The Mary Smith Murder Mystery

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

A student pursuing a horrendous murder makes an astonishing discovery.

The Mary Smith Murder Mystery
by Devon Pitlor
I. Scott Rodamar reaches an impasse
"There is no question that in the English-speaking world it is very hard to track down someone called Mary Smith."
Scott Rodamar spoke pensively while tapping a blue marker on the extended waist high white board which covered one entire wall of his campus apartment.Like everything else Scott told his girlfriend, Summer Sharlong, the remark was calculated to elicit her complete attention, and it did because somewhere far away from Scott's apartment, a friend of Summer's had innocently asked the somewhat naive twenty-three year old to check up on Scott and his progress on the now very cold Mary Smith case.Summer liked Scott a lot, despite his inability to walk due to a childhood spinal injury.She loved the strength of his huge arms and admired the way he was able to get nearly everywhere in his sports wheelchair.Now he was rolling back and forth in front of the whiteboard stretched across his room and thinking out loud about the investigation he had underway for his master's thesis in Criminal Justice.To Summer it was very enlightening, if not exciting.She pictured herself one day married to a super sleuth who could by sheer force of logic solve crimes that others couldn't.The Mary Smith case was a particularly disgusting one too, as would be anything that involved the murder of a child.
Scott's whiteboard was scattered with names and arrows which indicated specific relationships.It read from left to right, and in the bottom right hand corner there was a huge question mark, which Scott had taken the time to circle in red.In between, were all the details Scott had gathered during his two month investigation.
He glanced up at Summer, who seemed rapt, and tapped the board again near the middle.Then he swung his chair to the right and pointed to the question mark."I don't want to get here too fast," he said broodingly."You need to travel this road with me and think along as I go." Summer brightened and was all too willing to do that as always.But then Scott's face darkened as he frowned at the question mark again."However," he continued almost in a reverie, "if that question mark means what I think it does, we have a larger--much larger--mystery on our hands than just the killing of baby Andrew."
Scott blew out his breath and looked again at Summer for a reaction.Summer knew he would not say what he was thinking all at once.Ever since Scott had begun his forensic investigation earlier that year, he had only revealed his findings in bits and pieces, relishing his sense of drama.Scott already knew a lot of details about a lot of things, but one thing he did not realize that gusty May afternoon in 1999 was thatnot only was he researching but was being researched himself.Nor did Summer ever pause to think that she was part of a much larger scheme which centered as much around Scott's ability to solve the case than around the sordid case itself.
But we will have to wait to learn more of this meta-plot and Summer's unwitting role in it.Right now, it is time to follow Scott's examination and learn about Mary Smith and her total evaporation in the winter of 1997.
II. The Marshcove Police and their various excuses
The sentence about Mary Smith being almost impossible to track in an English-speaking country was written in the upper left hand corner of Scott's board under a heading which said "Excuses given by the local police."
These excuses included some of the following details:First, someone impossibly named Mary Smith probably had another--real--name.Next, it didn't matter how many finger prints were left at the crime scene because if there were no FBI record of anyone having these prints then they were just prints.And Mary Smith's prints were all over the place.Also, the police had a very clear video of Mary killing the baby. Before being forced to turn the case over to the FBI, they had made several copies of this video.It was a blurry, scratched and hopelessly primitive VHS taken on a babysitter cam. But it was clear enough to confirm Mary's total culpability.In one frame Mary stared directly into the camera before taking a pillow in her hands, turning her back on the camera and smothering the baby.The video also showed her glancing back at the camera before leaving the nursery room and subsequently vanishing forever.And there were numerous photos from the agency that had sent Mary, clear, glossy photos and a very credible biography, complete with valid references and all sorts of exact data as to who Mary Smith was and where she came from.A police detective, named Sandeman, who had been assigned to the case, had very willingly turned copies of Mary's file over to Scott as well.Unfortunately, Scott had never questioned exactly why.He credited it to his major college advisor, whose reputation in criminal justice extended far beyond Central State University.It had been this man, a Dr. Myzack, who had first suggested to Scott that he take up the Mary Smith case for his masters project and had made some of the necessary calls to the local authorities.In this way, Scott had been provided more information than any ordinary citizen would have ever received.Once again, Scott, whose investigative skills did seem rather good for a young man of twenty-five, never thought to investigate that particular aspect.He knew about police and police work and should have known that most police departments did not so readily share information on open cases.
But the Marshcove Police Department did have its excuses.There was nothing to be gained by a further crime scene investigation, and there was no use for such modern techniques, which in 1999 were coming into general usage, as DNA sampling.Here was a clear cut case of a twenty-six year old babysitter killing a six month old child in his crib and then just walking away, allowing the Nessexes, Andrew's bereaved parents, to come home from a restaurant and a movie that same night around midnight and find their infant son very cold and dead.
There was also the issue of "Jena."The name Jena, which Summer presumed to be some mysterious woman, was written near the center of the whiteboard, circled and decorated with two question marks by its side. Neither Scott nor Summer had any of idea of who Jena was. But the name had been dropped more than once.
