNA samples and crime scene photos to their Boston office.  He also explained that they reviewed the police department’s case files and visited the eight crime scenes.  “I must say that the two of you were very thorough in your initial investigations of each crime.  It isn’t often we see such good work from local police departments.  You two should be commended.”

Jena glanced at Andy and saw the smile form on his face.  She, on the other hand, believed Mark was just blowing smoke.  “Thank you, but is there anything concrete we can report to the mayor?”

Mark saw that this detective was sharper than he had originally thought and decided it was time to level with her.  “No, I am sorry to say that we have nothing new.  Until ‘The Collector’ strikes again, we just have to sit and wait and hope we get lucky.  Meanwhile, we continue to browse other serial killers’ files in our national database, looking for similarities.  So far, we can say this is no copycat killer.”  The agent paused for a moment as if thinking through everything they had done in the past few days.

“One other thing and maybe this is significant.  We cannot find that ‘The Collector’ has sold any of the organs.  We checked all hospitals and institutions within the United States and our contacts overseas.  No one has seen any of these organs showing up.  Now, that doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t selling them on the black market.  All it says is that the organs aren’t moving through normal channels.”

Andy leaned forward and asked, “It has been eleven days since the last murder.  You don’t think he has skipped town, do you?”

“I don’t think so, detective.  Often in cases like this the perpetrator takes a break for some unknown reason and then starts up again.”

Jena thanked Mark for the update and again asked that she be contacted if anything, anything at all, comes up.  Mark assured Jena that he had her cell phone number and would not hesitate to call.  As Jena stood up, she thought of one more question.  “The press is getting pretty nasty about this news blackout.  They are calling the department several times a day attempting to pull something out of anyone answering the phone.  The mayor is also pressuring the chief to release more information.  Is this blackout still necessary?”

“Detective, our profiler believes it is critical that we not feed any information to the perpetrator.  He believes that the perpetrator loves the publicity.  So, to answer your question, yes, we believe that we shouldn’t do anything to feed the “unsub’s” ego.  At some time in the future, it might be important to feed the perpetrator something, perhaps some false information, to see if we can spark the Collector’s interest enough to make a mistake.”

After the two detectives left, Mark walked back into 113.  “Rita, why the attitude?  You could at least talk to them.  They’re just trying to do their job.”

Rita, who had been staring into the PC’s monitor, snapped around and glared at Mark.  “Don’t give me any of your high and mighty crap.  Those two detectives are just glorified parking meter-maids.  And, Chief Davis doesn’t impress me at all.  He just looks like he is biding his time until he can retire.  In fact, the entire North Bergen police department couldn’t solve this case even if the killer walked into the station house and confessed.”

Mark shook his head and knew that he would not be able to change her mind.  “Give it a rest, Rita.  They are doing the best they can with the limited resources at hand.”

“I’m serious, Mark.  The only ones capable of finding this killer are professional law enforcement officers.  People like you and me.”

Late Friday Afternoon – Police Headquarters, North Bergen

As soon as Chief Davis saw the two detectives outside his door, he waived them in.  “Well, what do you have for me today?  I need something positive to tell the mayor.”

Jena saw the strain in the chief’s face as he asked the question.  Davis had dark bags under his eyes and the wrinkles in his forehead appeared to be permanent.  Until this last week, she had not understood the political pressure he was under to solve this case.  “I’m sorry to say that the FBI hasn’t come up with anything more substantive.” 

Davis lowered his chin to his chest and started to massage the back of his neck.  Jena did not know what to say.  Andy jumped in trying to make conversation.  “They have quite the operations center down at the Holiday Inn.  If we had just a small portion of their budget, we could have probably cracked this case already.”

Jena jumped in before Andy stuck his foot any further down his throat.  “Special Agent Mark Griffin did provide us with a more definitive profile of the murderer.”  She pulled out her notes and continued, “The FBI believes the person is a white male between 35 and 45 years old.  He comes from a broken family.  He most likely lived with his mother after the divorce.  The person was probably a doctor or an intern who had his license to practice revoked or possibly flunked out of medical school.  The profiler believes that the person removes the organs to show off his excellent surgeon skills.

