Homefront United Network presents HUN Reads, a weekly segment of a novel by Amanda Cherry, HUN writer. Follow along every Friday as the story unfolds! If you missed beginning, be sure to catch up under the category HUN Reads!
“FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, and other various local and national law enforcement agencies, yes, that Nora Baker.”
“Forgive me,” he smiled. “But I have to say that Nora S. Baker is a legend.”
“Yes,” she said. “I’m aware of that distinction.”
“She brought a serial killer to the FBI before anyone even knew he was a serial killer.”
“Yes, I did.”
“She tracked him across four states, before anyone even realized he was one man. I mean, there were no patterns, his killings we all different styles, different methods- he didn’t fit any profile. Nora S. Baker is a legend in law enforcement circles. I hope you can understand that meeting you like this, well, it’s a bit of a shock.”
“Of course I realize that you may be dubious of my identity, Detective,” she reached into her purse and pulled out her driver’s license along with a Kansas City Police Department ID tag issued only to technicians and consultants, placing it on the table between them. “I wouldn’t have sought you out if I thought you were gullible or easily influenced. I’m in need of a person who possesses an innate common sense.”
Picking up both items, John examined them carefully. Both the license and the ID badge were genuine with identifying marks unique to both agencies, marks that would be nearly impossible to forge. Both ID’s had photos that matched the woman sitting across from him. The license listed her name as Honora Sheridan-Baker, while the ID badge identified her as Nora S. Baker. He couldn’t logically dispute that the woman sitting across the table from him was who she claimed to be, but something didn’t sit right with him. “I have a hard time imagining how you do what you do. I mean I’ve read the books- yours and the ones written about you. But textbooks don’t really give you the full picture of a person, now do they?”
“What answer would you most like to hear detective?” she asked. “That I am a genius? That I don’t allow personal distractions or preconceived notions of society to dictate my logical reasoning? That I’m able to think like a killer? Or would you just like for me to concede that I got lucky?”
He couldn’t imagine someone like Nora S. Baker would be sitting across from him asking him to help solve a murder… the first step on that proverbial path seemed to be ahead of him suddenly. When he finally spoke his doubts were not conveyed appropriately, “But you’re so young.”
“I agree, my age and my achievements do seem disparate,” she smiled a real smile this time. “But I began at a young age. I assure you I am Nora S. Baker.”
“No,” John corrected his gaffe. “I believe you, I just don’t know why you’d be asking for my help.”
“As I explain you’ll come to understand,” she took a deliberate sip of her drink. “This murder occurred last night, I suspect in the West Bottoms. It’s a dangerous enough location that a murder would be ignored if witnessed at all. The West Bottoms is a location ideally suited for our killer, remote but not desolate. To entice his victim to any other location would raise suspicion, but a victim expecting to meet at a secret location, the West Bottoms would seem legitimate. I suspect that the victim was led to believe that she’s be meeting someone she knew, possibly someone she was secretly and intimately involved with for the last several months. Once there, she would have been shot, and her body disposed of nearby, possibly in the river.”
“If you know all of this,” John was confused. “Why don’t you just go to the police and use your clout as Nora S. Baker to get them to open a case?”
“The person I suspect is either directly or indirectly involved in the murder is a prominent politician,” Honora explained. “Without solid proof I’d merely be accused of publicly slandering the candidate in favor of his rival. The murder would be ignored and justice would not be served.”
“So what exactly do you need me for?” John eyed her with suspicion.
“Do you know very much about me personally detective?”
“There is a reason for that.”
“What is the reason?”
“I have, what prominent psychiatrists would diagnose as sociopathic tendencies,” she confessed without guile.
“You’re a sociopath?”
“I’m certainly not murderous,” she laughed. This gave John pause, to consider the possibility that maybe she was a lunatic. “If I was that would make me a psychopath. No, it is simply that my condition causes me to disregard the feelings of others. I am unable to form empathetic bonds in friendship, sexual relationships or familial relationships either. In other words I’m not very good with people- I simply can’t tolerate their emotions or stupidity. Ignorance offends me.”
“You must be pissed off all the time then,” he said.
“You have no concept of the daily frustration I face when communicating with others,” she said.
“So you need me to be your, what? People interpreter?” John felt foolish saying it but couldn’t find better words.
“Certainly not,” she laughed this time as if he were joking. “I’m capable of interpreting people, I speak four languages, that’s a joke Detective Watts.”
John forced a laugh.
“What I mean to say is,” she hesitated for a brief moment. “I have been told that I am incapable of making a witness or a suspect feel at ease or establishing a rapport with them, which is often useful in gaining their trust. A witness who trusts you will often let slip important information or a suspect is more likely to confess if there is a rapport. I’m told and my research into you has determined that you are very good at establishing rapport with witnesses and suspects. That is what I need from you.”
“So you want me to help you interview possible suspects?” John assumed this was her meaning.