Photographs of Mary Smith had been flashed through all the available media around the world, and a veritable woman hunt had been untaken.Everyone surrounding Mary Smith had been questioned in precise detail.None of the information ever seemed to contradict the facts presented by Home Angels Guardian Agency regarding her file.The agency had been very professional.It had asked for numerous references, fingerprinted the girl and explored her criminal background---of which there was none.For a time, the blank and nearly featureless face of Mary Smith had been posted on nearly every open space in America, and this to include roadside billboards and the famous milk cartons of the era.
But Mary was never found.
III.Other facts about Mary Smith
Mary Smith had first enrolled at Marshcove High School in the tenth grade.She had transferred in from a military base school in Okinawa, where her father, a colonel in the U.S. Army, had been stationed.Her mother had died in a car accident in Seattle the year before, and her father had taken early retirement and settled in Marshcove close to a dairy farm where he had himself grown up.There were no other siblings.Just the colonel and Mary.They lived with an aunt, conducting a quiet and unassuming life.Mary had been a shy girl and had joined no clubs or sports at school.She was, Scott always noted, rather pretty in clean, plain sort of way.She had also been a member of the First Methodist Church of Marshcove, where she eventually taught Sunday school and sang in the teen choir.She graduated and went off to Connecticut for four years of college.Apparently not finding employment in her field, which was accountancy, she had taken a temporary job in the Home Angels Agency.She claimed to love children, was very moderate in her habits, and made a very good child caregiver.All of this was written in her file.She had been assigned to the Nessexe family as an occasional babysitter for young Andrew.It was, however, noted in her file that she had requested the Nessexes in preference to several other families because she felt "comfortable" with them.The Nessexes, likewise, felt comfortable leaving their baby with Mary, and they were known to always make a special request for her services.This relationship had given the police some pause at first, as it did Scott, because at one point Mary had turned down a higher paying, longer-lasting placement just to babysit little Andrew for one evening.
In short, there had never been anything extraordinary about Mary Smith to arouse much attention.
Or was there?Scott Rodamar was looking for just that: A tiny thread to pull.That, he felt, was what skillful investigators do.Pull unseen threads.He wondered again and again if "Jena" was not that thread, simply because the name had simply been tossed out so much but was seemingly related to nothing of substance.
Detective Sandeman had also furnished Scott with the complete transcripts of all the interviews he and others had conducted with the Nessexes.There was categorically nothing out of the normal....except one small thing which either Sandeman or another detective had underlined in red.Marie Nessexe had a babycam installed in the nursery on a whim. They were kind of a fad at the time.She had been more worried about her baby than about her babysitter.By three months of age, Andrew had started rolling his eyes about as most infants do, and by five months he had started to focus.What he focused on the most was Mary, and he began crying in rather disturbing bursts every time he either heard her voice or she came into his nursery.The Nessexes, who trusted both the agency and Mary completely, had no explanation for these outbursts, but they wanted to be on the safe side.A baby cam seemed like a good idea.They had dismissed the crying fits as a sign that Andrew was bonded to them and did not like being left alone with someone else.It was, however, in the nature of Matt Nessexe's work, to entertain a lot, and the couple did not deny themselves any social life because oflittle Andrew.So Mary was frequently called.And the crying issue was suddenly forgotten. In time, baby Andrew gave up on the crying fits and just stared with glassy, almost suspicious eyes at Mary.
Summer Sharlong always interjected something personal at this point of the narrative, and as Scott went over this detail again following his lines of confusing vectors on the whiteboard, she burst out in tears again: "Idiots!They should have known!!"Then she buried her head in her hands and had her usual cry over the fate of "precious" Andrew.And then she sharply resumed her attention to Scott's explanations, which, after all, were mostly just a review for himself, a way of thinking out loud with a girlfriend in the room.Summer was glad that she was that girlfriend.
So the middle of Scott's whiteboard was filled with details from the Nessexe interviews.Testimonials from her Methodist preacher.Accounts from high school teachers.Checked references from the Home Angels Agency.Everyone loved and trusted Mary, and she was very good at what she did.A little farther down the whiteboard were a series of other question marks.These regarded Mary's college experience in Connecticut.No one at Whitehall College had ever known her very well, and it appeared that she never had dates or even a boyfriend for that matter. Maybe that was Scott's thread to pull.
The information cut off point came in around this bottom middle section of the whiteboard.The Mary Smith case had been summarily turned over to the FBI, and the Marshcove Police were relieved of any further responsibility.The FBI had swarmed over all the same leads as the police, but their findings were not shared with Scott.It did, however, seem that the national investigators found nothing extra and developed no new leads.The case remained unsolved almost three years later, and that was when it was handed so readily over to Scott.It was a cold but still open matter.However, Scott did note in his scribbled handwriting that the FBI seemed to be giving it a very low priority.
IV. Further investigation, more names
There were, it seemed, some further ends to tie up.First, Mary's father, hounded for a time by the press, was given a new identity and asked to move away from Marshcove along with her aunt.They did so apparently, and their whereabouts became as secret as if they were in the witness protection program.Second, the Nessexes likewise vanished.The FBI knew where they were, but their access was protected.Some agent had told Detective Sandeman, as the case was removed from his jurisdiction, that "They have all suffered enough."It was clear to Scott that the FBI could make people disappear.He simply wondered why they had made the principals of this case disappear so fast.And who was Jena?That always disturbed him.