They also cannot find any records that the murderer is selling the organs on the open market, but do not discount the possibility that he is using the black market.” 

Chief Davis looked up and the expression on his face told the two of them that they were not helping.  “So, what are we supposed to do – just sit around on our asses until he kills again?”

Jena did not have an answer, but commented, “I’m sorry to agree with you, Chief, but I guess we do the same as the FBI is doing.  We just have to wait and hope he makes a mistake or we get lucky.”

Davis recognized that Jena was feeling sorry for him, took a deep breath, slicked back his thinning hair with his hands, and straightened his back in the chair.  “Wrong, detective, I want you to canvas the neighborhoods of the eight victims …”

Andy threw up his hands, “But, boss, we already did that.”

“Do it again,” snapped Chief Davis.  “Start with the most recent victim because the neighbors' memories will be the freshest.  However, this time ask questions that you didn’t ask before.  Don’t take anything for granted and probe further into who was home and what they saw and heard the evening of the murder, or perhaps beforehand.”

“But, boss, what … Ouch!”  Andy shut up and rubbed his ribs where Jena had just jabbed him hard with her elbow.

“You’ve got it, Chief,” replied Jena without looking over at her partner.  “We’ll get on it first thing in the morning.”  Jena turned to leave and when Andy continued to stand there in front of the chief’s desk; she grabbed his arm and pulled him out the door.

After Jena closed the chief’s door, Andy grabbed her arm, swung her around, and pointed at his ribs.  “That hurt!  What did you do that for?  You know this is bullshit work and we aren’t going to uncover anything else.  It is a total waste of time.”

Jena pulled Andy out of earshot of the door and in a hushed tone responded, “I know it, Andy, and so does Chief Davis.”

“Well then, why are we doing it?”

“Because the chief needs something to tell the mayor.  And, who knows, we might get lucky and pick up something we missed in our original interviews.”

“Yah, right!  I still think this is going to be a waste of time.”

After Jena and Andy left his office, Chief Davis opened the side drawer of his desk and pulled out the letter from the mayor.  He read it again - the third time today.  The last sentence again made his hands tremble.

            ‘Chief Davis, if you cannot solve this case within the next two weeks, I will have no alternative but to ask for your immediate resignation.’

There goes my pension.  Who is going to hire a 48-year-old police chief?

Saturday, May 31 - North Bergen

Jimmy sat in his car down the street from R. Davis’ house.  It was a modest two-story colonial with a detached garage.  As usual, he had called on the way into town and the woman answering the phone had refused to help the needy children.  It was 9:30 in the evening and the neighborhood was settling down for the night.  A calm settled over him as he waited for the right moment.  Saliva built up in his mouth just thinking about what he would be bringing home this evening.

He reached into his gym bag and ran his hand over the barrel of the 45.  Even though he knew it was loaded, he pulled it out and once again checked the magazine and chamber.  Better safe than sorry.  Instead of putting the revolver back into the bag, he slipped it into the specially designed holster taped to his lower back.  He then taped the surgeon’s scalpel to the inside of his arm – handle down for easy extraction from the case.  Everything will go just as planned.

At preciously 10:00, Jimmy walked down the street towards the house with his bag in hand.  Twice during the walk, he reached behind his back and checked for the 45.  He casually glanced up and down the street for any activity.  As he climbed up the steps to the front door, he lifted his nose into the air and for a moment imagined the smell of fear that would be present in just a couple of minutes.  He rang the doorbell.

After a moment, he heard a woman’s voice inside, “I wonder who that could be at this time of night?”  The woman, Jimmy guessed in her mid-forties, looked out the glass of the side window and asked, “Yes, can I help you?”

“I’m sorry to disturb you at this time of night, but I didn’t know what to do.  My car broke down on the way to the hospital.  I think the radiator hose blew.  I saw the lights on at your house and, well, would you be kind enough to let me use your phone to call the auto club so I can get a tow?”

