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Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Movie Review: The Tourist (2010)

In Movie Reviews on January 31, 2011 at 10:57 am

With a high profile cast, beautiful location pieces, a strong storyline and potentially incredible twist ending, The Tourist should be a highly likable action thriller. Unfortunately, one minor problem brings this film down to a slightly above average also ran. The problem: Angelina Jolie.

This new bohemian chic look she has had going for a couple years now (she appears to be about 15-20 pounds lighter than her Laura Croft days) makes her more suited to play Skelator in the upcoming HeMan movie that a fem fatale here. No one can pull of sexy with a sunken in face. Her entire look completely distracts from her character. It also gives her performance a stiff, wooden like quality which creates an odd sense of chemistry with Depp on screen.

This is a shame, because Depp (as always) is entertainingly watchable in his role. Charmingly funny with a sense of whimsy, Depp’s Frank is the type of character you want to cheer for as he is thrown into a situation he can’t control. The problem is he is onscreen so much with Jolie, his performance seems somewhat watered down. If you think back at how great Jolie and Pitt were onscreen in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Jolie and Depp are that bland together here.

This blandness causes the entire thriller aspect of the story to fall flat. There is no intrigue or suspenseful build up because you never really believe that either Jolie or Depp are in any real danger. Without this sense of danger, the last third of the movie rings hollow. All the elements for a great ending are there, but they never really gel together.

This is a film that has major league talent and ideas, but minor league execution.

3 out of 5 stars on the strength of Depp’s performance.

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Movie Review: The Town (2010)

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2011 at 8:50 am

Welcome to the world of top tier directors Mr. Affleck. This impeccably shot crime drama will rank right up next to Heat when it comes to ranking bank robbery movies. Every scene if meticulously crafted and laid out so the viewing is sucked in and out of the action without feeling overwhelmed by the heavy material being conveyed.

Affleck, who also had a hand in writing the screenplay, makes the viewer feel every single emotional scar his character is battling. Through the use of some simply genius camera angles, we get a glimpse inside both his mind and the bank robbers in general like nothing I have ever seen on screen before. By the time the final credits roll, the audience is an emotionally spent wreck, but in a good way. You are left to ponder serious questions about life and your place in the world.

While you are taken down this emotional journey, you are treated to some of the best show bank heist scenes ever to film. Through the use of some creative sound editing, the viewer is placed right in the middle of each heist, and it leaves you on edge.

The movie does have a few very minor flaws. The last 20 minutes seem rushed and not as intense as the rest of the movie. The final battle between the crew and the police seems to be stretching reality a bit as well. Also, the redemptive nature of Affleck’s character seems to be a bit forced and contrived. But these minor elements are far outnumbered by the performances of a stellar cast and a bona fide superstar director.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Movie Review: Due Date (2010)

In Movie Reviews on January 31, 2011 at 8:35 am

There are few things I enjoy more than a good buddy road trip movie. There is so much material writers and directors can mine from two actors trying to reach a goal, with comic relief thrown in. The best of these type of movies, the gold standard of road trips, is of course Planes Trains and Automobiles. The John Hughes classic has so many memorable lines and scenes, I am sure each of you reading this now is snickering a little at your favorite one. It also had heart. You are rooting for both Steve Martin and John Candy’s characters by the end of the movie.

No matter how you want to paint it, Due Date is a remake / knock off / homage to the Hughes classic. You have two mismatched people (Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis) embarking on a cross country trip. Unfortunately, this is where the similarities end. This film is neither funny, nor does it have any type of heart or soul. Both of the main characters are so inherently unlikable from the first scene, you are rooting for their car to be blown up in a explosion.

Downey’s talents are completely wasted on a script that is filled with nothing but drug references, military put downs and infidelity jokes. Galifianakis, who has no comedic talent to begin with, is so unbearable to watch, you have to wonder how he ever made it past a first audition for any movie he has ever been. There is zero comedic timing or chemistry between the two, so what you are left with is an hour and a half of nothing. No laughs, no caring, no emotional connection to anyone in the film in any way. There is not even one slightly amusing scene where you would get a little chuckle to help you get through the mindless mess.

I have never done this before, but I urge all of you to completely and totally avoid this piece of trash at all costs. My first ever:

0 out of 5 star rating.

Movie Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm

There are some movies that are just supposed to be fun. Just turn off your brain, sit back and enjoy the ride without thinking about it to much. This is that kind of movie. Is it some great cinematic work that people will be talking about years from now? Nope. But it is not supposed to be either. This film knows exactly how to do what’s it’s main purpose is: entertain the audience.

Nicholas Cage is..well..Nicholas Cage. We have seen him do this role many times before. We are not talking about an actor how can transform himself into a completely different character, like Johnny Depp or Liam Neeson can. But that is ok, because audience don’t expect that from him. He is enjoyable to watch doing what he does every movie. I also think Alfred Molina. This is essentially the same role he played in Spiderman 2. The evil villain who looks menacing and orders people around. Once again, it is a pleasure to watch him do this.

To me, the star of the movie is Jay Baruchel, who has been in some of my favorite movies of the past year (Fanboys, She’s Out Of Your League). He is an actor with great future potential playing the lovable geek boy who could turn into this generations Jon Cusak. In this film, he is the grounding figure which helps stabilize the frantic acting going on around him.

This movie is not deep in any way. It is all surface fun. There is no hidden meaning you are going to find after watching it. You are not going to sit around with your friends dissecting plot points or talking about how great the characters were developed. And that is fine, because the movie should not be viewed that way. It should be viewed for what it is, an over the top action film.

The standout feature of the movie is the special effects. Some of the fight and “magic” scenes are spectacular. This film had a budget of close to $130 million, and you can see it in every scene of the film. The money was spent on effects, not script writing.

It is worth throwing this one into your player when you get a chance.

3 out of 5 stars.

Movie Review: Letters To Juliet (2010)

In Movie Reviews on January 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

I am not ashamed to admit that romantic comedies are my favorite genre of movie. I can watch one no matter what type of mood I am in, and because of this, I have seen hundreds throughout the years. Based on watching so many, I have come up with my own personal checklist on what makes a romantic comedy work or not work.

1. A likable lead character you want to root for. Most of the type it is a female (think Reece Witherspoon or Julia Roberts), but sometimes it can be a male (John Cusack in Say Anything is the prime example). In this movie, we have Amanda Seyfried, one of the talented crop of under 30 up and coming actresses. She does a very pleasant job in the role of Sophie, a fact checker / want to be writer for The New Yorker. Surprisingly enough, this film actually has two leads you want to root for, as Vanessa Redgrave almost steals the movie from Amanda in her role as Claire.

2. An antagonistic counter character to the lead. There are actually two in this movie, which I will talk about shortly.

3. Some type of journey for self discovery. Pretty much this entire movie is based around this point, and it is a satisfying journey.

4. The big pay off. Once again, there are actually two here, one works well, and one falls completely flat (more on this shortly).

A few spoilers past this point, you have been warned!!!

The biggest weakness, and ultimate downfall of this movie is the fact that you do not want Sophie to end up with either guy! Both antagonists (her Italian fiance and Claire’s British son) are so unlikable from beginning to end, you end up asking yourself “she really has to decide between THESE TWO?” The fiance ignores Sophie so much throughout the movie, I actually started getting a little mad. It’s no wonder females are so guarded with jerks like this guy was in the world.

Then you have Charlie (played by Christopher Egan). I get that you have to make the character a little rough when he and Sophie first meet, the problem is, there is no gradual smoothing of the edges. It is like a light switch just flicks on, where one minute he is the jerk and the next minute he is the nicest guy on the planet. Good romantic comedies transition this type of character slowly, so he / she grows right along with the lead. By the end of the movie, there is zero connection or chemistry with Sophie and Charlie because the viewer is never led to the end, you are just simply shoved to it.

Which brings me to the payoffs. The Claire pay off is outstanding. For 50 years, she has been searching for her true love, and when she finally sees it in her grasp, you can feel the fear and anxiety she has ooze through the camera. It is one of the those cheering moments where you just want to shout “yes!!”. The Sophie pay off…well…not so much. The reason is because it is not set up properly from the very point of her going back to Italy. Charlie, having known he has told her about his ex named Patricia, is going to introduce her to a women named Patricia and not explain instantly that it is his cousin? Um, yeah I don’t think so. This guy is dense, but there is no man that dense.

In the end, Seyfriend’s and Redgraves performance are enough to make this a watchable movie on a lazy Saturday date night sitting at home the couch, but it is not something you need to go out of your way to see soon.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

Movie Review: Fair Game (2010)

In Movie Reviews on January 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

Normally, I steer clear of political movies, because typically they are one sided and over the top in jamming a message down the audiences throats. However, when you put what I consider the two finest actors working today (Naomi Watts and Sean Penn) onscreen together, I am going to see it no matter what the subject matter. Watts and Penn are the main reasons you should see this movie.

If you are the type of person who can not understand that you are watching a movie, and not a documentary news reel, you most likely will not enjoy this film. It plays fast and loose with the subject matter, and is skewed to the left of the political spectrum when dealing with the WMD debate. But if you can get past your political views on this matter, you will find a well written directed and acted drama. Sean Penn is outstanding as Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame’s husband who started the political hot potato with an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times. He is so determined to bring what he thinks is the truth to light about his wife that he fails to realize that she is pulling further and further away from him.

