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3S Round Robin

THE SUSPECT

 

Chapter 1

by Goldie Jones

 

 

Diana hurried to the tunnel entrance, wanting to get there long before the sun disappeared behind the skyscrapers of the “Big Apple”, the pet name for New York City.  Central Park was still the scene of children playing, dogs chasing one another, and joggers going for their final run before dark.  It was almost as if three young girls had not been murdered there during the past few weeks and the killer was not still at large.  Everything was pretty much the same as it always was during the day.  However, at dusk all activity came to a halt, and the only creatures lingering in the park were owls and crickets, their music making an eerie melodic accompaniment to the night.  

 

Diana was quite able to take care of herself.  After all, she was a policewoman and was allowed to carry a concealed weapon.  Nevertheless, the way those poor girls had been found with their throats cut made her nervous.  She was anxious to get to the safety of the tunnels, where Vincent would be waiting for her with open arms.  

 

As she approached, he was there at the tunnel entrance; but instead of his usual exuberant greeting, he wore a pained expression.  

 

Diana became aware of it immediately, and said, “What's wrong, Vincent?  You look worried.”  

 

He did not reply, but instead, handed her a newspaper clipping.  Diana read the headline and gasped, “Oh dear, I can't believe this.  They think it's you?”  

 

Vincent groaned. “They've spotted me, Diana.  Now it's going to be as dangerous for me to visit you at your loft as it is for you to come here and possibly risk your life for me.”  

 

Diana was appalled.  “How could they possibly think it was you?”

 

“Just read the whole article, Diana.  Someone must have caught a glimpse of me 'hiding in the shadows' as they put it. 'A tall man with a strange face, wearing a hooded cloak and acting suspicious.’

It appears that I am a prime suspect in those terrible crimes.”  

 

“That's ridiculous.  They're judging you by your appearance and actions, but they have nothing else to go by.”  

 

“It's enough to make me a target, Diana. And what's even worse, I have no defense because I can't go forth in the daylight and try to clear myself.  Therefore, I have to hide even more than before, even at night – especially at night.”  

 

For once Diana was stumped.  She had no immediate answers.  All she could do was try and reassure Vincent that, even if he were to get caught, any evidence against him would be purely circumstantial.

 

“The only way I could get out of this,” Vincent said, shaking his head, “is if they catch the real murderer in the act.  Meanwhile, I will have to stay in hiding in the safety of the tunnels.”  

“However,” he continued, “they will still wonder who or what I am and why I was 'slinking' around the park.  My identity will be exposed for all the world to see.”  Vincent bowed his head.  

 

Diana had never seen him so distraught.  “Don't borrow trouble, Vincent.  I'll team up with the investigators in the department, and we'll find the real killer.  In the meantime, let's go inside and I'll fix you a cup of tea to calm your nerves.”  

 

“It will take more than a cup of tea.”  

 

“You're innocent, Vincent.  You know that, and I know it.  Okay, so you have to lay low for a while, but we'll get to the bottom of it.  You'll see.”  

 

They entered the tunnel and headed toward Vincent's chamber.  He walked a little bit ahead of Diana, not wanting to talk, but to think.  She had to practically run to keep up with him.  “Slow down, Vincent.  We need to talk this over and come to some kind of solution.”

 

“I don't really feel like discussing it right now.  I'm worried sick about you, Diana.  You will have to walk back to your loft in the dark.  I can't take a chance by accompanying you, and you could be in great danger.  I would never forgive myself if….”  

 

“Look, Vincent, I'm a big girl, and I can take care of myself.  I have a gun, and I know how to use it.”  

 

“I admire your bravery, Diana,” Vincent replied, smiling in spite of himself, “but you're no match for a serial killer.”  

 

“Why?  Because I'm a woman?  Listen up.  I've hauled several men to jail without even a backup.  Do you remember the bank hold-up last spring?  And what about that big, husky football player I stopped for speeding, and then ran a check on him and found out he was driving without a license.  Then I did the field sobriety and pinned a D.U.I. on him to boot.  I don't kow tow to those who break the law, regardless of their size or gender.”

 

“This is different, Diana.  This man is a serial killer.  They're not afraid of cops, and they're experienced in their trade, if you want to call it that.  If something happened to you, I would never forgive myself for putting you in harm’s way.  If they want to arrest me for a crime I didn't commit, then I will willingly go to jail rather than see you hurt or killed.”  

 

“Vincent, you're forgetting something.  You have to remain in hiding, not only because you could be a suspect, but because your identity and living situation would be at risk; and that would be a threat to all the people in the tunnels.  Think about that.”  

 

Vincent hesitated momentarily.  “I guess you're right.  I feel I'm torn in two directions.”  

 

“Don't worry about me, Vincent.  There's still a bit of daylight left.  I'm gonna high-tail it out of here, and I'll be home and safe before it gets completely dark; but I'll have to leave now.”  

 

“Go, Diana.  And go safely.  I don't know when I'll see you again.  We'll have to wait until all this is over.  Call one of the helpers when you get home and let someone know you're safe, and they can relay the message to me.”  

Diana hurried to her loft, going along the jogging path so it wouldn't look like she was being paranoid. Her conversation with Vincent had been quite upsetting.  She hated the thought of not being able to see him or having him drop in on her unexpectedly.  That was part of the thrill and challenge of their romance, the spontaneity of it.  Now that would be gone for a while.  

 

When she finally reached the safety of her loft, she called one of the helpers who was closest to the tunnels, asking him to relay the message to Vincent. She then made sure her door was locked and that all the curtains had been pulled shut.  She put the teakettle on, kicked off her tennis shoes and sank down in the couch.  She must have dozed off, because the next sound she heard was the eerie whistle of the kettle.  She went to the kitchen and poured water in the cup, put in the tea bag, and then the phone rang.  She debated whether or not to answer it, and then decided to let it ring.  Maybe someone had followed her and gotten her number.  

 

Gee whiz, Bennett, now you're getting paranoid.  Even if someone did follow you, he wouldn't know your phone number.  But maybe he could have found out.  Then the ringing stopped, and Diana sipped her tea, once again going over the events of the evening.  

 

The phone rang again.  This time she answered it.  It was Vincent.  

 

“Where were you, Diana?  I got the message that you arrived home safely, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  Then I tried to call, and you didn't answer.  I got worried.”  

 

“Vincent, you're a worry wart.  Do you know that?  But I love you anyway.  By the way, where did you get a phone?”  

 

“It's Jamie's. She has a mobile phone and let me borrow it.  I just had to make sure that you were okay.”  

 

“I'm okay.  You're okay.  Now how about we both turn in?  It's been a real stressful evening for both of us.”  

 

“I love you, Diana.”  

 

“I love you, too, Vincent.  Now stop worrying about me.  You have other things to worry about.”

 

“Yes.  I haven't forgotten.”  

 

“It'll be okay.  I'll make sure of that.”  

 

“How?”  

 

“Just never mind.  Good night, dear Vincent.”  

 

Wow, I love his voice, Diana mused.  It's throaty and gravelly and full of love and concern.  How could anyone think Vincent would murder three young women?  He does have his dangerous side, but he's really a pussy cat at heart. He would never hurt anyone, unless they hurt him or someone he loves.  

 

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