Jimmy noticed the woman sizing him up in his surgeon’s scrubs, and after glancing behind him to see if there was anyone else on the steps, she nodded her head.  He heard the deadbolt lock snapping free and the door opened.  The saliva really started to flow in his mouth and he had a hard time swallowing it all.

As the woman invited Jimmy in, he sized her up quickly.  Even though Jimmy liked them a little younger, a woman in her forties who took care of herself could still be quite tasty.  “Thank you, ma’am.  You are most kind.”  As he followed the woman down the hallway, he glanced right and left into each room to see if anyone else was at home.  “This is a nice home you have here, ma’am.  What does your husband do for a living?”

“He’s the chief of police.”

Jimmy stopped dead in his tracks.  For the first time since he started his little adventure, sweat beads popped out on his forehead and he quickly wiped them off with his arm.  He needed to get out of the house.  He quickly pulled off the surgical gloves and stuffed them in his pocket.  “You’re Chief Davis’ wife,” he asked, as he looked even harder for the husband.  My God, of all the names in the phone book he could have chosen … what were the odds?

Mrs. Davis stopped and turned around to face Jimmy.  “Oh, do you know my husband?”

“No, ma’am, I've just seen his name in the papers.  Is Mr. Davis home this evening?  I would definitely like to meet him,” he lied.

“Actually, he just called and said he was on his way home.  He should be here any moment now.”  Mrs. Davis pointed to the phone hanging on the kitchen wall and said, “Do you have the number for the auto club or do you need a phone book?”

Jimmy knew he had to move fast.  “I’ve got the number, thank you.  You are very kind.”  He picked up the phone and dialed the Davis’ number and as he listened to the busy signal, he began to explain the situation to the fictitious person on the other end.  “Yes, is this the North Bergen Auto Club?  … Good.  My membership number is 239654.  Listen, my car broke down and I need a tow.  Could you send a wrecker out to …,” he looked over at Mrs. Davis while covering the mouthpiece and asked, “Ma’am, what is your address,” even though he had memorized it six days ago. 

Mrs. Davis gave him her address and told him to tell them they were right around the corner from Momma’s Bakery because everyone knows where that is.

“Yes, the car is just down the block from 5310 South 27th Avenue.  It is just around the corner from Momma’s Bakery.”  He smiled back at Mrs. Davis as he repeated her instructions.

After a brief pause, he continued, “Okay, great.  Thanks so much.”  He hung up the phone and began walking towards the door.  “They said they had a wrecker in the area and it should be here any minute.  Thank you so much for your kindness.  Not everyone would open their house to a stranger at 10:00 at night.”

“Would you like to wait inside until the wrecker arrives?”

No, … no thank you, ma’am.  I should be waiting outside to direct the wrecker to the car.”  Jimmy stopped at the door and held out his hand.  “Thank you, again.”

As Jimmy opened the door, Chief Davis was also opening the screen door.  Both men stared at each other for a moment before either spoke.  “You must be Chief Davis.  It is so nice to meet you.”  Jimmy stuck out his hand again and vigorously pumped the chief’s hand.  “Your lovely wife was nice enough to help out a person in distress after my car broke down.  I’ll let her explain it to you because I have a wrecker coming.”  Jimmy tried to push by the chief, but in doing so, his holster caught in the screen door handle and ripped it from his back. 

All three looked down as the holstered .45 fell to the steps.  The chief and Jimmy made eye contact once again.  Davis yelled for Angela to run as he kicked the pistol away from the man.  Angela screamed and slammed the door shut.  Jimmy reached up his sleeve and yanked out the surgeon’s scalpel.  He swung it around in a wide loop hoping to make contact with Davis.  The scalpel barely missed Davis’ throat as he stepped back away from the lunging man. 

Davis, however, lost his balance with the move and fell down the three steps.  His head bounced off the sidewalk.  Slightly dazed, but still in control, Davis looked around frantically for the .45.  In the grass less than three feet away was the pistol.  Jimmy followed Davis’ gaze and also saw the gun.  Just as Davis lunged for it, Jimmy jumped from the steps onto his back sinking the scalpel into the chief’s right shoulder.  Davis screamed in pain.  Jimmy tried to crawl up Davis’ back to get to the pistol.  Davis swung his right elbow up and caught Jimmy with a devastating blow to his temple.  Jimmy rolled off the chief and just lay there stunned for a moment and groaning.