Watts, who should have been nominated for an Oscar for her performance here, gives her best performance yet in what has already been a stellar career. She makes you want to root for her and her cause, even if you don’t believe in what she is fighting for. By the end of the film, you really do forget about the political motivations of the characters and just get sucked into the personal world of Plame and Wilson.

The movie is not without it’s faults. The most glaring is that is never really gives the viewer a reason why Wilson would write the Op-Ed piece to begin with. I was left with a “why is he so mad” feeling at the beginning , and only after the movie unfolds do you get where his anger comes from. There are also a few moments of the film which are incredibly hard to follow and figure out what is going on. The script does a great job etching out the Plame and Wilson characters, but leaves all the other smaller roles untouched, so you never really get a sense of who anyone else is.

These flaws can certainly be overlooked because of the performances of Watts and Penn.

3.5 out of 5 stars, if you can look past the political angles.

2.5 out of 5 stars if you take your political bias into the viewing.

Movie Review: The Last Airbender (2010)

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2011 at 8:08 am

If ever there was a movie that could have benefited from about 2 more months of editing, this is the one. The concept (based on a cartoon which I have never seen) should have been a natural movie making idea. All the storylines and characters are pre-laid out and just ready to be transformed to the big screen. Unfortunately, the movies falls incredibly short of meeting any of these expectations.

First, and what is perhaps the biggest problem with the film, the acting is just horrible. I mean beyond atrocious. Dev Patel (of the completely overrated Slumdog millionaire fame) is truly the only “star” name of the movie, and as bad as the actors are, it is doubtful you will be hearing about any of the others anytime soon. The accents and dialects are all over the place. Even characters who are from the same villages speak in completely different ways. It makes for a jumble, unpleasant mess on the ears. There is a forced love story about 3/4 of the way through between two of the most stiff, wooden actors I have ever seen. At no point during their scenes together do you ever believe there is any chemistry between them.

However, you can’t blame the actors totally. M Knight Shyamalan (who wrote the script and directed) did the actors no favors with either of his duties. The script is a brainstorming session gone bad. Instead of putting together a well thought out narrative, Shyamalan instead gives the audience what appears to be his favorite portions from each cartoon episode strung together. There is no coherent direction or goal to the script in any way. Combine this with the forced dialog which is interwoven through the film, and the audience feels beaten up by the time the end credits roll.

Even more disappointing were the martial arts / fight scenes. Everything looked like it was shot in half speed and all the motions looked completely out of sync. Some of the fighting bordered on the laughable. It was like I was watching an old Keystone Cops skit. There is one scene in particular, where two characters are training together and are obviously supposed to be doing is in unison. The problem is, in this beautifully choreographed scene, the two characters are about a second off from each other. So instead of being a sweeping almost dance like sequence, you are instead left to sit there and think “how did this not get caught in editing?”

In the end, the movie fails to excite or entertain on any level.

1.5 out of 5.

They may not have talent, but at least they can make us cry

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2011 at 5:10 am

Call me irrational, but I remember a time when talent competitions were just that: about talent. Last night’s American Idol (a show which has become so far removed from anything talentlike it is not even funny), could perhaps be the pinnacle example of the non-talent talent show. It featured a hopeful whose fiance was brain damaged in a car accident. Wheeling the women into the room so all the judges can do their standard “oohh” thing, I could not help but think one thought: what the hell does this have to do with the guys ability to SING!! It turns out, apparently not much, because he was a mediocre singer at best, who would have had trouble making it through the second round had he not wheeled the fiance into the room.

But American Idol is not the one only show to use this tactic. I am a huge fan of Chopped over on the Food Network. But I will turn off any episode which has a “I survived cancer” or “I lived on the street” type of contestant. Because I DON’T CARE! That is not the reason I am tuning into the show.

If someone wants to start a I Have Had A Rough Life So Listen To My Story Network, go right ahead, but please, keep it out of talent comeptitions.

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In Stories and Ideas on January 26, 2011 at 8:01 am

I remember being told once, even if you don’t belong in a room, act like you do and people won’t notice. This was advice I had been using for the past five years. Five years? Had it really been that long since that cool early morning wind blew me away from all I had ever known. Five years may seem like a long time to some, but as stand in the back of the room, looking around, it seems like yesterday.

I am the one who does not belong. I don’t know why I found the need to sneak into the back door. I have done, nor ever did, anything wrong. In a legal sense that is. But most of the people who are milling around this large ballroom will tell you that what I did was far worse that any legal crime I could have commited, outside of perhaps murder or rape.

I look around the room, my mental rolodex placing all the people I see. There are the two K’s, Kaitlin and Karissa. They have earned this moniker because since high school, they have been joined at the hip, never leaving each others side. Not in a romantic way, but in that way friends seem to always be there for each other. I had been part of that inner sacntum at one point as well.

There is Theo, the man who organinzed tonight. A tireless workhorse of a man who always seems to be the center of attention even when he is not trying. Moving through life without a care in the world and a smile on his face, Theo more than jumped at the chance to organize tonight’s festivities.

Then my eyes rest on the main event. The entire reason for this evening’s festivities. Brett had not changed. The jovial smile which lit up every room he stepped into was still plastered across his face as he shook hands with a red head I did not recognize. I am staring right at him as he looks over the shoulder of the lady and spots me. Even with my now long hair and dark glasses, I am easily recognizable. Yes, I have gained a few pounds over the last five years. But when you are trying to blend into a room full of suits and tuxedos, it is probably not the best idea to wear what made you famous in this small town. Before Brett can say make a move, I feel a hand on my shoulder.

“Excuse me sir, may I see your invitation?” I turn and face a bleached blonde middle aged women.

“I am sorry, I was just peeking in to see what all the fuss was about.” I smile a big smile, attempting to disarm the look of fear the women has on her face. It is not a fear of physical injury, more a fear of social injury. It is obvious this women is somehow connected with tonight’s activities, and my guess is the one who will be responsible if all does not go exactly as planned.

“Sir, this is a private event, black tie only you know.” she says with a half smirk as her eyes scan me from my feet up to my hair.

“Oh, sorry.” I smile even more. I have come to learn that no matter how cold a person appears to be, a smile will thaw them, even if it is a slight thaw. Before turning to leave, I look back into the room one last time, scanning quickly, but Brett is no where to be seen.

“Local Duo Make Millions”the headline read as Brett and I sat in our offices scanning through the local paper. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 2004, and we were 28 years old. One of us was a college drop out, while one of us held multiple degrees. Both of us were married with children. Life should have been perfect. But as always, hinding under the vail of perfection is a nasty virus just waiting to be unleashed. One of us would get the full force of that virus.

Gala Honors Mr. Charity. I had to chuckle a little as I notice the headline of the local paper making my way down through the deserted shops of the walking mall. It was now a mild April night. All the shops are closed, as nothing in the town ever stays open past 7:00 anymore. Even if they did, it would not have mattered tonight. Everything shut down as the entire town tried to sqeeze itself into the grand ballroom of the downtown hotel.

“I figured I would find you here” a familiar voice echos out from behind me. I am not sure if I want to turn around, because I don’t know if I am ready to face anyone yet. I am not even sure why I am standing in this spot. But there is no fighting it, I know it is time.

“Shouldn’t you be back there.” I smile a big smile as I turn and motion to the hotel a couple blocks to my right. Kaitlin is approaching me. Bubbly is the word most would use to describe her, and I have always believed that was an understatement. I once remarked that Kaitlin was the only person who could put Death in a good mood. As she approached me, I am reminded why of why I said that. There are certain people what just have an aura around them that makes you want to feel better.

“Please, you know me, I can’t stay at those things longer than a half an hour.” She gives me a big smile as she reaches my side.

“Where’s your twin?” I ask with a small laugh, knowing Karissa will not be far behind.

“She said you would head in the other direction.”

It is odd, I have not seen or spoken to Kaitlin in five years. Yet, she approaches me like we just saw each other at the office a few hours earlier. Which on a normal day five years ago would have been the case.

Kaitlin was my assistant, and Karissa held the same spot for Brett. The two K’s were labeled as our assitants, but everyone knew they were much more. They were our go between for anything that got done. They were our first and last line of defense to anyone wanting to see us. And Kaitlin was the one person, beside Brett, I thought about most during the last five years.

“Get a haircut” I hear a voice call out from our right, and I turn to see Karissa making her way up the walking mall. The last time anyone in town saw me, I was a bald wire-rimmed glasses wearing 180 pound twenty-something. Now, with a few extra pounds and thicker framed glasses, my hair has grown out to be past my shoulders.

“Never” I laugh back at her as she reaches me. Now flacked by the two people who know me better than almost anyone, I have to wonder where to go.

“Want to go in?” Kaitlin asks with a little smile.

“Not a chance.” I respond, almost in a whisper, my voice wavering. Karissa wraps one of her arms through mine and pulls me back to one of the many benches lining the inside of the mall.

“You look good” she smiles as the three of us sit.