Finally, there had been all the false reports of Mary Smith sightings.Lots of people did claim to have seen her and were subsequently scrutinized and dismissed.But Sandeman, frustrated to have the case removed from his authority, had made a note of two of the names who had initially contacted him.He told Scott that one of them was simply a local nutcase who was known to always make false statements in the county.But the other was more intriguing.Far more intriguing. Sandeman, inexplicably, shared his name and address with Scott in their final meeting.Again, Scott never paused to ask why.
It was here that the trail picked up again slightly.What Scott found upon investigating this last person who claimed to have seen Mary brought him to the final stages of what would eventually become a discovery of enormous import and stretch far beyond the simple, but heinous, matter of infanticide.
V. Summer Sharlong
Summer Sharlong had no idea what she was doing when she met her college friend Melissa Danover for a drink in a quiet campus bar the evening after spending yet another afternoon with Scott Rodamar and the seemingly endless Mary Smith mystery.Melissa, like so many others, had been mortified by the atrociousness of the murder and claimed to want revenge against this Mary Smith person who had killed a child in such cold blood.That was why she always asked Summer for details about Scott's research, or so she said.But Melissa, unknown to Summer, reported to another person, a man who identified himself as an ex-cop, carried a sidearm and wore torn camouflage shirts.Melissa liked this guy, although he was at least ten years older than her.They had met by chance in a crowded music venue, and he had simply worked his way through the crowd to Melissa's side and become friends.After they had slept together once or twice, the man, whose name was Craig Ballimore, told Melissa that he was a private investigator hired by the Nessexe family after the FBI's inability to locate Mary Smith.In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth, but Craig seemed muscular, virile and sexy to Melissa, and she willingly consented to continue feeding him any information she got from Summer Sharlong relating to Scott Rodamar and his ongoing probe.It did not bother Melissa that Craig always used his mobile phone, somewhat of an oddity in 1999, to make a hushed call after every disclosure. She had no idea who Craig called or why.Like everyone else who remembered the case, she wanted Mary Smith apprehended and punished.As for Summer, she did not feel she was doing Scott any disservice by sharing his information with Melissa.Summer was pleasant girl from a good home.She had majored in French and had plans to be a teacher, marry Scott and start a family of her own.In her own crusading way, she wanted the Mary Smiths of this world stamped out.She knew nothing of Craig or the further exchange of information.She just liked to talk.Scott and his "fine mind" was always the main focus of her discussions.She did, nonetheless, on one occasion eavesdrop on Craig's phone call and heard him say "Okay, then we'll stop him at Jena."Like Scott, she had no clue who Jena was.
VI. Another name, another question mark.
Near the end of Scott Rodamar's whiteboard there was another name written:Fabian C. Arondean.Several arrows extended outward from Fabian's name, and a lone vector indicated with a broken line pointed to the name Jena, which had no other links aiming at it.Arondean had been the last person whom Marshcove detective Sandeman had given Scott, and Arondean was very upright and easy to find, although, inconveniently, he lived Pensington, which was almost a hundred miles from Marshcove.When Scott had first called Fabian, the latter had been very guarded and suspicious.He had been contacted, he said, by numerous police agencies regarding his sighting of Mary Smith, and he was reluctant to say more."The FBI has this in control," he said preparing to hang up on Scott."There is nothing more you can do?"
Grasping for straws on the phone, Scott exclaimed that "I'm just a college kid at Central State.I'm trying to give this case a second look. I just needed your help."
"Central State?Do you know a Dr. Nichols in the history department?"
Scott assured Fabian that he did not but that his major professor was Dr. Myzack, a renown criminologist in his own right and that Myzack may know Dr. Nichols.There were a few minutes of silence on the other end of the connection, then suddenly Fabian Arondean of Pensington just gave in and asked if Scott would like to visit him that coming Saturday afternoon."My wife and kids will be visiting my mother in law all day," he said."I don't want them to be involved any more. We've seen enough cops around here."
The words "any more" stuck in Scott's mind.Exactly how had Arondean's family been involved before?That was the nagging question that occupied his mind as he drove his lift van up Highway 92 to Pensington in a thundering hail storm early Saturday morning the 29th of May, 1999.The mention of a Dr. Nichols and Arondean's interest therein had also aroused his attention.A small amount of inquiry revealed that Dr. Nichols was a esteemed professor of long standing at Central State.He had published several books, all of them about the Napoleonic Wars, which was his specialty.As he drove northward toward Pensington, Scott did not realize that someone called Craig Ballimore, whom he did not know, had already relayed this information--which had come to him via Summer and Melissa--to parties unknown.Another two names had been added to his whiteboard, names which Summer dutifully did not fail to report to her friend: Nichols and Arondean.
Fabian Arondean lived in a spacious house near the edge of Pensington and was an affable and outgoing man of about thirty-six years old.He greeted Scott in the rain with an umbrella and was, naturally, surprised to see that his visitor came with a wheelchair.Everyone always was taken aback by this on first sight.The lift gate put Scott firmly on Fabian's wet driveway, and the two retired to a glass enclosed patio where Fabian immediately offered Scott a beer and a bowl of potato chips.They exchanged a few pleasantries during which Scott explained his project.Scott assured Fabian that he was not connected with any police agency, which seemed to please Fabian immensely.