Davis crawled across the grass to the pistol, yanked it out of its holster, and pulled back the slide to make certain it was loaded.  As he rolled to his side trying to locate the attacker, he saw the man was on his feet and coming at him.  Davis leveled the gun and pulled the trigger as the man lunged.  The noise was deafening and the recoil from the 45 almost ripped the gun from his hand.  Davis was not sure what had happened because the man lay on top of him, but was not moving.  Sweat was stinging his eyes as he tried to catch his breath.  Davis pushed up on the man, rolled him to the side, pulled the scalpel from the man’s hand, and pushed him back with his feet to make certain he was clear of the assailant.  For a moment, Davis thought the man was dead.  He kicked the body.  Nothing happened.  He kicked the body again and this time Jimmy coughed.  Davis grabbed the gun just in case.  Jimmy tried to sit up, but only managed to roll on his side.  Davis leveled the pistol and yelled, “Don’t move!”

Jimmy coughed up more blood and tried to sit up again.  All he managed to do was roll onto his side.  Between coughs, Jimmy began to chuckle.  Davis got to his feet and while holding the gun on the attacker looked up to see Angela staring out the picture window.  “Call for an ambulance.” 

Jimmy mumbled something that Davis could not quite make out.  Davis took a step forward, flipped the man over onto his stomach with his foot, and sat down on the man’s back.  He pulled out a handkerchief and stuffed it into the huge hole in the man’s upper back.  It was then he realized that the ambulance would not arrive in time. 

Davis closed his eyes.  He could feel the blood running down his back.  Davis started shaking his head as he realized how differently the night could have ended if he came home any later.  Davis grabbed Jimmy’s hair and yanked the head back.  “You son of a bitch, why did you pick my house?  When he did not get an answer, he pushed the head forward into the grass.  Davis heard a couple of more coughs, a gurgling sound in Jimmy’s lungs, and another chuckle.  “What’s so damn funny?  Don’t you know you’re dying?” 

Jimmy spit out some more blood.  Davis grabbed Jimmy’s hair again and yanked it back.  “I asked you why you picked my house,” but did not get an answer.  Jimmy had passed out. 

Jena and Andy arrived a few minutes later and saw Chief Davis sitting on Jimmy’s back.  He appeared to be too exhausted to move.  Angela was sitting on the steps sobbing.  She kept on mumbling repeatedly that she had let him in the house. 

Andy grabbed the first aid kit out of the car, ran to the chief, dumped the contents on the grass, and broke open a box of gauze.  With a scissors, he cut open the chief’s shirt and stuffed the gauze into the wound.  Jena tore off strips of tape that Andy used to hold the gauze in place until the ambulance arrived.
Just as Andy was finishing up, Jimmy regained consciousness and started coughing violently while gasping for air.  One of the convulsions almost threw the chief off Jimmy’s back.  Chief Davis leaned down and in a guttural voice whispered, “I asked you a question, punk!  Why did you pick my house?” 

Jimmy rolled his head to the side and coughed.  He took another breath and spit out more blood before replying, “Just lucky, I guess.” 

The Collector died before the ambulance arrived.  In searching his car and house, Jena and Andy could not find any evidence to prove that he was “the Collector” nor how he had selected the victims. 

While searching through the kitchen closet, Andy came across the Yahtzee game and pulled it out.  He walked over to the kitchen table and removed the lid.  Grabbing two of the dice, he yelled, “7 come 11,” as he threw the dice down on the table.  A five and a two came up and Andy yelled, “All right!” 