“You were never a good liar” I chuckle back at her. “Did anyone else see me?” I ask, somewhat nervously.

“I don’t think so, people are too absorbed in their own self importance in that room to notice anything or anyone else” Kaitlin tell me. “But I must say, if you did not want to be seen…” she pauses and just looks me up and down.

“Kind of stupid to wear my old uniform huh?” I grin.

The only dress code of the office had been no suits or ties. I took this even further by never stepping out of my place in something over than one of the thousands of tee shirts I had collected throughout the years and a pair of well worn jeans. In the winter, this was accompanied by a leather jacket and tennis shoes, in the summer, lose the jacket and add sandals. This was precisely what I was wearing when I was standing in the back of that ballroom an hour ago.

They both catch me looking up at the building in front of us.

“He always said you would be back.” Kailtin says with a little smile.

“That is why he never changes a thing.” Karissa adds with a wink.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Your office door has no been unlocked at all.” she replies. “He also had faith you would find your way back. He used to tell everyone in staff meetings that you were just a little broken, and as soon as your found your duct tape, you would be back.”

“He even kept your lease current.” Kaitlin adds as she motions to the building behind us. I turn, up until now having forgotten about my old apartment.

“You’re joking” I whisper.

“Never even changed the locks.” Karissa adds as she places a small keyring in my hand. I instantly start to shake when I see the keys.

I am laying in my back on a picnic table outside of a small bus station. The station is about 30 miles from my apartment, and I have taken a taxi to get here. I hear a small beep, and look down at my watch “3:00am” it reads. It is St Patrick’s Day 2005.

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In Uncategorized on January 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

(This is a VERY early draft of the story/book I mentioned in a post a couple days ago)
I

“We know you were there.” the squeaky voice brought me crashing back into my own reality. The taller of the two agents, I believe his name was Peterson, was standing over me, eyes piercing into my mine.

“Listen, how many times do I have to tell you, I have not seen or heard from him in 10 years. Nor do I have any plans to do either soon. So, you can ask me all you want, in as many different ways as you want, but the answer will be the same. I have no idea where William Michaels is and I have no desire to found out.” A quick glance at my watch indicated I had been holed up in the small interrogation room for going on 4 hours.

“Remember, you can have a lawyer present if you want one.” The shorter, stockier agent, whose name had already escaped me, interrupted.

“You two are amazing, you know that. How long did you come up with this little routine? I mean, granted, I have seen it done better in the Keystone Cops, but I am glad to see the Academy is putting out such fine upstanding agents. I am sure somewhere in that mound of paperwork in front of you there is a file that will tell you I hold two degrees, one in political science and the other in criminal forensic psychology, so to answer your rather irritating question, yes, I am aware I can have a lawyer, but since I am not charged with anything and came here on my own free will, I don’t feel I need one, now do I?”

The question was not so much a question, but more of a challenge. Another glance at the Citizen on my wrist, then my eyes moved back to Peterson.

“Since you seem to be the brains of the operation” I smirked “tell me, are you going to charge me with something or can I leave?”

Before he had time to answer, the door was pushed open and the clicking heels of a leggy, mid-thirties blond entered.

“Well, this is certainly a change in the routine.” I grinned big.

“Knock it off Mr. Marshall. I am Assistant D.A. Casey, and you are free to leave. I am sorry you have been kept this long.”

“Hold on one second, we are not finished with him.” Peterson stood and approached A.D.A. Casey.

“Agent Peterson, I can only assume that you do not enough on Mr. Marshall to charge him, so before he wises up and puts his law knowledge to work and decides to file a lawsuit, let him leave.” Casey snapped before Peterson could reach her.

I quickly stood and headed for the door, sliding past both the agents and headed for the door.

“Mr. Marshall, would you please wait for me in the hallway.” ADA Casey called out as I was leaving the room, I turned back in time to see her and the two agents huddled together, the look on their faces ashen white as I left the room.

II

Wilson College sits in a small, historic West Virginia town. The campus laid an hour’s drive from the Nation’s capitol and political center of Washington DC and housed the best criminal psychology departments in the country. The biggest reason for the success of the department was that it was run by the man who pioneered the world of criminal profiling, the man simply known on campus as Dr. Roy.

The good doctor had exited the FBI in 1989 and settled into the rural, quiet lifestyle of the small West Virginia town. It was not long before the offers began coming in, from lectures to books. But Dr. Roy had no interest in any of it. He simply wanted to live out his days in the peace of the small college town. He enjoyed sitting out on his porch and saying a quick hello as the students passed by. He had never had children of his own, instead making his work his family. He knew if he would have had children, they would be college age about now, so he relished the chance to get to know the students of the town.

One sunny March afternoon, Wilson’s President, Miles Shepherd, approached Dr. Roy as he sat out reading the newspapers he had delivered from across the nation. Miles had a special offer for the Doctor, one he was sure not to refuse. It was on that day that Dr. Roy agreed to head the first criminal forensics department on the East Coast, to be housed right there in the backyard of the FBI.

Applications poured in from all over the country, as promising young minds dreamed of the chance to study under what most considered the greatest criminal mind to ever walk the planet.

Wilson limited the program to just fifteen students per year. By the time the first class was ready to graduate, in the spring of 1995, that number had been cut down to 7. William Michaels, Jessica Keith and I had all made it through together.

III

The pulsating beat of the music pounded through the tiny white headphones as his eyes scanned for the next victim. These football games offered so many possibilities for a person with his particular talents and tastes. He had perfected his craft through education and experience. Right now, he was number one on every most wanted list that floated around law enforcement. He had been John Walsh’s guest of honor on two occasions and even had one book written about his work, even though no law enforcement agency had come close to catching him. He was too careful for that to ever happen. His planning was precise and he was the master of his craft. Deep down, it somewhat upset him that no one would ever know who he was and he could never be recognized publicly for the genius he saw himself to be.

A quick look at the scoreboard revealed two minutes left in the game unfolding before him. It was homecoming, and the stands were full. He did not know who was winning or losing, nor did he care. All he knew was that is was now time for the hunt. His eyes slowly scanned over the jubilant crowd as they sprang to their feet in reaction to a play on the field. It was in this moment that he saw her.

The deep auburn hair cascaded down over her shoulders as she cheered alongside the throng of frat boys. None of them worthy to be even near her, he thought to himself, as his eyes continued to explore. Long, toned legs extended from the mid-length plaid skirt wrapped around her perfect midsection. As she turned, he caught a glimpse of her deep jade eyes and he knew he had a winner. He did not pay attention to her ample breasts tucked away in her one size too small blouse. It was the eyes that had won him over, and it was those eyes that would lead to the end of her life.

IV

The night was May 14, 1995 when three lives were altered forever. We had just come back from our graduation party, the celebration and culmination of four years hard work. William, Jessica and I had survived the program, and we now proud members of the first Criminal Psychology School graduation class. As we exited our cars and made our way back to William’s apartment, none of us saw the four large men step from the shadows. Nor did any of us see the large baseball bats in their hands. We also could not understand, as William and I were being attacked with the bats as Jessica was held back, why they kept screaming something about stolen money.

I was left with a broken left eye socket, two broken ribs and a broken ankle. William obtained three broken ribs, a broken arm and broken leg. Jessica was simply left in a state of shock as she watched the two people she had come to know as family beaten before her eyes. It at first it appeared it all happened for no reason at all.

It was only in the later months did Jessica and I gain the knowledge that William had found an alternative source of income to pay for his degree. It seems he became one of the top middlemen for the drug lord of Washington. William had worked his was up to become the top dealer of any illegal drug on the entire Wilson campus, plus had clients all up and down the mid-Atlantic area. During his final semester at Wilson, it is believed William brought in more than two million dollars in new business to his boss. At least, that is what he was reporting back to him. The attack on that May night proved the number was actually closer to three million.

The night of May 14 was the last time I had seen William, and the first time I realized how much I truly loved Jessica. William simply vanished. It had been rumored he met his end when the drug lord finally caught up with him. However, I believe he had simply slipped into the Blue Ridge Mountains, hiding away from the troubles he had caused at Wilson. After all, this is what Jessica and I had done, ditched the Wilson community to start our new lives together.

After the completion of my rehab and her therapy sessions, Jessica and I headed north, settling into the small town of Wrightsville Pennsylvania, just outside the state capitol of Harrisburg. We both felt this would be the perfect place for a fresh start. The attack had left my eye completely blind, meaning no law enforcement in my future. Four years of college gone to waste. I knew I could have pursued a career in teaching or training recruits, but the classroom did not interest me, it was out in the field that I had craved, and now that had been taken from me.

Jessica too had abandoned her aspirations of a career in the Bureau. The attacks had shown her a violent side of the criminal she had never experienced first hand, and she did not like what she saw. She worried for her family and friends if she would come into the control of some madman killer.

The problem was, where Jessica was able to find a job she enjoyed as a production assistant at the local television station, I was never able to settle into any I truly enjoyed. I bounced around from one odd job to the next, never settling down into anything. After two years of this, Jessica finally had enough and accepted a job at a much larger station on the West Coast. She packed up her things and was gone, out of my life as fast as she had entered it six years earlier in our freshman year. There was nothing I could do or say to make her stay, because honestly, I still did not know what I wanted out of my own life and could not very well commit to someone else until I figured that out.