"As soon as I called in," Fabian began, "police started crawling all over this place.That disturbed my wife to no end.It scared the kids too.The FBI took over the case, as you know, and they are just plain weird and deliberately creepy.They got whatever information they wanted and never came again.In fact, they seemed a little disinterested.They asked me not to call again and said that they would be in contact.That was over two years ago.They never did. The case is, of course, still unsolved.A dead baby, sad."
"Where and how did you identify Mary Smith?"
"Well," began Fabian, heaving a weary sigh, "it wasn't until her picture came on television every fifteen minutes or so. I knew at once that I had met her before, in late 1996 to be exact.She came here and didn't say a word to anyone except my grandfather, who used to live with us."He pointed to a small, neat guest house located beyond a stand of budding rosebushes."He used to live there until he died.He was 84 then, and not in the best of health.He was never any trouble, however.All he did was tend his roses, and he kept pretty far away from my wife and the kids.He was a quiet man---well even more than quiet: secretive."
"How's that?" asked Scott realizing some new direction had opened in his search.
VII. Simon Arondean, yet another name
"My father, may God rest his soul," said Andean, "told me before he died not to ask his father any questions about his life, where he had been and what he was doing.My brother and I never did.All we knew was that Grandfather was retired from some government agency and received a monthly pension check.He paid all of his own bills and gave us rent on top of it.Once he did tell my brother that he had been a meat inspector, but later he slipped and said he did something for the railroad.In reality, no one ever knew what he did.Not even his son, my father.It was a question that was just not asked in this family."
Scott sipped his beer and jotted down a few notes on a legal pad.The plot was, of course, thickening as they say, but he was well aware that he was hearing things that other investigators had heard no doubt many times before.Scott wanted desperately to unearth something new.He wondered if Arondean had it.
Fabian Arondean continued without being asked.The rain intensified and made strange music against the glass enclosure of the patio.A few bolts of distant lightning traced themselves silently in the western skies.A larger storm was coming.Perhaps more hail.
"It was late November that year," Arondean continued."The old man was out clipping back his rosebushes for the winter.Nothing could have been more normal.All of a sudden, Delores, my wife, came running out of the house.There was an "urgent" call for my grandfather, and that, in itself was highly unusual.No one ever called him, and we were unaware that he had ever given our number out."
Scott straightened in his chair and finished the last of the beer in his bottle.Arondean immediately reached into a cooler and handed him another.
"The old man hobbled into the house faster than I had ever seen him move since he came to live with us.He face was dark and looked vexed.He closed the alcove door behind him, asking for a little privacy.Behind the door on the phone we could hear him talking loud.At times he seemed to be shouting.When he came out, it was as if he'd been hit with a club on the head.He told us that there would be some visitors coming to see him probably the next day.He also asked that we give him the privacy to see them alone, which we of course granted."There won't be anyone to be afraid of he said.Just some unfinished business. My old work.On the phone the only thing we had been able to distinguish was his anger and the name Jena." It was the first time Scott had heard the name, and he duly noted it on his legal pad.Fabian paused to cock a curious eyebrow and ask Scott if he knew a Jena.Scott did not.Fabian resumed.
"The old man seemed highly disturbed.He skipped dinner that night, and when I went by to see him, he was sorting out some clean clothes.He informed that he might be gone for a few days. I knew better than to ask him why.The next day, two cars-- little Volkswagens of all things---pulled in the driveway and parked in front of the guest house.There were two men and one women.The woman had come separately.One of the men was African-American.They all seemed perfectly businesslike, dressed in casual but expensive leisure suits.Grandfather greeted them at his door, and they all went in at once.He closed the door behind them, eyeing me to make sure, I suppose, that I was not coming in.They stayed for about an hour, and I could hear some shouting.It was mostly Grandfather.He was yelling at them about something.I could not distinguish much of what he said, but at one point I heard him call someone stupid.I think he did it more than once. I also heard the name Jena again.After the group left in their Volkswagens, the old man came out and told us he would be gone with one of them for a couple of days and for us not to worry.Delores reminded him that his health put him in no position to travel, and he told her that some things were more important than health."
"Mary Smith?" inquired Scott wondering where this story was going.
"That girl, and it was her. I am sure of it, arrived the next day at around seven in the morning.It was a Sunday and I was off work.She drove here in an old, rusty Chevrolet and knocked at our door first.She said she was here to see Simon.That was my grandfather.Her look was grave and determined.She seemed very shy but bold enough to ask us where Simon could be found.When I pointed to the guest house, she marched straight there and knocked on the door.I will never forget the look on her face.It was as if some catastrophe had just taken place and she had a mission of the utmost importance.I got a good look at her, and I never forgot her face, the stressed look on it.Thisearnest need to see an 84 year old man at seven in the morning on a Sunday--just plain weird.Her strained expression did not leave room for questions.But I swear, it was her."
"Did you tell the cops about this?"
"Everything I'm telling you.I told the local police and then some guy from your town and finally some operatives with ID from the FBI in Washington.The last ones didn't seem very interested, either.Since the killing had been done in Marshcove, I called those police first.That is how I met this guy Sandeman. "
"How long did she stay?"
