“His name is Zas.” Said Jeremiah.
“Zas?” James said skeptically. “What kind of name is that?”
“I don’t know alright?” Jeremiah said. “That’s what he called himself.”
“Himself? Did you speak to him?” Jeremiah asked.
“Yes I spoke to him a few times, but he texted more. And it was always over the phone.” Jeremiah said
“So you never spoke face to face?” James asked.
“No.” Jeremiah said. “I never saw him not even his shadow.”
“So, how did you do your deals?” James asked. “How did it all even start?”
“It started almost a year ago.” Jeremiah said. “I was making my rounds when I found this package in my car, with a note taped to the front. It said ‘try this.’ I opened it and found two capsules green in color. I thought it was from one of my buddies, so I tried it, and it was amazing. I mean I have never done anything like it. It was like my brain cells were super sharp and-”
“Okay skip that part. Just tell me what happened next.” James said.
“Well obviously I wanted to know who sent it to me, so I went to John.” Jeremiah said. “He said it wasn’t him. So I kept looking around but I couldn’t find the person. The two days later I received a call from some guy, and he asked me if I liked his gift.”
“What did his voice sound like?” James asked.
“It was deep, almost resonant.” Jeremiah said. James motioned for him to continue. “So he asked me if I wanted more, and I said yeah so he sent me another package this time containing about thirty capsules. I sold that pretty quick. Then after that he sent me some information on a link to deposit some money, and i return he would send me some more.”
“And you did?” James asked.
“No, I didn’t trust him. So I asked to meet, and he told me he didn’t want to meet, but If I felt uncomfortable, he could send me the drugs first and I could deposit the money later.”
“How much?” James asked.
“Three grand.” Jeremiah said. “So I found the package in my car again and in good faith I sent the money to him, because I wanted more.”
“And this continued?” James asked.
“Yeah.” Jeremiah said. “He would drop the packages in random places and I would send him money. Of course after a while he required a down payment first, and the packages became bigger.”
“So how did Carla come in?” James asked.
“Well, It wasn’t just me selling the drugs. John helped too. We were kind of partners, but about six months ago, Carla found out John was dealing HPC- that whats we were calling it- So she threatened to out him to his father unless he stopped. So we became more secretive. But we didn’t know she was still watching us. She even rented an apartment that overlooked one of our dealing sites.”
“Bridges apartment?” James asked
“Yeah, that’s the one. We caught on so obviously we moved. But she kept watching, even asking her boyfriend to spoof our phones. That’s how she found out about Zas.”
“So what did she do?” James asked.
“Well she started playing with fire. She got in touch with Zas telling him to stop supplying us, So Zas told me to cut John out of the deal.”
“So you did?” James asked.
“Yeah I did.” Jeremiah said. “But it wasn’t enough. Carla wanted HPC, off the market, so Zas decided she was too much trouble.”
“What did he do?” James asked.
“He attacked her. Gave her a good scare.” Jeremiah said. “But Carla didn’t scare easily. She continue doing what she was doing, Using her boyfriend to get information on Zas. I don’t know the specifics exactly,but I think Zas was a client of Moraine Heathway.”
“So what was Zas doing?” James asked.
“He continued threatening her up until a month ago, then she stole about fifty grand from him.”
“Fifty?” James asked.
“Yeah,” Jeremiah said. “And that sucked too, because that was my payment. Zas told me to get the money back by all means or I will suffer too. By then I was tired, and I wanted out, But Zas had a lot of dirt on me that could bring me down. I tried to reason with Carla but she didn’t listen.”
“Did John know about all this?” James asked
“Bits and pieces.” Said Jeremiah. “When they were going on their trip I filled him in hoping he’d search Carla’s room for me.”
“Did he?” James asked.
“Yes, reluctantly.” Jeremiah said. “But he didn’t find it. Which means she took it with her. So Zas set a plan. He told me to lure her back to Harbor. While he had someone search the beach house in Newport.”
“So you did?” James asked.
“Yeah, I said Zas wanted a face to face with her at the Fairway gala. She couldn’t refuse that. But she just found me there.”
“So I assume Zas’ guy didn’t find that money.” James said.
“Actually he didn’t say. After Carla returned to Newport he was silent for a few days. Then on Saturday he told me to join him there.” Jeremiah said.
“So he followed her back there.” James said.
“Probably. So when I got to Newport , Zas told me to meet him at the beach house where the girls were staying, and-” Jeremiah paused.
“And then what?” James asked.
“Nothing.” Jeremiah said. “All I remember is a sharp blow to the head, and I am waking up on the floor hearing the girls come in. So I ran and got back here. Next day the girls came back. Said she was missing.”
“So you didn’t kill her?” James asked.
“No.” Jeremiah said.
“Then why steal her body?” James asked.
“Well, it was obvious Zas tried to frame me for her murder. After she was missing, He sent me pictures of me entering the beach house. Time stamped. The girls were even asking me what I was doing there when they got back. Apparently one of them saw me.”
