Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Part Three: Pursuit. Chapter Twenty-Five

Anderson wasn't sure that you could call what had happened a break in the case, but at least there was finally something to work towards. The tireless crime scene nerds had finally come up with something. One of the bodies from the dump (which had produced 27 and counting) had come back with an identity due to dental records. Elizabeth Wilson-Reilly had been reported missing more than five years ago in Portland, Oregon. The circumstances of her disappearance were such that foul play was suspected and her employee, one Jerry Cambuto, had stopped showing up for work at the same time. An ATM in Vancouver, Washington, had made withdrawals of several of Wilson-Reilly's accounts, but the video from the ATM was not helpful in identifying the individual.

The file from Portland had included a composite drawing of Cambuto, put together after interviews with several of his co-workers where he had worked as a transcriptionist. This had lead to another line of questioning that Anderson had handed off to a member of her task force, which had been waiting for her at Auburn P.D. after she had returned from the Wozcynski home. She really was in charge now, she thought, as the cameras and television lights were turned off.

“Good job,” Ash Antonov said, “I was watching on a monitor. You looked good, a little pale, and you spoke really well.”

“Thanks,” she replied flatly.

“Seriously, you did good work. It was important that it be done and you did it well. You should be proud.”

“I just wanna get this guy and I feel like we wasted the better part of a day running around in circles.”

“No, you wasted the better part of a day circling the wagons after one of our own was attacked. There's no shame in that. And now you actually have something to follow up on, right?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Seems like it's more than we had, anyway.”

“Well, we've got a nice assortment of fingerprints from the Wozcynski's that we're sorting through. Theoretically his might be there somewhere, but checking them off is a bitch since all of the bodies were burnt at least a little.”

Antonov shrugged. “The process is what it is, I guess.”

Anderson shook her head and left the room, Antonov tailing her.

“I'll need a meet with you tomorrow morning by 7. We have another press conference scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow.”

“To report our lack of progress?”

“There was something to report tonight, there'll be something more to report in the morning. Even if it's small, there will be something. And we need to be able to keep bragging up what we're doing, that's a common mistake. You don't report the small progress you make, people will think you didn't make any at all.”

“Noted,” Anderson said shortly. Is that all?”

Antonov rolled his eyes at her attitude. “Yes, that's all.”

She kept walking to the war room they had set up in a conference room. It seemed like Auburn's police headquarters was now half given over to her task force, forensic techs, a stable of detectives, grunts chasing down leads, and the inevitable offers of help from the FBI until they found an excuse to force themselves to be included.

“What have we got?” she asked as she entered the war room.

No one answered her. The night shift was just coming on, but she saw that Russell, a state trooper assigned to the task force, was still on the phone, several hours after he should have gone home. Anderson didn't give a shit about overtime, but she wanted him to be able to keep working.

There were three others, two women and one man. She wasn't sure if they were assigning her more women because she was a woman or if it was the luck of the draw. One of the women, another Deputy, Allison Raynes, looked up and nodded at her, then returned to the photocopies of the Portland file. The other woman, a Seattle patrol cop named Petros, was sitting at a laptop, a phone cradled in her shoulder. She was in contact with another patrol cop who was running down leads, including the possible identity of several other bodies. The man, Stockton, was running the computer scans on fingerprints and dental records, a long-term commitment and a tedious job.

Finally, Russell hung up the phone and signaled her. As she approached him he stood up and led her to the corner of the room.

“I don't want to make a big deal of this yet, boss,” he said, “But I think we've got something.”

“Talk to me.”

“I did like you suggested. I contacted the psychologist, and he told us who does his medical records. He sends them off to a company called RNX Records. I got their answering service and put in a call to their manager. Then I began running down people at Stafford Mental Health, the clinic in Portland. I got some additional information on the guy from Portland to go with the file they sent us. Then the guy from RNX calls me back and I asked him about their employees. I faxed him the composite sheet we put together. He ID'ed the new version we put together, without the beard. Says the guy is Paul Mercer, one of their transcribers. This Mercer guy typed up the psych records and interviews for the first vic that was ID'ed as Walsh. Since Kelty, the shrink, farmed this stuff out, he would have never met Mercer, but Mercer knew who the shrink was. I think if we narrow our dental records search against just vets we'll turn up some more IDs in short order.”

“Good call. What else?”

“RNX had an address for this Mercer guy, but it was just a PO Box. I won't be able to follow up on that until business hours tomorrow.”

“Paul Mercer, huh?”

“That's what I've got.”

“The picture without the beard?”


“Alright. Listen up!” Anderson yelled, standing up. “Russell here has manufactured us some solid leads for once. We have a picture of this guy to offer the public starting tomorrow and I want everyone in the world to see it. I don't want this son of a bitch to have room to breathe. Russell, give the phone number for the Portland manager to Raynes. Raynes, take the info he's put together and keep building us a picture of this guy. Stockton, narrow your dental search to veterans and see if anything comes up quicker. What have you got so far, Russell?”

“He smiled too much.”


“That's what the manager said. Most of the people in the office really liked him, he was a solid worker, but he and his boss had some kind of disconnect, never really got along. Manager said that at one time Liz, the vic, complained that she always felt like the suspect, Cambuto or Mercer, was hiding something. But the manager said the only thing he really noticed was that he was always smiling and it made him uncomfortable. Like there wasn't always something to smile about.”

Something dropped in Anderson's stomach.



“First thing I want you to do is get with the manager in Portland and dig into their records. Find out how many people they did records on died under mysterious circumstances: Disappearances, suicides, whatever. If this is how he finds who he goes after, we might be able to track it back to him.”

“You got it.”

“What else?”

Raynes spoke up. “Portland file has old contact information of his, email, cell phone. All of it was disconnected at the time.”

“Have you tried them?”


Anderson looked at Raynes until she picked up the phone and dialed the number in question. She visibly reacted as the phone was answered.

“Hello, is Jerry there? Oh, I see. I'm sorry. Do you know a Jerry Cambuto?” The volume of the speaker on the other end of the phone grew louder. “I understand.” She hung up. “No dice. I'll run the number to see who has had it since then, run their records, but I think it's a dead end.”


“Just a sec.” She started typing. “What do you wanna say?”

“Put both names there. Paul and Jerry. See what happens.”

Raynes' fingers flurried over the keyboard and then she gave an emphatic nod. “I put the subject line as 'Hello' and the text of the message is just 'I am looking for Jerry Cambuto or Paul Mercer.'”


“Holy shit.”

“What is it?”

“I got a reply already.”


Raynes spun the laptop around to face Anderson. The text of the reply came from the old address of Jerry Cambuto, The reply was just one sentence. “Nice try.”

“Goddamn. The bastard is fucking with us.”

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