"About an hour, that's all.She went straight to her car and drove off, and I never saw her again until she was all over the news in March.Later that day, my grandfather was driven away by the black man in a Volkswagen.He was gone for about two days and was returned by the same man.Grandfather was never the same after that.He wanted me to try to contact a Professor Nichols for him at your university.He never told me why--just that he had to talk to Nichols.Nichols was on leave or something, and I never got a hold of him.Right after New Years, Grandfather slipped on the wet cement and injured his head.He had an internal hemorrhage and was taken to the hospital here in Pensington.He declined fast.He was angry and a little desperate right up until his final hour.The last thing he whispered to me was to find Dr. Nichols at the university.Then he closed his eyes, muttered something about "incompetence" and passed away.I later found out that Nichols was a professor of history.I got him on the phone and asked him about my grandfather.He had no idea of who Simon Arondean was or why I was calling.But the funny thing was that among Grandfather's possessions I found Nichols referred to several times in some notes.There was also the name Mary Smith penned on the same piece of paper.After it, Grandfather had written "Albert Nichols, PhD" and a phone number at the university. After that was scribbled "Jena."I never asked Nichols if he knew about Mary Smith because the case was too hot at the time.I wish I could have done that now."
Scott thanked Fabian Arondean for his time and attention.The rain had lifted when he drove his lift van out of the man's driveway.He did not notice that behind a large, overgrown hedge another van was parked, and in this van there was someone that Scott could not see observing him.The observer was Craig Ballimore, and Craig Ballimore made another call on his mobile device.His only words on this new and somewhat novelty phone were "Fabian Arondean...check."
VIII.Back in Marshcove, the whiteboard
Summer was there as usual.They had spent the night together, and this with the agreement to simply make love and not discuss the murder of Andrew Nessexe.The whiteboard was, thus, temporarily forgotten, but new names had been added to it:Fabian and Delores Arondean, Dr. Albert Nichols PhD, Simon Arondean, black man, white man, white woman, Volkswagens.While Scott slept, Summer furtively and with a cloud of guilt hanging over her, got up and wrote three more names in one of the few empty spaces left on the board.These names were connected with arrows starting with her own: Summer Sharlong----> Melissa Danover----> Craig Ballimore.
"What in the hell is this?"Exclaimed Scott upon waking and examining the board.Still in boxer shorts, he swung his wheelchair around and confronted his girlfriend.Summer bowed her head sheepishly."It's my fault," she began."I've been telling this friend Melissa all about you, and I finally found out that she has an older boyfriend who is very interested.That's Craig.Bottom line:You are being tracked.Every time I tell Melissa some new breakthrough she goes straight to Craig with it and Craig makes a phone call.I'm sorry.I didn't know."Summer was genuinely upset.She knew she had been betraying Scott for some time now, but it had been innocent, and for some reason, Scott realized that and, failing to get overly upset, put his arm around Summer, squeezed her and told her everything was all right.Even as the dilemma widened, Scott felt a true warmth for this pretty and quite ambulatory girl who had accompanied him down the dim passageway of his seemingly hopeless
"I'm going to see this Nichols at school, " he said."Don't tell your girlfriend about that, but I suppose she already knows"
Then he circled the final question mark one more time and said, "The mystery is here.There has been a huge cover up for some time.I'm not into conspiracies, but there is one here.Mary's father and the Nessexes disappeared too fast, and someone has been giving me more information that I should have had.It probably started with Dr. Nyzack.I need to see him first.But I'm going to play innocent and just give him a progress report on my research."Summer kissed Scott on the forehead and got dressed.She was genuinely sorry for what she had done.She wondered how long she had been an unwitting conduit to this person Ballimore.She wondered if Scott would start to hate her.
As he wheeled out the door toward his van, Scott's last words were "Don't tell Melissa that you told me.Let's erase this whole board.Take a polaroid of it and wipe it clean after I am gone."
Scott docked the van in the student parking structure and navigated his wheelchair across campus to the Lincoln Building which housed the Department of Criminal Justice.He found Nyzack sitting in his office casually reading some student papers from an undergraduate class.Nyzack was not surprised to see him.In fact, he acted as if Scott were expected.
Scott was vague about his recent findings, especially Fabian and Simon Arondean in Pensington. He had already decided that he had been set up and that Nyzack, who had assigned the Mary Smith project to him in the first place, was a major part of whatever plot was boiling around him.But he hid his feelings well enough to disarm Nyzack, who was, after all, an old cop and had clever ways of reading people if one let him.The first thing Scott asked, of course, was whether Nyzack knew Dr. Nichols in the history department.From that moment on, Nyzack, Scott knew, was onto him.There would never be any honesty between the two of them again.Nyzack eyed him suspiciously."Sure, I know Nichols," he said."We have served on several faculty committees together.Why do you need to see him, if I may ask?"
Scott mumbled something about some of the Marshcove police records having listed Nichols and that he needed to follow up on several leads.That would only be good police work, he insisted.