“So let me guess you started doing his work for him” James said.
“Not anything I wasn’t doing before.” Jeremiah said. “Still selling for him. Then Saturday, John came to see me, told me he saw Carla in the woods. When I realized was alive, I told Zas immediately I wanted out. The next day they found her body.”
“So he just killed her to prove a point?” James asked.
“Yeah.” Jeremiah said. “So I figured my prints or something of mine would be found on the body, so I hired two guys to help me steal her body.”
“And killed Gary in the process.” James said grimly.
“It wasn’t supposed to happen. I don’t know which of them did it, but I was outside when all that happened. So when I saw blood all over them, I ran back inside, and um-grabbed the autopsy reports. I came back and drove off.”
“So where did you bury the body?” James asked.
“On old miller Farm. I cleaned it first though. Then I wiped down the van, then though about how I was going to get rid of it, but Zas beat me to it.”
“What did he do?” James asked although he already knew the answer.
“He moved it.” Jeremiah said. “Luckily I had gotten rid of all the evidence inside.”
“How about Carla’s phone. We found it in the Van. That’s how we knew where it was.”
“I don’t know anything about her phone.” Jeremiah said. “Zas probably put it there.”
“Okay.” James said. “So according to you, we are looking for a faceless person called Zas?”
“I know it all sounds crazy,” Jeremiah said.
“No, aliens landing on earth sounds crazy. This is something else.” James said. “So, what about Thomas Bridges?”
“Never came across him.” Jeremiah said. “I Just heard he was killed. So at Carla’s funeral, I had a plan to expose Zas.”
“How?” James asked.
“I knew he would be there, So when they were giving their eulogies, I sent him a message telling him to meet me outside or I am telling everyone who he is.”
“But you didn’t know who it was.” James said.
“Well, no. But I was looking for any kind of reaction from anyone. The only person who reacted was you.”
“So you thought I was Zas.” James chuckled.
“Just for a moment.” Jeremiah said. “But it didn’t make sense. But weirdly after that I didn’t hear from Zas again.”
“He just disappeared?” James asked.
“Into thin air. No phone calls, no texts or emails.” Jeremiah said. “So. What are you charging me with?”
* * *
“Wow, that was some confession.” Corbin said, when James came out.
“Yeah, my head is still spinning.” James said.
“Do you believe any of that?” Corbin asked. “I mean it sounds like a pretty good story. Too good to be true.”
“He just implicated himself of other crimes.” James said. “I don’t think he is lying.”
“Okay, so how do we find this person?” Corbin said throwing up his hands. “It’s not like we can but an APB out on him.”
“I have an Idea.” James said. “We should gather information Thomas Bridges got. The account Jeremiah was sending money into? That should be this Zas person’s account.”
“I have been through that with a fine tooth comb.” Alex said. “That account is registered to a John Smith. If that is not an alias I don’t know what is.”
“How does someone create a fake account with a fake profile?” James asked.
“People with resources.” Alex said grimly. “We are looking for a criminal mastermind here. Definitely not a high school or college student.”
“I hear you.” Corbin said. “So what other moves do we have?”
“We are out of moves.” James said. “If Zas-I can’t believe I am calling him that-went radio silent. It means he has ended his game. There is no other way to draw him out.”
“Wait, that’s what we need to do.” Alex said. “He likes games right? Playing with people’s minds, making people run around in circles trying to guess who he is. Maybe we can use that against him.”
“How do we do that?” Corbin asked.
“By tracing his phone. The one he uses to communicate with Jeremiah.” Alex said.
“Jeremiah said he uses a burner.” James said. “He contacts him before he can contact him.”
“Well we know Carla got in touch with him somehow.” Alex said. “How?”
“She stole a number from their phones.” James said. “You have access to all of Jeremiah’s hacks don’t you?”
“Yes. But I never came across a number.” Alex said.
“How about Carla’s phone?” Corbin said. “It might be there.”
“Part of the phone memory was wiped.” James said. “Tech is trying to recover some of it.”
“Guess we just have to sleep on it.” Alex said.
“Agreed.” Said James. “Let me know if you come up with anything.”
* * *
“Toni it is getting late. Maybe we can continue this tomorrow.” Richard said.
“No, I want to know this now.” Toni said. “Who are you really?”
Richard sighed. “When I left your mother I was at a low point in my life. My dad had disowned me, I was expelled from school the previous year, been arrested on multiple occasions, I was a waste of space. So left thinking I was doing good. I went back to my father, he took me back, pulled some strings and in three years I graduated from law school. Started working in my dad’s firm. So after a few years I decided to look for your mother, but I found out she had died, and your brother was in foster care. I looked for him too, and I found him. But along the way I learned about you.”
“You knew about me?” Toni asked.