The only thing I did know for sure was that whatever it was I was looking for, I was not going to find it in Wrightsville. It did not take long for me to follow Jessica out of town, moving back home to the Wilson area. Home in the most loosely used sense of the word. I had no family there. My parents, having recently discovered retirement, took joy in traveling around the country in their newly purchased RV. I would get an occasional email from them with pictures attached of their latest sights from the nation. I could never tell what state they were in, all I knew is that they were happy doing what they had always wanted to do, which was see the country, and I had a feeling that would soon change to see the world.

My brother likewise was a traveler, only he did it for a living. Having attended Wilson on a football scholarship, he soon discovered that class work and athletics were not a good mix for him, so he chose the later. Now one of the most in demand player development coaches in golf, he makes his money the new old fashioned way, by catering to the rich. I shake my head every time I think of him cashing those checks from the Trumps and Buffets of the country who pay to hear his advice on why their three iron is slicing off five degrees. To have such troubles.

It was now time for me to make my own path and mark, so I decided to dive into a career path which I had dabbled in on and off since I was in high school: music. Since I don’t have a musical bone in my body and most of the time scared the mold away by singing in the shower, I needed to be behind the scenes. This is how I began my friendship with the man simply known to all the students around Wilson as T.

V

As the intoxicated and rowdy crowd began to make their way from the stadium, he stayed back, close enough to keep her within eyesight. He watched as she stepped into the small coffeehouse. Every college town in America has them, the place for students to act more important than they really are as they sipped their $5.00 European blends. He despised the very thought of stepping in, but he knew there would be no better place or time to begin laying the groundwork.

Making his way behind his prey as she stood innocently in line, his mind began to wonder. What would he do to her once he got her alone? His eyes scanned up and down her back, noticing for the first time just how short and tight the little plaid skirt was. He simply grinned to himself. Maybe he would have a little more fun with this one than the others.

“Getting a good look?” The voice pulled him back into the moment, and his eyes refocused, he saw those jade sparkles.

“Excuse me?” He smiled back, trying to play it off.

“It’s OK” she winked back at him “I wouldn’t wear it this tight if I did not want you guys to look” she grinned.

“Well, on behalf of all them men who saw you in that today, I would like to say thank you” he smiled back with a laugh.

“You’re quite welcome” she smiled radiantly as she gave her hips a couple extra shakes in appreciation.

“Let me get that for you” he motioned to the coffee in her hand as he reached around her, handing the clerk the money. “It’s the least I could do after your little show” he whispered close to her ear.

“That was just the preview” she whispered back in a breathless voice, a voice she often used to tease and torment men before finally giving in and giving them what they desired. “The feature attraction will cost you a dinner as well” she winked.

“I am sure we can order in” he smiled big as his hands slowly moved down over the back of her skirt “Wouldn’t you agree?” he grinned.

She pulled away with a slight grin in return and pulled out a napkin from the dispenser on the counter. Slowly writing something on it, she folded the napkin in half and slit it deep into the front pocket of his jeans, making sure her hand moved just a little bit too far inside. “Shall we say 7:00?” she cooed into his ear as she disappeared out the door and around the corner.

He pulled the napkin out and unfolded it, seeing the auburn haired beauty’s address scrolled across it. “Enjoy the last remaining hours of our life” he thought to himself as he left the coffeehouse and got lost in the crowd of homecoming festivities.

VI

Every small town had one. You know the guy. Someone you could go to if you found yourself just slightly on the wrong side of right. Nothing major, like murder or drugs, but the small stuff. The little minor offenses that never really amounted to anything, except for a record. And to avoid that record, you called the guy who had the connections, be it the mayor or the chief of police, one phone call and you were suddenly out.

I just happened to work for the one in my town. Work is oversimplifying the situation. Most would say I was his right hand man, his number two if you will. As I walked from the old courthouse that now was the Federal building, I could not help but think that my boss was the one who had sprung me.

The rumor was that T had been born and raised in this little hole in the wall town of Wilson, although no one could find any record of his birth in the local birth records. He was believed to be around 50 years old, but once again, his age was topic for debate as well. He never talked about his childhood or teenage years, so placing him in any generation was impossible. All that was known about T was that he had amassed his current small fortune by running some of the most successful nightclubs in town. He officially was not employed by any of the clubs. All licenses, deeds and other official documents were in the names of others, but the money and control rested solely and directly in the hands of T.

He never smoked, nor drank, preferring to leave these vices to the patrons of his clubs. He saw both as a sign of weakness, and even though he rarely was a physical man, he did not like to show weakness. Standing slightly less than six foot tall, T’s frame was of a stocky build.

T was the first person I met on my return back to Wilson. I was looking for work and he offered me a job helping promote his clubs. I slowly worked my way up in his organization and soon became the person everyone else had to go through to get to the main man. I felt a deep sense of loyalty to the man, because he was the only one to even offer any type of support to me when I was at my lowest point. I could not imagine where I would be now had he not been so generous. Not only had he lined up the job for me, but also helped me land my apartment and every now and then will play matchmaker for me, which can be rather amusing considering our taste in women is drastically different.

I was thinking about T as I stood outside the interrogation room. I wanted to make sure to thank him when I saw him at work, knowing he had called in a favor to get me out from the questioning. It was a joke for me to even be called in; because everyone knew I had not seen or heard from William since that night 10 years ago. It was most likely just a way for the authorities to irritate T by tying up his right hand man during the busiest day of the week.

“Mr. Marshall, sorry to have kept you waiting” the voice of ADA Casey pulled me out of my thoughts.

“It’s no problem, I will be sure to let T know how you put those guys in their place.” I smiled as I began to turn and leave.

“It’s not that simple Mr. Marshall. It was not T who sent me, but someone with much more influence. This person did not want you to be kept from more important matters. I have been instructed to tell you to go back to your apartment from here.” With that, ADA Casey began her retreat.

“Hold on. That’s it? Just go to my place and wait?” I called out as she made her way further down the hallway.

“Those are my instructions Mr. Marshall, now please; I have other business to attend too.” With these words, she disappeared around the corner and out of sight.

VII

It is not often I am surprised or caught off my guard. However, when I opened my apartment door, the scene that lay out before me was nothing short of shocking.

“Now that is not the look of someone who is happy to see his old college friend” William smiled as he looked up at me from my black leather couch.

“What the hell do you want?” I shot back. Not only did I not want to see him, but I especially did not want him here in my place considering where I had had to spend the morning.

“Now is that anyway to treat a guest in your place?” He smiled his trademark charming smile which could get him out of the stickiest of situations.

“Get out now, and forget where I am. I have to get ready for work.” I tried to remain as calm as possible, but all I wanted to do was walk over to the couch and beat the life out of the man sitting on it.

“We have already taken care of that. T has allowed you a couple of days of paid vacation.” This time the shock came from the doorway of the kitchen as I turned and saw Jess. I was completely speechless now, my mind racing a thousand miles a minute trying to figure out exactly what was going on.

“One of you better start explaining.” My eyes darting back and forth between my two old college friends.

“It’s simple my old friend, we have been brought together by someone who holds a great deal of influence of over all of us.” William was smiling ear to ear as I remembered hearing these almost exact words while standing in the Federal building.

“And who might that be?” I ask, growing more and more frustrated as the seconds passed.

“That would be me.” The voice came from behind me and causes my body to jump. As I turned, the surprises just kept mounting. “Mr. Marshall, my name is Emily Alexander; you may be more familiar with Senator Alexander.” The Senator from the state of Virginia extended her hand out to me.

“Of course Ms., I mean, Senator Alexander.” I smiled the smile of the totally clueless as I shook her hand.

“I can see you are somewhat at a loss for words Mr. Marshall, so why don’t we all have a seat and I can maybe clear your mind a little.” With that, the Senator brushed right past me and sat in one of the leather wingback chairs in the middle of my apartment.

VIII

Gloucester, Virginia is as quiet and peaceful today as it was in 1947, when it welcomed Emily Abigail Alexander to the world. While most of her colleagues were born into a world of wealth and high class, Emily’s early years saw both her parents pass away before she was five, causing her to be raised by her strict, yet kind hearted grandmother. Emily was never an outgoing or energetic child, and instead preferred to lose herself in books. She has a fondness for the stories of Nancy Drew, and still today clung to the principles of asking questions and investigating when something did not seem quite right.

By the time she has reached junior high, Emily had become an exceptional student. Many compared her to Abraham Lincoln, the way she would completely shut herself off from the outside world to immerse herself in books. It did not matter if it was for school or not, one would never see Emily without a book. Walking through town, at the local soda shop, or in church on Sunday, she craved the knowledge the page had to offer. It was her only real escape from an otherwise harsh existence. She did not date or socialize with anyone from her class. She had discovered early on in life that people could not be counted on. She reflected on her parent’s death, although by completely natural causes, as a sign that she was on her own in life, and Emily was going to make something of herself. She was determined to get of the Mayberry like setting she lived in and move onto bigger and better things.