Nyzack rocked back in his chair, removed his thick, wire frame glasses and stared at Scott.His demeanor became suddenly less professional, less academic."You're going to have to tell Nichols why you are there," he began, "and to do that you are going to have to mention Mary Smith and your investigation.I can give you a hint about that right now.Nichols has no idea who the Arondeans, grandson and grandfather, are, so don't even bother mentioning them.Furthermore, Nichols is what we call here an ivory tower academic.His only interest is in history.He had been out of the country for over two years when the Andrew Nessexe killing took place.He probably never saw the wanted notices for Mary, or at least he has never given any sign of knowing about her.Nichols is a respected fellow of the French National Academy.That probably means nothing to you, but in France they give him privileged access to historical archives that the average person cannot see.It's a joke here that Nichols lives more in the late Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Century than he does in the present.His work on the Napoleonic Wars is considered to be the seminal and most important coverage of that period that exists.That makes him famous in some circles, but, let's face it, not everyone is all that concerned about the Napoleonic Wars, so Nichols remains a retiring type and keeps a very low profile.Take a picture of Mary Smith with you when you go.It will shake him up and certainly jog his memory---and it won't be about Andrew Nessexe.Record what Nichols tells you about Mary and report back to me.Depending on what he says, this may be the end of the line for you."
"The end of the line?" stammered Scott stunned."A baby was killed in cold blood two and one half years ago, and I may have a lead on the whereabouts of the killer or may even turn up the motive, and you're telling me to stop after I talk to Nichols?"
"Maybe.I'm not sure.It depends on what he says."
At once, Scott became angry.He realized now only too well that he had been set up and monitored.His whole effort had been something that had been discovered before.There was a hush up, and Nyzack was a part of it.He immediately confronted his professor with this accusation, and Nyzack nodded his head and said "Maybe."
"Maybe!!" exploded Scott."I've been used.I can sense it.You know all about this, don't you?"
"I know a lot about it," agreed Nyzack."You were one of the brightest students in my classes.I needed to see how far you would get.If I don't stop you, someone else will.I warn you that it will be far better for your sake if it's me that blows the finish line whistle.There are powers...things...people... beyond your imagination. They can do things."
"People that allow the killing of six month old child," snapped Scott.
"Yes," replied Nyzack sullenly. "I don't need to tell you that things are not always as they appear to be. Now go and visit Nichols if you can find him and let me know what he says.Please do not fail to inform me.It could get tough for you."
IX. Scott persists
Scott stormed out onto the central plaza of the campus, surrounded by perfectly ambulatory people all of whom seemed now to be so much younger and so much more fortunate than himself. Spring happiness floated in the air.The utter strangeness of his situation began to haunt him. The distinct predicament of having been manipulated for over two months by people he felt he could trust galled at his stomach making him both nauseous and outraged.With a blind vehemence born of seething anger, he pushed his way over to the nearest pay phone and called the history department and made an appointment to see Dr. Albert Nichols the following day.
It was, however, an appointment that he would never keep.Something in his overwrought and broiling subconscious told him that before he every hung up the phone, and he was right.
Out of sheer anguish, he made a second call to Summer Sharlong, with whom he had suddenly grown much angrier in the past two hours.Surely, Summer had been part of the conspiracy to use him.Her sweet and demur demeanor had only been a front.Whoever, whatever was pulling his strings, Summer surely had to be a monumental part of it.He needed to vent his outrage, and Summer would be a good place to start. Her phone was busy. She was probably conveying even more information.After hanging up, he pushed his two wheeler into a low campus dive called Franky-P' s and ordered a double Makers Mark straight up.The bartender eyed him with the same wariness that was accorded to all non-regulars and poured him a stiff drink, then another and finally another.His tongue thereby somewhat lubricated, Scott asked the skin- and metal-headed barkeep whether he knew anything about the Mary Smith/ Andrew Nessexe case.The relentlessly pierced and tattooed server gave him a look of contempt and snarled something about Franky-P's being a music venue where they didn't usually get into police matters or politics.He pivoted away leaving Scott alone with his drinks but added "Better chill out, dude, and give it a rest.People know all about that stuff here, but nobody's going to talk.Bitch was a babysitter who killed a six month old kid.You can't get any worse than that.So who in the hell do you think wants to talk about it anymore?That case went to the feds well over a year ago.There is a wall of silence---that is, until you came in.Now I'm telling you to drink up your juice and go. Take your little perverted murder mysteries somewhere else.This is a big town.But you came to the one place where no one wants to talk about it."
Scott took the rough warning to heart, hunched his shoulders and folded up over his drink.Waves of bleak humiliation washed over his body.For over two months, he had been chasing his tail and chasing it for some grotesque comedy act that he was just now learning about his starring role in.
As he was leaving, a thin young man dressed in some outlandishly printed jumpsuit sidled intentionally up to his side."I've been eavesdropping," he announced."It's something about that stone cold Mary Smith thing, isn't it?Well, I'm an art student, third year, and I may have something of value to tell you."
Scott, unsteady on his feet after two whiskey doubles, hitched his chair at some cockeyed angle against the exit door and rolled his eyes up at this newest interlocutor.Whiskey raged in his veins and heated his face to what he supposed was a fire red."What does a misfit like you have to add?"Scott resented the extent of his own sudden rudeness.