“Yes.” Richard said. “It didn’t take me long to find you here in this town. I learned you and your brother were separated and out of touch, so I asked my father, to let me break away from his company and start a new practice. My PI gave me a picture of you but when I saw Carla, I mistakenly thought that was you. You looked so much alike. That’s what drew me to Moraine”
“Wait you are not about to tell me Carla is my sister or something right?” Toni laughed nervously. “Because I don’t think I can take it.”
“No, no she is not..” Richard assured her. “But anyway, I met Moraine. She had her own practice. I offered to help her expand, I had my father’s resources. She agreed. We finalized a deal became partners. I only had one request. I made her offer Wayne Bridges a job that he couldn’t’ refuse. Just to ensure he moved to Harbor. So I could have my two children in one place.”
“So then what happened?” Toni asked.
“I met you.” Richard said. “I saw you both with your families, and I decided I couldn’t insert myself into your lives. So I left. Well until I heard about what Moraine Heathway was doing.”
“What was she doing.” Toni asked.
“She was embezzling funds from clients account using bogus charges.” Richard said. “So I came back to confront her, and then when I tried to see him again.”
“Thomas?” Toni asked.
“Yes. and you too.” Richard said. “Before I was chased off by Carla.”
“So that’s it?” Toni asked. “You just gave up, left us here?”
“I was doing you a favor”
“Like you were doing me a favor the first time you left?” Toni asked.
Richard remained silent. After a while Toni spoke up.
“Look you were right.” She said. “You cant insert yourself in my life. I understand what you did to get us back, but you need to go Richard. I don’t need you.” Before Richard could utter a word Toni walked to the door, opened it and walked into the night.
* * *
“Jasmine would you stop tapping your feet.” Hazel said. “You are making the whole room shake.”
“Sorry.” Jasmine said. “I guess I am still nervous.”
It was the next morning. The three girls were in the library, studying.
“How was the exam?” Toni asked.
“Still going on.” Jasmine said sighing. “I have another paper tomorrow.”
“Brutal.” Hazel said. “All that for a scholarship?”
“Apparently it is very competitive.” Jasmine said tapping her feet again.
Toni looked at Jasmine in concern. “Are you okay? You haven’t really been yourself since-”
“The funeral.” Hazel finished. Toni looked at her reproachfully. “What?” Hazel said defensively. “I say. ‘rip off the band-aid’.”
Jasmine smiled. “You know I can say the same about you both too. You have been kind of mute since Sunday.”
“Well, my father showed up in town.” Toni said. “And Hazel’s boyfriend was arrested for murder.”
“Hey!” Hazel protested. “For the umpteenth time he isn’t my boyfriend”
“Sorry,” Toni smirked. “Anyway we know what is bothering us. What is bothering you? It can’t be the exam, you are a genius, you love exams.”
Jasmine sighed. “I guess Carla’s funeral brought up more memories.” she said.
“Oh you mean your father” Hazel said.
“Yeah.” Jasmine said. “Everything just reminded me of him.” She turned to Toni. “Yours is still alive. Do something about him.”
“Yeah I did.” Toni said. “I told him to get the hell out of town.”
“He is still your father.” Jasmine said. “Give him a chance.” She got up packed her books ad left. Hazel and Toni stared after her.
“She is crazy.” Toni said.
“Crazy, but right.” Hazel said. “Make peace with your dad.”
“What-” Toni started to talk,but just then Ben came towards them.
“Where was Jasmine going?” He asked.
“She has an exam or something” Hazel said. “What’s up stalker boy?”
Ben glared at her. “I have an update on Jeremiah.” He said. “He confessed.”
Hazel stared at him in shock. “He killed Carla? That is impossible.”
“I don’t know the full details, but apparently he gave the cops a lengthy confession. If I hear more I’ll tell you.”
“How do you know all this.” Toni asked.
“Friends.” He said simply. “Now if you would excuse me, I’ve got stuff to do. Give Jasmine my regards.”
“Sure we will.” Toni said as he walked away.
* * *
“Where are we on that phone.” James asked as Corbin walked in the room.
“Still working on it.” Corbin said. He looked at his watch. “Is it noon already?”
“Yeah. It’s crazy right?” James said. “Gates lawyer is coming in for a visit today.”
“Thee is no point.” Corbin said. “He confessed already.”
“Yeah, but we are getting him a deal.” James said. “Speaking of lawyers, still no sign of Moraine Heathway?”
“Not a peep.” Corbin said. “She is probably dead, or in Hawaii.”
“Probably.” James chuckled. Just then there was some commotion in the station. Jakes came running towards them. “You have to see this.” He panted. James and Corbin, made their way towards the source of the commotion. It came from the prison holding cells. They found Alex standing there.
“What is it?” James asked as he got there.
“See for yourself.” Alex said grimly. James made his way to where Alex stood. He looked towards the direction where Alex was looking. What he saw was shocking to the bone. Corbin joined him. He too was speechless. Jeremiah Gates lay on the floor. Blood oozed from his neck. His eyes were glassy and unmoving. He was gone.