The hands of fate have a way of playing tricks on people like Emily Alexander. In her junior year of high school, 1964, the trick came by way of a straight off the movie screen James Dean by the name of Edward Bowman.

IX

Victim number ten now lay at the Mastermind’s feet. Her body had not only been tight, but extremely agile. She was able to move with him inside her like no other women he had been with. He almost hated to place the plastic bag around her head and drain the air from her body as he climaxed inside her. What a rush, he thought to himself as he dressed and examined the naked remains of the once promising coed.

Her name had been insignificant to him. He did not do this for revenge or fame. Random victims at random college campuses across the county. Easy, quick strikes and the out of town with the rest of football crazed fans before anyone knew what happened. To him, the only scoreboard that mattered was the one he had going in his mind, which read Mastermind ten, authorities zero. Ten victims killed ten different ways on ten small college campuses all across the country. It was so easy and simple, yet he knew he would never be caught. He was confident enough in his skills to know he was the master of killers. The Mastermind had struck again and it seemed no one would ever put him down.

X

Sitting on the creaking wooden chair in the middle of the Wilson College library, Justin Everlast scanned through the morning papers for something good to write his weekly paper on. He was beginning to detest these Sunday morning trips. It was normally just himself and the reclusive librarian this early in the morning. Most of his comrades were still letting the effects of the previous nights’ debauchery wear off.

As Justin stood to stretch his legs, he noticed large and rather out of place limo in front of the student apartment complex directly from the library known simply as The Quad. The building held only four apartments, and for years, campus administrators had been on a crusade to have the building torn down and a larger, higher revenue generating complex put in its place. But every year, the student protests won out.

The single bedroom apartments were given out through a lottery at the beginning of each semester. Only Juniors and Seniors were eligible, and you had to be in the top one percent of your class to be entered. Justin knew the teacher assistant from Dr. Roy’s Introduction To The Criminal Mind class was one of the occupants for this semester, but he did not know the other three, but he had heard rumors that someone with a famous father had occupied one.

Justin quickly packed his bag and exited the library. Heading across the open field that separated the library from the Quad, he saw the large wooden front door of the apartment complex open and three men step out. He instantly recognized Dr. Roy, and was about to call out to him when he stopped, his mouth open in disbelief. If his eyes were not playing tricks on him, he would swear that the man to the right of Dr. Roy was James Knight, the founder and director of the Knight Organization, the world’s largest and most successful real estate development firm. The men quickly made their way to the waiting limo, entered and drove off.

Justin concealed himself behind the large sign directing students to campus buildings as the limo passed, then made his way to the front door of the apartments. He was stopped from entering by Tristan Charles, a deputy from the local police department.

“Justin, what brings you out here?” Tristan asked, blocking his path to the entrance. Justin and Tristan had become friends when Justin was pulled over for speeding town. As is any small college town, Wilson is generally regarded as a speed trap. They did not hang out together or have each other over for dinner, but they were on friendly enough terms to be on a first name basis.

“Nothing much, just dropping off a book to someone in the building” Justin pulled a book from this bag to show it to the officer.

“Which apartment?” Tristan asked, with a slight hint of irritation.

“They have you monitoring the place now?” Justin shot back, becoming just as irritated that a town cop was blocking his way into a college building.

“No., but you can never be too safe here, can you?” Tristan replied. Justin could tell the deputy was stalling his entrance for some reason.

“You going to let me in or not?” Justin asked with a heavy dose of attitude in his voice.

“Watch your mouth, I am still on officer of the law and do not have to let you in if I don’t want to.”

Justin decided not to push the issue; he would find out soon enough what was happening in the building.

“Just tell Brad I have his book.” he told the officer.

“Will do” Tristan smiled and relaxed. Justin made his way back to the library and took up a table at the window which looked directly out to the Quad.

It took two hours before any movement happened in the apartments. No one came in or out of the doors, which was not surprising given that is was a Sunday morning and most of the students did not awake from their drunken slumber into 11:00 at the earliest.

Justin saw the limo return and darted from the library and across the open field once more. He waited until Tristan had escorted limo’s occupants into the building, and then just walked right in through the closing door, completely undetected. Scanning the first floor, Justin saw nothing unusual or out of place. All the doors were closed and no one was moving about. Whatever was happening in the Quad was taking place on the second floor.

He knew that 2B was occupied by Brad, DR. Roy’s T.A. He had never seen or heard mention of who was in 2A, all he knew is that is was a female, because he had heard her talking one night in the hallway as he and Brad played cards. He tried to put all the pieces together in his mind of the events that had unfolded this morning, and the only logical conclusion he could come up with was that it had to be a case a date rape, which runs so prevalent on college campuses these days. Justin went on to conclude that the occupant of 2A was James Knight’s daughter, which would explain his presence. He figured the details would come soon enough and that he better get back to finding a topic for his paper.

From the corner window in apartment 2A, Donald Rosenberg, the head of security for the Knight Organization, watched as a lanky man exited the building and headed up the long path to the library. Just another student getting a jump on the day, he thought to himself as he turned his attention back to apartment.

XI

I looked down at my watch as I sat across from William and Jessica in the local coffeehouse. We had just spent the last 10 hours with Senator Alexander as laid out what I could only describe as a Twilight Zone like idea.

“Somebody say something.” William finally broke the silence.

“Why us?” I asked, more thinking out loud than actually expecting a response. “It makes no sense. I have not picked up a book in close to ten years, I am sure he hasn’t” I motioned to William with a smile “and who the hell knows what you have been up to.” I shot over to Jessica.

“What we have been doing is not what she brought us together for; it is what we have done in the past. You heard what she said. Dr. Roy told her it was us or nothing on something like this. Can’t you understand she needs our help?” The tone in Jessica’s voice made me believe there was something she was not telling us.

“How do you know the Senator?” I ask Jessica directly. I was in no mood to play nice.

“Just like you both do. She approached me in California last week…” before she could finish I cut her off.

“No no, there is definitely more to it than that. I could tell the whole time she was talking that something was going on with you two. Now, before William and I decide what to do, I think we deserve to hear the entire story.” William sat up a little extra and looked over at Jessica. She hesitated a long moment before her shoulders sank a bit.

“How much do you know about the Senator’s past?” Jessica asked.

“Just what I have read in the papers” William was the first to respond. “Grew up in a small southern Virginia town, when she was in high school, her grandmother passed and she was forced to drop out. Had high enough scores to be accepted at UVA as a hardship case in her early 20’s, and has been sailing through ever since.”

“And, he forgot to add, will most likely be the next president in this great country of ours” I grinned “but what does any of this have to do with us?”

“Does the name Edward Bowman mean anything to either of you?” Jessica asked. We both answered in the negative. “Does not surprise me, it is not a name you, or anyone, really would know. That is unless they did a little digging.” Jessica reached into her book bag and pulled out a file, holding it in her hand, she continued. “In 1964, Grandmother Alexander did pass away. The cause of death was officially ruled as natural causes, but the local sheriff was never convinced. He had no proof, but he suspected foul play. So Emily basically disappears for two years, just vanishes from town and from that part of the State. When she is 19, she applies to UVA on a hardship grant and is denied. She lists her address on the application as Gloucester, Virginia, although no one can remember seeing her in town since she was in high school. Two years later, she applies again, and this time is accepted. On this application, she lists her address as Kilmarnock Virginal, which is across the Rappahannock River from Gloucester. Now keep in mind, these are very small towns and in the 60’s, everyone would have known everyone. But no one can seem to recall Emily in Kilmarnock either. Or should I say, no one can recall anyone by the name of Emily Alexander.” Jessica grins big.

“Excuse me, but what are you saying?” William asked, completely engrossed by the tale Jessica was weaving. Jessica takes the folder she was holding and places it on the table, sliding it across to me.

“The top page is the investigation sheet on Grandmother Alexander’s death. Standard, natural causes sheet you see a million times a year. Nothing too unusual expect in the notes on the side.” I looked down at the sheet and in very sloppy writing, saw the name Edward Bowman written. “Now, here is the roster of tenants for the boarding house Emily claimed to be staying in Kilmarnock.” Jessica slid the paper across to me, and there is was, the third name down, Edward Bowman.

“So what, the guy bounced around a bit, a lot of drifters did back then.” I was still not seeing where this was going.

“True, but there is more. In 1969, there was a witness that came forward with information on, what the witness called the killing of Grandmother Alexander. The information was credible enough to reopen the investigation, however, in order to do so, they required Emily’s signature to exhume the body. She refused.”

William and I glanced at each other, now completely engrossed in the tale Jessica was weaving before us. Yet another piece of paper was slid across the table at me.

“August 9, 1964, six moths after Grandmother Alexander passed; this is a record of a birth at a small medical station in Kilmarnock. Back then, there was really no identification required, so the nurses pretty much went on what they were told by the patients. This particular birth was remembered by the nurse because it was the first set of twins delivered at the station. Look at the name of the mother.”

I looked down at the line marked mother’s name: Alexandria Edmonds. My mind was now beginning to turn as William looked down, a confused look on his face.

“Right out of the waiting room, this set of twins were split up and adopted by two separate families.” Jessica slid the last piece of paper she had across to me and my eyes widen.