"Not very much," said the artist, "except this:When we paint we are always looking for a fresh eye.We try to cast off all our previous preconceptions and cherished presumptions.We know better than others that the world is not always as it appears to be.We take that as canon truth and go from there."
"What does that have to do with Mary Smith and the fact she smothered a six month old child in his crib?"
"Maybe nothing.Maybe a lot," said the artist."Just stand back and take clean look at everything.It might help you discover some truth.I don't know a thing new about this Mary Smith, but I have heard enough rumbling about the case to make me think that just about everybody, including you, may be viewing it from the wrong angle.That is all I have to say."With that, the artist rejoined his small, freaky faction near the corner of the bar and looked at Scott no more.Scott, still enraged, wheeled his chair this way and that until he had navigated around the randomly parked cars and reached his lift van.
X. Craig Ballimore
It was already getting to be dusk when Scott Rodamar thrust his wheelchair up the ramp leading to his small apartment.Even upon entering and turning on the light, Scott became conscious that something was amiss.He glanced at his whiteboard.Summer had erased all the names and arrows and circles and question marks just as he had requested, but directly in the middle of the board in a much different penmanship were written three more names.The first was Dr. Albert Nichols and the second was Jena and the third Craig Ballimore.A single arrow connected all three.
Scott stared at the new writing.It was not Summer's either.There were, he felt, already too many names in this affair, but who had written these? Once again there was Jena. Jena the unknown. Why?
The answer was not long in coming.From the shadow of the small kitchen alcove, a muted but imposing male voice chimed out."I'm going to save you a lot of trouble," it said."You can cancel your appointment with Nichols.You would not like that anyway.He's a boring old coot.All he can talk about is Jena.That is his obsession."
As the interior light became brighter, Scott could see that his visitor had the look of what Scott supposed to be a mercenary soldier.He was dressed in dull green camo and balanced a large revolver in his hand.He was brawny, muscular and had the unkempt beard of a man who only shaved on occasion and then not very close.
"Craig Ballimore," the stranger began."You've heard of me before.I decided to short circuit your investigation a little sooner than predicted.You've done a credible job, looking up Arondean and all, but I think it needs to end before you get to Nichols.I'm going to spare you the boredom of hearing about Jena."Ballimore lifted one leg over the other and settled into his chair comfortably.He seemed quite at home in Scott's apartment. It was obvious that he clutched the gun only for effect.
Regaining his composure and his anger, Scott stared at Ballimore for a minute then said "Jena? Who is she?What does she have to do with this case?"Ballimore clicked his tongue and shoved the revolver into a side pocket.
"Jena is not a person," he said."Rather a battle.Napoleon's greatest victory.October 14th 1806.The armies of the French Empire totally shattered the Prussian coalition before it even got started in combat against France.The philosopher Hegel, of whom you may have heard, called it "the end of history" and claimed that Napoleon's victory was so monumental that it would put an end to all human conflict from that moment on. Man, that guy sure got it wrong."
"More gobbledygook," snarled Scott. "I'm tracking down the killer of a baby, and you're telling me about some battle in 1806."
Ballimore smiled. "Things have a funny way of folding back on themselves.If you go to see Nichols, that is what he would talk about.If he opened up, he would tell you that a mere slip of a girl, a temporary transfer student from some other college out of state, gave him some precise information about Jena that could only be verified by looking at a private collection of letters which only a select few could ever hope to locate.In fact, no one had ever come acrossthese letters before.After Nichols did, he could have re-written history to make Napoleon look much less skillful, but he decided to suppress it.It was something about a mistake in the position of the Prussian army that was discovered by a lowly French courier in the last moment before the onslaught.Napoleon was set to attack at one place, but because of some late and very confidential information, decided to strike at another.Because of a detail supplied by a simple courier, he won a great battle and went on to be ...well, Napoleon.The information was suppressed moreover because it would have made the Emperor seem less than magical.It was concealed until the girl you are looking for, someone called Mary Smith in this life, told old professor Nichols about it, and Nichols blasted off once again to France where he verified everything by reading a packet of letters hidden in a decrepit farmhouse in Normandy.You see, the one known as Mary Smith had lived through many lifetimes.She was or is one of the ancient immortals who continue to be reborn into new bodies complete with memories of a past life.By sheer chance, her former incarnation played a major role at Jena, a role that would have made Napoleon seem less than perfect. Even Nichols didn't want that.He had, after all, written his book..."
Scott paused a moment to take this all in. "How does that involve Simon Arondean and the killing of the Nessexe baby?" he asked almost timidly now.Ballimore was holding him totally in his sway.
Ballimore smiled again. "Arondean was one of the anointed.He worked for a department of...well...I suppose one can say the "government," for lack of a better term, an agency that is so secretive that not even the president knows about it totally.Arondean was charged with containing monsters, monsters who travel across the boundaries of time with the sole mania of killing others for their own pleasure.Arondean needed to know whether the girl known as Mary Smith was actually one of them, I mean the so-called "full jumpers" before he engaged her services. When Nichols verified the validity of her information by phone, Arondean knew he had the right operative."
"Operative?" said Scott.
"I suppose you could say that. There is another name to add to your collection now. You won't recognize it at all, but I'll write it for you."