  1. This was one to cause fear in the reader. "The Collector' gives shopping a whole new meaning. *Shock* I would have liked to see a little progress by the local police and the FBI in this case. For a killer who was so meticulous in everything, he messed up in the end. Maybe he should have done background checks on his 'victims.' *Laugh* Why didn't his wife call the police as soon as her husband told her to run, instead of him telling her to after the fight was over? Oh yes, he was the police chief, I forgot. Speaking of which, why was he called Captain Davis in the story instead of Police Chief Davis, or just Chief Davis? The ending seemed a bit abrupt. All in all, I found the story interesting.

    Some things to consider when editing:

    Then, when it was time for the lungs,

    He sat back on his legs and took a deep breath. With the initial slice, he watched the life slowly and quietly slip away. Removal of the last two organs was always anti-climatic and rather disappointing to him.

    (*Confused* I may be wrong, but it seems to me that once he removed the heart, the woman would be dead. So removing the lungs last, causing her death, seems unrealistic.)

    As he sipped his tea and listened to Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Jimmy read the entire story of the gruesome (--their words, not his--murder of this twenty-year-old college student.) , their words - not his, murder of this twenty-year-old college student.

    She has her usual guesses (,) including believing that the murder (murderer) is a white male, between 30-to-40 years old, single, educated, and comes from a broken home.

    I think you’re right (,) Jena.

    On the other hand, we should probably put out another statement, similar to the one we gave the press last month, recommending that people lock their doors, be on the look out (lookout) for anything suspicious, and immediately call 911 if they think they have any information related to this case.

    I need seven more years under my belt before I can retire. If we don’t find this killer soon, the council might want to replace me … and who can blame them. They don’t want excuses; they want these murders stopped. Seven more years and I can walk away from this and never look back. Seven more years, then Angela and I can sell our home and move up to the lake.

    (This seems to be the captain's thoughts and should be italicized. I need seven more years under my belt before I can retire. If we don’t find this killer soon, the council might want to replace me … and who can blame them. They don’t want excuses; they want these murders stopped. Seven more years and I can walk away from this and never look back. Seven more years, then Angela and I can sell our home and move up to the lake.)

    There was only one thing he could do, he re-upt (re-upped) for another tour.

    That was when he became 'The Collector'. I guess that name does fit me pretty well after all.

    }(You switched from the narrator talking, to Jimmy's thoughts in these two sentences.)

    A five and a two came up and Jimmy yelled, “All (right) Right!”

    You don’t think he has skipped town {,} do you?”

    Don’t take anything for granted and probe further into who was home and what they saw and heard the evening of the murder, or perhaps several days (beforehand) before hand.”

    There goes my pension. Who is going to hire a 48-year-old police captain? (This is the captain's thoughts and should be italicized.)

    It was a modest two story (two-story) colonial with a detached garage.

    He then taped the surgeon’s scalpel to (the inside of his arm) his inside arm - handle down for easy extraction from the case.

    After a moment, he heard a woman’s voice inside (say Delete 'as') as, “I wonder who that could be at this time of night?”

    “What’s so damn funny, man? Don’t you know you are dying?(")


  2. Excellent piece of work. The writing is pretty good and the story is well thought out. I thought at the start that it may have been a little too similar to 'The Dice Man', but after getting to the end I had thoroughly enjoyed a captivating piece of original work. In terms of what I got from reading the story...I couldn't fault it.

    Kev G.

  3. Cool story! Great characterization. I KNEW the guy and wanted him dead! The story works and I was mezmerized, wanting to see what happens next.

    I did notice one mistake: "mam" should be "ma'am", I believe. I didn't really notice a whole lot of errors, but honestly, I am tired and the story itself had me so riveted, I may have missed some.

    On the whole, I must say, I enjoyed the ride. Thanks! Take care and write on!


  4. "Yowsa! Triple Wow. If there was a 6 star, this piece deserves it.

    "LUCK OF THE DICE, a professional writing job well done, by author Bruce is the MUST READ of the month. A serial killer at large, a frustrated detective and ... oh, Lord the C word. Something Jack the Ripper may have been, a cannibal. Ouch! It's Thriller time. Great Job!"

    Cordially from Teff.


Please feel free to comment on any story. By taking a moment to share your thoughts you add to these and future stories as well as inspiring me.