“You can’t be serious.” I exhaled in a low whisper.

“What?” William asked with excitement, not recognizing the names on the last piece of paper Jessica slid across to me. “Nick and Andrea Keith, what is….” before he even finished the thought, he has put it together. “You mean?”

“That’s right, I am adopted, Nick and Andrea, my mom and dad, were in this medical station when I was born, and took me as soon as Alexandria had me.” Jessica’s voice showed no emotion as she said this.

“But I still don’t get how this has anything to do with the Senator, unless you are actually suggesting this Alexandria lady is her.” William laughed, thinking he had made a joke. He quickly stopped when he saw the look on my face. “Oh come on, there is no way. All you have is a bunch of coincidences here. Senator Emily Alexander is not your mother!” William was trying to stay serious, but the mere thought made me laugh a little as well.

“At first, I thought I was crazy too, until I looked down that certificate a little more.” Jessica said, and my eyes went back to it. “See another name you recognize?” She grinned.

This time, both William and I breathed in quickly as the name screamed up from the page at us. “Edward Bowman was the father.” I said in complete disbelief.

“That means you have a sister somewhere.” William added.

“You mean had. Look at the second page.” Jessica replied.

We quickly flipped the sheets over and saw the names of the second adoption parents: Cary and Tiffany Holmes.

“Why do those names sound familiar?” William asked, deep in thought.

“Because we just read them last night too.” I said, in a complete trance by this point. “Under the name of Jamie Holmes, victim number four.”

“You mean, you and her” William looked at Jessica then back at the paper in front of him.

“The bastard killed her sister, the Senator’s biological daughter.” I said with my head down on the table, buried in my arms.

XII

My apartment was actually the upstairs of a house only few steps off campus. Although I was no longer a student, and had not been for 10 years, I enjoyed the lifestyle college offered and wanted to stay in that frame of mind as long as I could. I also enjoyed that the downstairs of the house was generally empty, because my landlord used it as his office and was rarely in town. So I had free reign to come and go as I pleased, to play the music as loud as I wanted and generally live in the house anyway I saw fit. The weekly poker game of some of the town’s official’s was held at my place, as was the weekly game between some of the college students.

“I am going to grab something to eat.” William announced as the three of us made our way into my place, having left the coffeehouse for a safer, more secure setting to talk more.

“So let me see if I have everything straight” I say as Jessica and I make our way to my couch. “Edward knocks up the Senator, and that is why she leaves school. She refuses to get rid of the baby, or as it turns out, babies, but she knows her grandmother will not approve, so Edward knocks off granny, making everyone, including Emily, think it was an accident?” I still could not believe I was saying the words.

“That’s right. The grandmother had been in poor health for a long time, and all doctor records indicate she was near death. It would not have been that hard of a thing for Edward to do.”

“I don’t get how this never got out.” William says as he returns from my kitchen carrying something that resembles food I did not even know I had.

“Edward died in 1973. Most of the nurses and people associated with the medical station have passed or are in Florida, and the only other people who knew would have been my parents, who you both know are gone, and Jamie’s, who would never say anything. That just leaves the Senator, and there is too much for her to lose to ever have this come out.” Jessica stood and began pacing. “Everything I have told you and all the files you have seen have cost me a lot of money, and I have done some things I am not proud of to get them. But the facts remain true, the Senator did give birth to me and the Mastermind did kill my sister. That is why she brought us all together. She knows I know the truth, because I confronted her with all the information I have.”

“This is why she showed up with the two of you at my doorstep last night.” I smiled.

Before any of us could say anything else, my cell rang. Looking down at it, I rolled my eyes. Justin. He always was calling me on Sunday morning for suggestions on his paper. He was a bright student and should have had no trouble with them, but he was also about as worrisome as they come, and always wanted to know what Dr. Roy liked and didn’t like in these weekly tasks.

“Now is really not a good time Justin” I answered.

“Listen, something is happening in the Quad” he said, which instantly got my attention.

“What do you mean, something is happening?” I asked.

“I was in the library this morning, about seven, when I saw a big limo pull up, and Dr. Roy, another man and James Knight walked out of the front door of the Quad and got into it. Then, I tried to get in, but was stopped by Tristan, and got some major attitude from him…” I cut him off before he could say anything else.

“Did you say James Knight, as in The Knight Organization?”

“Yes. They came back about a half an hour ago. I was able to get in behind them and only looked around on the first floor, but could not see anything off, I was unable to see on the…” Once again, I cut him off.

“Ashley Knight is in 2A Justin. James Knight’s daughter.”

“What do you think is going on?” He asked.

“My guess is a little bit of fun got out of hand last night after the game. Call me back if you hear anything else.” With that, I closed my phone and looked back at William and Jessica. “Just some campus fun, a normal Sunday morning for me” I smiled.

“You always get calls about the richest man in America’s daughter being raped?” Jessica shot back.

“Who said anything about a rape” the voice came from my stairwell. Having never locked my door since I had moved in, I was accustomed to having people coming in and out of my place at all hours. But this voice was one I knew only from my past, not my present. “Ashton, with all your studying, I can not believe you still have not learned to lock your doors.” The striking presence of Dr. Roy strode through the doorway and into my living room area as Jessica, William and I just stared. “I would have thought the three of you would be happier to see your old mentor.” he laughed.

“Dr. Roy, it is always a pleasure to see you, I think we are all just a little surprised as to why you are here.” I said.

“I am here because of those files in your corner and that phone call you just got” he smiled wide.

“That is no rape investigation going on in the Quad is it? He was here for game yesterday.” Jessica began to shake as she spoke.

“Here and gone my dear girl. Only this time he may have stepped in over his head. James Knight has an unlimited amount of resources at his disposal, and although already warned by the local authorities not to go on a wild chase, men like Mr. Knight do no take orders too well. So, it seems the Senator may have picked up a partner in her little entourage.”

“You are assuming we are going to do what she asked of us.” William spoke quickly.

“My dear boy, of course you are going to. I can only assume Jessica here has told you her dirty little secret as to why she is involved. Ashton will not turn us down because he will be out to prove what a horrible mistake the Bureau made by failing him on his physical, and you” Dr. Roy smiled over at William “Well, we all know where your next address will be if you don’t help.” A huge grin appeared on the Dr.’s face as he looked at William.

I had to admit, he was right. I was looking for a chance to show the Feds what they passed up when they used the lame not fit for service excuse on me after the beating. But my doubts still lingered as to our capabilities of finding the Mastermind when so many others had failed.

“Why don’t all of you come with me, I have someone waiting that wants to meet you.”Dr. Roy stood and started to make his way back down my stairs as the three of us followed. Exiting my place, I saw the large long stretch limo in front.

“Now, you have to admit, that is style only money can buy.” I said with a laugh as a large man in a finely tailored suit opened the door for us. Jessica, William and I all climbed inside and were greeted by a face we had all seen hundreds of times on television and in magazines.

“Mr. Knight, I am so sorry for your loss.” Jessica said with complete sincerity in her voice.

“It’s a truly tragedy” William added.

“Thank you for your kind words, and there will be time to grief for the loss of Ashley in the coming days. But right now, I am here to ask if you will help. Dr. Roy and the Senator both feel that normal investigative channels are not working and their needs to be a different approach. Because of what happened last night, I would have to agree with them. Please know, I will spare no expense to find this monster, and you will have unlimited access to my private plane and security team.” His voice was even and controlled. The pure picture of a man in charge, no matter what the circumstances.

“Mr. Knight, I do understand you want this man found, but do you not think it might be best to let the authorities do their job?” Even I could not believe I was saying this.

“Mr. Marshall, my only daughter was taken from me last night, and in under an hour, every major news organization from around the world will be invading this little town of yours. It took them over thirty years to find the Green River Killer in Seattle, and that was with your mentor heading the investigation for almost five of those years. They have never found the Zodiac killer or Jack the Ripper. So to answer your question, no, I do not think it is best to let the authorities handle this, they have wasted enough time in trying to track down this monster, and I paid my price last night. Trust me Mr. Marshall, if you do not agree to help me, I will find someone who will. However, I prefer to work only with the best.”

The man was smooth, I will give him that. Playing to my ego was something that did not happen often, and it was certainly working. I sat in silence as time passed. We appeared to be driving around with no real destination, and after the long silence, I finally spoke.

“I’m in, but we do it our way.”

“Understood, just as you would not presume to give me advice on real estate deals, I will not presume to give you advice on your matters of expertise.”

“We will need access to that plane, as you have mentioned, plus a large cash reserve to work from. The people we will be talking to and dealing with do not take checks.” William added, and I did already not like where this was headed.

“Of course.” James smiled back as he pulled out a briefcase from under the bench seat of the limo. “I would assume $100,000 will be enough to start?” he asked as all of our eyes widened.

“Um, yes, that will be fine to start.” Jessica finally said weakly.

“These are private, secured phones” James continued as he handed us each one of his company’s satellite phones. “They will work anyway on the planet, and my private number is programmed into all of them. It is a direct line to me. You need anything, you call me instantly. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a press conference I must attend.”