With this, Ballimore pulled his husky body to his feet and brushed past Scott to the whiteboard, took a red marker and wrote the name Abner Shortling Greel.Then, pausing for a second, he drew a vector arrow to the next name he wrote.It was Andrew Nessexe.He grinned at Scott who rocked nervously in his wheelchair.Tracing the arrow over a second time, he said "This is a very long arrow.Greel was born into a humble farm family in rural Wisconsin in 1908.Even back then there were people like me and Arondean who were charged with stalking him.But my predecessors failed because in 1928 in Valparaiso, Wisconsin, Greel saw fit to put a half ton of dynamite under a school house and blow up forty innocent people, a teacher and her young class, as it were.Before that, Greel was many different people living at many different times, but in each incarnation, he was a committed and unstoppable killer.Before becoming Greel, he had managed to slaughter at least five hundred people during his various lifetimes. Beheadings, poisonings, slit throats---all gratuitous and for the sheer delight and recreation of murder.I can give you some of their names, but the old records are faint.The Greel case is still in the Wisconsin historical records, and if you dig deep enough, you can find it.Greel was found insane by a court and confined to a prison for life. That was where my people became involved.They managed, as we always do, to make sure that Greel was confined to solitary reclusion and put on a perpetual suicide watch.There are ways of doing that even in this country. From one generation to another, Greel was watched, and the executive order, at first signed by president Calvin Coolidge (and Coolidge knew nothing about the reasons why and was just doing what he was told to do) was to remain in force for perpetuity.Simon Arondean was the last of Greel's keepers. His job was to make sure that Greel was kept alive and separate from all others, in other words that the order was obeyed.Over the years Greel became older and sicker and was transferred from institution to institution.In 1997, he was 89 years old, feeble and nearing death.Arondean was already retired, but the secret directive had his name all over it."
Ballimore paused to let Scott digest his words. Scott made a gesture with his hands for Ballimore to continue. "So what happened," he asked.
"A well-meaning prison warden in Minnesota, where Greel was then being kept in a prison designed for the elderly, decided to allow him to be transferred to a clinic. Now the original protocol had always specified that no matter how old or sick Greel became he was never to be allowed to get close to young women. That seemed silly and antiquated to the warden in charge. Greel was nearing death and the humane thing to do was take him to a comfortable bed where he could die in peace. The only problem was that the clinic was staffed by a number of young female nurses.And one of them, a certain Maria Nessexe, was pregnant, although at the time, she didn't know it.Greel managed to leave a window open in his room during the worst snow storm of the winter, caught pneumonia and died--purposely of course--in the direct care of Maria Nessexe. The proximity was all that was needed for the jump, the full jump. The foetus of Maria Nessexe ceased to be the baby that Maria and her husband were anticipating and became the next monster that Greel was fated to incarnate.By the time Arondean found out about this mistake it was too late.He visited the clinic along with others of his agency and managed to learn that Maria Nessexe was not only pregnant but was the last person to touch the eighty-nine year old man as he lay dying.She was mercifully bathing his sweaty forehead just as he passed away.Before dying himself, Arondean tried to do what he thought best. He located Mary Smith and eventually connived for her to become the babysitter of young Andrew. Mary knew from birth what her role would someday be.She was on the good side of things, so to speak. There are good and bad among the full jumpers."
Ballimore sighed and nodded his head. "In short, she did her duty.She saved the world from another fiend.It is impossible to calculate how many lives she may have saved.And yes, there was a conspiracy, and yes, she is being protected.She has another name and even another face now, the miracle of cosmetic surgery.You would never have found her.We just wanted to see how far you would get trying.We need to protect ourselves and our identities, as well as our methods.I hope you understand."
Scott still felt humiliated.He asked how many people were actually involved in the cover up.Ballimore informed him that naturally the Nessexes were eventually convinced, though it took some persuasion, and that Nyzack and even the younger Arondean were of necessity let in on it as well.
Then he stopped.There was very little left to say.As the last shreds of afternoon light filtered through the blinds of Scott's modest apartment, Ballimore rose and extended him his coarse and fleshy hand. "Now you know," he said with a disarming simplicity."Whatever we are, you are a part of it now.In a way, we helped you get where you wanted to be, but this is something for you and you alone.I suppose you know that already."
XI. Conclusion
Scott Rodamar pushed his wheelchair to the side to allow Ballimore to depart.The latter had no final words.He closed Scott's door behind him as he left.Scott would never see him again.He pondered the information he had been given.Monsters, fiends from past lives come back time and time again, and, he supposed, so do angels.Mary Smith was one of the latter.It seemed plausible enough, and Ballimore had left him little room for doubt.
Scott's phone rang.It was Summer.Of course, she could come over, and the sooner the better.Scott did not feel much like being alone right then.As he quietly spoke with Summer, he took an eraser and wiped everything visible off the troubled surface of his whiteboard.As far as Scott was concerned, the case was closed.Before Summer arrived, Scott had washed clean the whiteboard with soap and water, naturally leaving no traces of any mystery whatsoever.
Devon PitlorJune, 2010


Submitted: June 04, 2010

© Copyright 2022 Devon Pitlor. All rights reserved.

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