“I will compensate you Detective,” Honora assured him. “For your time and expertise.”
“Well I appreciate the offer,” John studied her face for a moment. He couldn’t read any emotions in her eyes, she did seem without feelings. He couldn’t see himself setting aside his decision to leave law enforcement to work with someone possibly crazier than himself. “But I’m no longer a detective and I’d like to stay that way.”
“Detec- I mean Mr. Watts,” she removed a pen from a pocket inside her dark leather jacket. Using a nearby napkin she began writing a number. “I know for a fact that your current income from your VA disability checks and your police retirement fund will not be enough to pay your alimony or assure your ability to save enough to open your diner. Many people are naive to the costs of opening an establishment that involves food service vendors, liquor licensing, taxes, inspection fees, and if you’re going to build- well the cost just tripled. I can promise you it will just be this one case, I’m willing to pay upwards of this amount, which will help you realize your dream of opening your restaurant.”
She slid the napkin across the table. John looked at the number which contained just enough zeros to eclipse his income by double if not triple. She was right- this amount could be the answer to his prayers. But he still felt uneasy. “Just this one case?”
“Yes, just this one case.”
“And then we go our separate ways, no hard feelings?”
“And this money, you’re serious?”
“I rarely joke Mr. Watts.”
“And all I have to do is help you interview people.”
“Basic detective work, yes.”
“We won’t be breaking any laws or denying anyone their day in court?”
“I’ve told you I’m not murderous.”
“Well that’s reassuring,” he laughed.
“Can I count on your help, Mr. Watts?” she extended her hand as if to shake on it. John thought of Scott for the briefest of moments. His son considered him a good and honorable man, maybe he had a little more of that left in him.
“Alright,” he could feel the small bones of her hand in his larger one. They shook on it, sealing John’s future toward an unknown destiny. It isn’t the fall that will kill you, he told himself, it’s that sudden stop. “So tell me who’s the victim and who do you suspect is the murderer.”
“Before I give you any names, Mr. Watts,” Honora seemed to be pleading with him in her own disconnected way. “I need your assurance that you won’t prejudge either the victim because of her past or the suspect because of his reputation. I need to know you’ll have an open mind concerning both, otherwise we can’t work together.”
“I promise to keep an open mind,” John assured her.
“The man I suspect of killing the victim or having her killed is Senator Michael Sebastian,” the silence that followed would have allowed for a pin dropping to be heard.
“Senator Sebastian?” John was dumbfounded.
“The African American senator who has worked tirelessly to support law enforcement within the black community? Personally manning hotlines so folks can feel safe reporting incidents to us?”
“That would be him.”
“The one senator who actually lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods in KC to promote change from within?”
“I take it you’re a fan?”
“Why would you think he’s murdered someone?”
“To prevent an extra marital affair from damaging his political career.”
“Extra marital affair?” John laughed out loud. “Are you kidding me? Mike would never cheat on Marion- they’ve been together since we were all college freshmen at UMKC. No, Mike is one of the good guys, he’s by the book… and when I say book I mean the Holy fucking Bible, that book. He’s never… he would never… are you serious?”
“I wouldn’t joke about this,” she stated. “But if your personal relationship with the senator is going to prevent you from being impartial, then thank you for your time Mr. Watts.”
Honora rose to leave, John stopped her by grasping her arm. “Tell me why you think he did it, no- tell me who you think he killed first of all.”
“As I suspect,” she sighed. “Senator Sebastian has been involved in an intimate relationship with a woman who was a former prostitute. He either had her killed or killed her himself to protect his political reputation. He is planning a run for president on the Republican platform in a few years. Having presented himself as you call it a ‘by the book’ kind of guy, this relationship would quickly dissolve any political aspirations he might have- in any arena.”
“Okay,” John tried to be open to the thoughts of Michael Sebastian being capable of murder or even an affair. “I can see that an affair would be sufficient motivation to murder, under certain circumstances. And I can concede that Michael Sebastian would have a lot to lose if an affair was made public. So even without a body, murder could be proven if there was solid evidence of an affair. But it leaves it open for a lot of unanswerable questions. Do you have evidence of an affair? Do you have access to the victim’s personal items- letters between them, photos, emails? Anything connecting the victim to in intimate relationship with the Senator? Who is the victim? Would she have had an affair with the Senator? We can’t make an accusation of murder or even an extra marital affair without proof, the mere taint of a scandal might undo all the good Michael Sebastian has done.”
“I can’t promise you a justification, Mr. Watts,” she stated simply. “There will be no balance between the greater good and the life of this individual. The victim was not a prominent community leader. She was a troubled young woman with a past that includes drug abuse, prostitution and a juvenile arrest record. The victim was my sister, Helena Sheridan Miller.”
Stayed tuned for the continuation of Angels Weeping every Friday, here on HUN Reads!