With that, James Knight exited the limo into a sea of cameras. I have been so engrossed in our conversation; I failed to realize the pack of news vans that had surrounded the local police station. With his security tightly surrounding him, James Knight walked to the podium and began a press conference he never thought he would have to make.

XIII

The Mastermind sat in his hotel room, viewing the area now known as Ground Zero. The last time he had been to New York, the Towers were there. Now, empty spaces seemed to echo up and down the streets, like an unspoken scream from the past. He wished he could get his hands on the bastards who had piloted those planes. Their fates would be far worse than that of his previous ten victims.

The scene on the television drew his attention from the outside. He instantly recognized the campus he had been on yesterday. On the screen, a cookie cutter FBI agent stood behind the bank of microphones, droning on. He hit the mute button to put the sound on.

“…we will find this monster before he strikes again, be assured of that. We are currently working on numerous leads and are close to a breakthrough.”

“Bullshit” the Mastermind whispered to himself as he flicked the television off.

He showered and changed. He was heading out to dinner with his brother, who had come up for a weekend visit. It had not been that long since they had last seen each other, that was because his brother only ever wanted to see him when he needed money. The Mastermind has no clue where the poor soul was working, if he even was working, or living. He had arranged for a plane ticket to be picked up at BWI for his brother to bring him to New York. The phone was ringing as he stepped from the shower.

“Hey, I just got in, where are we meeting?” His brother’s voice came through the line.

“How about the deli, 8:00.”

“See you then.”

XV

You hear people say all the time that college was the best years of their life. Be it the parties, drinking, sex or the actual education, there is a driving emotional connection that attaches you to those four or five years. My connection was Jessie. I can say with absolute clarity that I will never love another the way I loved her. The radiant smile she would give me from across the room on a Sunday morning. The innocent way she would flirt playfully with the other guys when I was around while I would watch, knowing it was all an act. There were so many little faces and movements that made her my world for those six years of my life that I never thought I would recover my emotional radar again. And to a certain extent, I still have not.

The past day of being in such close contact with such an intense, often times painful memory, was becoming too much for me to handle. The floodgates to my wounded psyche were bursting open and I have to take a break before I fell into a destructive pattern.

“I think I am going to take a walk around town and get my thoughts together.” I announced to the group as I stood. We had made our way to Dr. Roy’s house, which was just on the outskirts of the campus.

“That sounds like a great idea; I think I will join you.” Jessie stood, much to my dismay.

“Um, sure” I gave a half-hearted grin, not wanting to turn her down, but knowing what this walk would lead to.

The town Wilson is located on the banks of the Potomac River. Nestled between the state lines of West Virginia and Maryland, the small village has become an upscale bedroom community for those seeking sanctuary from the fast paced, high stress atmosphere of Washington DC and Baltimore. The historic buildings, which line Main Street, have been relatively unchanged the past century, thanks to the ardent and stringent guidelines in place by the town council.

Other than the college, the main source of income for the town is tourism. Travelers come to browse through the small shops and get a piece of small town America that is hard to find in these modern times. There are your stereotypical small town trappings, like the local pizza place, coffee house and small, quiet bars by day and loud college hangouts by night.

My favorite spot in town is none of these. I used to spend hours nestled in the corner table of the family run Chinese establishment on the corner of the two main streets in town. Although the family who owned the place was in fact American, their food could rival any dish served on the streets of Chinatown. As I approached the building on this cool, crisp fall day, thoughts of sitting at that table with a steaming plate of Hunan chicken in front of me pouring through the pages of my textbooks came into my mind. I could see myself there, talking to Whitney, the waitress who started there my freshmen year and was still there when I graduated. That was my table, almost like it had an invisible reserved sign on it.

I can still remember the day I walk in and saw someone else sitting there. It was like finding your wife in bed with someone else. It was that day I knew it was time for me to move on, time to let the college days go and grow up. I had not set foot in the place since then.

“Let’s get some tea and egg rolls.” Jessie smiled as we reached the restaurant.

“I’m not really hungry.” I tried to protest, but it was too late. The door was open and she was already halfway through it.

Stepping inside was like stepping into a time machine. It had been ten years since I last stepped through those doors. I looked over at my table, sitting empty, almost like it was waiting for me to come home.

“I remember the first time I saw you sitting there” Jessie smiled as she stood behind me hanging up her coat. “I walked in here to drop off some notes to Whitney and just saw you there, head buried in your books with a big pile of rice in front of you, it was then I knew I had to find out more about you.”

“All because of a plate of rice?” I smiled as she joined me by my side.

“No silly. All the other guys hung out across the street” she pointed across to Tony’s “But here you were, completely oblivious that this was not exactly the cool place to hang out. It was like you just did not care, you had found what you were comfortable with and everyone else just did not matter.”

“They still don’t” I said stepping away.

“Why do you do that? Push people away and act like you are no affected by anything?” she was following me to my table, but I was not about to turn around and face her. “It’s like you are almost completely hollow, not caring about anything or anyone.”

Before I could respond, a voice I had not heard in years broke through the air.

“Well my goodness, is it really you?” Jessie and I both looked up smiling.

“Whitney?” we chimed in unison.

“I don’t believe it. Jessie and Ashton walk back into my place after all this time and you don’t even have a hug for me?”

Typical Whitney, always ready to spread a little joy. Her arms were open wide as Jessie and I give her the obligatory hug.

“I can’t believe you are still here, it must be what, 11 or 12 years now?” I smiled.

“It was 14 last month, and I own the place now.” She announced proudly as a small group of students entered and sat in a corner booth. “Let me take care of them and I will be right back so we can catch up.” Not giving us an option to say no, she dashes over to the occupied booth.

“I can’t believe it, she looks the same as the day she was hired here” I whispered across the table to Jessie.

“You know, I always wondered why you never put the moves on her.”

“On Whitney? Are you kidding me, why do you think I hung out here? The food is not that good.” I laughed.

“No no, you are not getting out of this one. Look at her, she is gorgeous. Every guy on campus used to just drool over her, and I am sure some they still do. We did not meet until we were both sophomores, which would have given you a year of you sitting at this table. So what’s the story?”

As I looked over at Whitney taking the orders, I really did not have an answer. She was a knock out; there was no question about that. But something inside had always warned me not to even try. There is an instinct a guy has, and just knows to leave well enough alone.

“Guess I just never got up the nerve.” I finally answered.

“Well, now if your chance.” Jessie grinned as Whitney returned to the table.

“Oh, I don’t think so” I laughed.

“So, I am sure Ashton misses our famous Hunan chicken, but what about you Jessie?”

“Let me have a couple of egg rolls and some soup.” Jessie smiled as she poked me under the table with her foot.

“Sure thing darling. Hey, did you guys hear about the murder on campus. Some business guru’s daughter.” Whitney was smiling from ear and ear, like she was telling us a national secret.

“I saw the trucks from the networks around town, but really did not know what it was about. Probably just some local trouble right? You know jealous boyfriend or something like that?” Jessie was prying, trying to get the latest town gossip.

“Oh goodness no! Talk is that killer that has been going all over the country hitting campuses paid our cozy little community a visit. Picked her up at the game and finished the job in the Quad.” Whitney, as always, was in full animation mode, acting out the parts she thought we needed to see acted out.

“I see, and where is this crazed killer now?” I jumped in.

“Talk is, he headed out West somewhere.” Whitney replied as she spun on her heels and headed back into the kitchen.

“Word gets out fast around here.” Jessie smiled.

“You know how this town is. Besides football, the only legit hobby is gossip.”

Whitney was back in a flash with our food, plus a plate for herself. We sat and caught up with each other, just normal small talk like old college friends do. It was good to be back here, at my old table, and for that brief moment, it was 1992 all over again. We said our goodbyes with promises to stay in contact, and Jessie and I headed back out onto the sidewalks of Main Street.

“That was nice.” I smiled at Jessie as we began our walk back to Dr. Roy’s house.

“What a shame we can’t go back to that again” she smiled back.

“Well, you know, life got in the way.” I laugh, trying to loosen the underlying current of resentment that was slowly creeping into our conversation.

“Yeah, life and your unwillingness to grow up” she jabbed back, and I just smiled.

“Let’s just move past that and concentrate on what is in front of us, which should be enough to keep us busy for a long time.” I really did not want to have the conversation which I knew was about to happen.

“I just don’t want you to think it was anything you did. It was me, I had to get on with my life and you just seemed to be content on where we were. That small town was not enough for me.” Jessie was still pushing.

“How would you know what I wanted, it’s not like we ever discussed it. You just went off and did what you wanted to do without any thought for me.” The hostility I had built up over the situation all these years was slowly creeping into my voice and I decided it was best to just let the conversation die. She has made her point and I had made mine. Our entire relationship in a nutshell.

It was not as if I had planned for things to have worked out the way they did. I had never really expected to be where I was at this point in my life, but then again, does anyone’s life plan ever turn out like they expected? This is what Jessie seemed to not understand. From the day we first met, she seemed to have to fifty year planned mapped out for us. But I just refused to see it. I simply threw it away in the back of my mind and lived out the moment, which I had a tendency to do with anything I did not what to face.

Now, standing in the college town where we had first come together, my mind seemed to open up, and scream out. But I really could not tell her the things I wanted to, because the deep past has a way of staying buried. Too many years go by with no contact and the gap between us just grew to a canyon that no words could cross. She could see the wounds were still there, even after all the these years, but like me, she too did nothing to bridge the gap between us. It was in that moment that I knew that whatever fantasies I held in my mind, whatever thoughts of coming back together in the future, were now laid to rest. It was time for both of us to concentrate on the task at hand and then go our separate ways.

XVI

“You look good.” The Mastermind gave a big smile to his brother as he entered the deli.

“I should, after the crap I have been eating. Tofu and rabbit food the whole time, pretty gross.”

The Mastermind could never understand why his brother put himself through the things he did. It was also a girl behind it, of that he was sure. He was guessing it was most likely some tree hugging granola eating want to be hippie named Moon who had him on this latest kick, but with the baby brother, it was hard to tell.

“Everything go as planned?” His brother smiled that little grin that so annoyed the Mastermind.

“Wipe that look off your face and listen to me, we can not keep meeting like this. My work has me extremely busy and these little meetings take up far too much of my time…”

“You’re work, that is all I ever hear from you. But tell me brother, do you think anyone will really remember you when you are gone? Do you think they will mourn over your grave with sad eyes, weeping for you? Because I don’t. Not because people will not be sad you have passed, but because there will be no one at that graveside. You shut yourself off to the world in the name of your work. You act like some great man doing work which will save humanity, when in truth you are nothing more than….”

“Enough!!” The Mastermind hissed through clenched teeth “I have heard this little speech before, and it did no good then, so why do you continue with it.”

“Because you are miserable, and no matter how much you want to try to act like it’s not true, we are family, and as such, I am just looking for you to be happy”

“What makes you think I am not happy?” The Mastermind sneered a bit, as images of his last victim ran through his mind. “I have never been happier, and I think in time you will see that”

The brother laughed with a roll of his eyes.

“You can mock me all you want, but the one thing you can not deny is no matter if I am happy or not, you still need me” The Mastermind always knew that no what, his little baby brother was a screw up at heart, and as such, was always swimming in the deep end of the money pool, but without water wings for support.

“Why do you always have to make me feel like this? You know I had a bad year…”

“It wasn’t a bad year, it was a bad 10 years, and it still is going. When are you going to stop with your get rich schemes and get out there and make an honest living.”

“Seems like we are both pulling out speeches, huh bro?”

“Seems that way, but in my case, the speech is right. You know you can not go on like this, you have to find something stable. My offer still stands, come work for me, and I can make you rich.”

“It’s not all about money, sometimes you have to enjoy life no matter what the cost.”

“That’s a nice theory, the problem is, it is costing me for you to enjoy your life” The Mastermind gave his brother a little grin. It was not menacing like the once he gives his victims when he locks in on them, but instead, a more fatherly look. “It’s ok, at least one of us should see the world and live life” he winked as he pulled a large envelope from his coat pocket.

“I’m trying, it’s just hard.” His brother has the look of shame on his face. The Mastermind knew these little meetings were hard, because it meant his little brother had to admit defeat yet again.

“Look, there is extra in there this time. Do me a favor, get some new clothes, clean yourself up a bit and at least call some of the names I gave you.”

“I will, I promise.”

The Mastermind knew it was a promise his brother would not keep. He has arranged many times for interviews and phone calls, only to be let down by his brother standing up his business associates.

“Did you enjoy the flight?” The Mastermind knew there was no sense dragging out the job conversation, as it would go nowhere.

“It was a first class ticket, of course I enjoyed it. You really did not have to do that, I could have just taken the train up. There is a station just a couple miles from Wilson…”

“We were beginning to wonder if you two found a room somewhere.” William joked as Jessie and I made our way through Dr. Roy’s front door.

“We ran into Whitney as the restaurant, and remember how she is.” Jessie smiled back.

“She is still there? Damn, I would have thought she owned the place by now.” William was up grabbing a drink from the small mini bar in the corner of the room in which we had taken up base.

“She does.” I laughed.

“While you two were off on your class reunion, William and I have been here looking over this stuff.” Dr. Roy was looking right as Jessie, and she knew the look well. He used it in his classes when students would give answers that made it obvious they had not done the material assigned.

“We started piecing together a time line” William quickly jumped in as he walked over to a large dry erase board that was covered with grisly photographs and charts. “There is no pattern in the time or place of the killings. It is completely random, which as you know is unusual. Most killers are ritualistic in nature, be it victim type or time frame or location. This guy just seems to pick a place and go. School size does not even matter, he has hit large campuses and small alike. There is no profile for this type of killer anywhere.”

“There is one thing we can know for sure.” Jessie said as she looked over the board “He has money and he has a job that affords him a lot of flexibility in his schedule. These kill locations are spread out all over the country.” She paused as she studied the map which contained the ten red pins. “Well look at that.” She said in a half whisper under her breath.

“What?” Dr. Roy said as he and William came up beside her.

She kept studying the map, not answering.

“What is it?” William asked.

“He has to drive to get to the games.” Jessie said in a low tone.

“How do you know he just does not fly in?” William asked.

“Because none of the campuses are anywhere close to an airport. Look at the map, every one of them is at least a couple hours away from any major airport. This guy is out on the road all the time. He is constantly mobile.” Jessie quickly grabbed a pad from the table and started writing. “Here’s your profile.” She smiled as she held out what she had written to the other two. Her handwriting was easy to read:

Mid 30’s
White Male
Not Married or attached
Mid six figure income
self employed entrepreneur
drives a dark colored car mid sized sedan

“How did you come up with that just by looking at this map?” William asked, amazed.

“Bit out of practice aren’t you?” Jessie winked at him. “He has to be no older than mid 30’s because anyone older would look out of place in a college football game by themselves. A white male because, as much as we would like to think we are a progressive society, a black man hitting on a white girl at a college would still get noticed. He travels to much to be married or have any emotional attachments in his hometown, and he has to be successful at whatever he does, but not too successful because if he was, he would be in the press a lot.”

“And the car?” William asked.

“Did I not teach you anything in your four years here?” Dr. Roy looked over at him. “A dark sedan is the most forgettable vehicle someone can drive. No one will remember it five minutes after he leaves. It’s not flashy, does not stand out and does not leave any distinct impression in your mind.”

“So basically, we just narrowed down are suspect list to the entire population of Silicon Valley.” Jessie added with a groan.

I picked up a pad and quickly jotted down Jessie’s rough profile and started to head to the door.

“Where are you going now?” William asked as I reached the door.

“To work.” I smiled back over my shoulder as I exited the house.

While I did not have the most glamorous job on the planet, one of the perks was I had complete control over my work area. As head of security for his clubs, I was in charge of the day to day happenings inside each venue. This included making sure no bartenders were skimming from the till, making sure every incident involving the bouncers was handled professionally to protect us from any excessive force lawsuits, and most importantly, in charge of all video surveillance. This meant I had access to 20 cameras in each of the five clubs. If the guy whose picture was on that envelope had set foot into one of T’s places, I would know about it soon.

Pulling into the main venue, an upscale gentleman’s establishment call School Tails, I noticed the lot was not too crowded. It was still early, and most of the time the place did not really get going until well after midnight. My office was located in the back of the place and had a door directly outside. As I made my way around back, many of the entertainers for the evening were getting in their nicotine fix before their sets. We had outlawed smoking in the dressing room six months earlier.

“Well, look who decided to show up tonight.” A rather petite dancer whose stage name was Kandy Kane smiled as I walk past the group of barely dressed ladies.

“You know I would never miss it when you are on stage” I smiled back as I unlocked my office door and stepped inside. As was the case with anything T did, my office was a study in technology.

On three walls hung 100 monitors, each representing cameras in the 5 venues he ran. I could control each camera from the computer that sat on my desk, or from a high tech Palm Pilot like device. It was the same technology they employed at the big casinos in Vegas and Atlantic City, and ironically enough was developed and sold by Knight Industries. Every camera was fed into a server, which stored the past 30 days on a continuous feed. After 30 days, the video was archived onto DVD.

“Don said he saw you down at the courthouse, everything alright?” T’s voice resonated through my office loudly. I turn my chair to face him as he stood in my doorway.

“Yeah, all is fine. I just called pulled again because of you know who.” I really did not want to tell him about the past couple days, as I did not want him involved. T had a way of becoming a little too hands on in some of my affairs, and this was a situation where that could lead to disastrous results.

“Man, they still after you over that punk? It’s been, what, 10 years since you saw him?”

“Something like that, but you know how they can be sometimes. When they get it in their head that somebody knows something, nothing you can say will change their minds.”

“And to think you almost become one of them.” T chuckled heartily as he turned and walked back to his office, which sat directly beside mine.

I turned my attention back to the computer screen in front of me. I decided to start with the smallest of the clubs. It was a run down country-western bar that T had picked up for a steal. It only held around 100 people, and on a good night, it would be half full. But still, T insisted that all his places be outfitted with the same equipment, so I flicked on the first camera to the place and backed up to Friday night. This view showed the entrance, so I would be able to see everyone who came in through the main front door. A half an hour later of watching cowboy hats flood through the door, I had nothing.