Category Archives: Intelligence & Politics

“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 45

The Professor was enjoying his drive north up Route I-95. It had been years since he had JWM Serializationcruised American highways as a graduate student. Even now, he was still impressed by the extent of the national highway system. The Americans are certainly the Romans of our time. They are a formidable enemy. The sheer size of the land mass and the technical know-how of their population present great problems to any would-be conqueror. To defeat them, we must make them defeat themselves. Their own political leaders are already preaching class warfare. I believe that kind of rhetoric is our strongest ally. Rome fell apart from internal strife, so will America. I can only pray I live long enough to see it happen. I’ve devoted my life to destroying the American Empire.

Keeping within the speed limit and carefully following all traffic signs, he was now within 5 miles of the primary Richmond exit. He could not afford even a routine police check of his documentation. He had some familiarity with Richmond from the past. He liked the City and had read extensively about Richmond as the capital of the Confederacy. It was past time to change cars and this was an ideal place. His plan was simple. Drive to the Richmond Airport, park in a lot, and take a taxi to the Jefferson Hotel on West Franklin Street. He liked the Jefferson and had stayed there many years ago. There was no chance anyone would recognize him now. At least one night in luxury would be good. He had perfect alias documentation that would pass close inspection. After getting a good rest, the Professor planned to visit one of Richmond’s used car lots and buy a two- or three-year-old car for cash.

The next morning when he checked out of the Jefferson, paying cash, he was almost sorry to be leaving. After all the hiding and hard living he had endured the past decade, there was something to be said for luxury and tranquility. He was a committed Islamic Jihadist but he could feel the allure of Western culture. This was indeed the land of the Great Satan, if even he had to resist the pull of western decadence. When he got to his destination, he promised to spend more time in prayer and meditation.

Now, he had to focus his attention on buying a used car in a way that would not leave a paper trail. The Professor took a taxi from the hotel to a used car lot he selected from the newspaper ads at the hotel. His selection advertised a number of late model cars and trucks. He had been using luxury cars. It was now time for a change. He got out of the taxi at a restaurant a block from his destination. When the taxi was out of sight, he shouldered his light carry-on bag and walked to the car lot.

He was immediately approached by a salesman who asked, “May I help you?”

The Professor, using his New England accent, said, “I’m interested in looking at a pickup truck in good condition I could use on my small farm.” When asked about his price range, he said, “I’ll pay cash and want to pay no more than $20,000.”

When the salesman looked surprised that he was going to pay cash, the Professor told him, “I deal in land sales and just collected my share of a mid-sized deal and don’t want to run the money through my account and my wife’s lawyers. Is that a problem?”

“Not at all, and I think I have just what you are looking for. I can bring it up or you can walk through the lot with me.”

“I’ll walk with you in case I see something else I like, and I’m in a bit of a hurry to get on the road.”

Forty-five minutes later, the Professor had handed over $21,000 and signed a stack of documents that made him owner of a white 2006 Ford F-150 4×4 XLT with 41,032 miles on the odometer. Where he was going, the F-150 would blend into the surroundings and the 4×4 capability might prove useful. If, in some way, the authorities had managed to pick up his trail, this change in vehicles will throw them off. It would take an outstanding bit of police work to make the connection between his Passat left at the airport and the Ford truck with dealer plates.

An hour later he pulled into a rest stop and made a phone call to a number in Baltimore that would be bounced to Falls Church and which instructed one of the many al Qaeda support workers to post a personal note on an obscure Facebook page. Al Hasani would see the comment and know what to do. He was perhaps the best sniper the Professor had ever seen in all his days of Jihad. Hasani had been very hard to convince he must travel to America and wait for the signal to begin his own war against Americans.

Checking into his complicated communications system that included the social media, three web pages and two blogs, the Professor learned that Hankins had placed a personal ad precisely as called for in his recontact plan. He made another call, ordering the death of Hankins, the rug merchant he never trusted, especially since he was the only person to escape the fire that destroyed two well-planned car bomb attacks. He knew the odds against the explosives causing a fire were minimal. Several dedicated Jihadists were killed in the fire. He wanted Hankins to pay for his failure.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 44

By the time Kelly returned to the crime scene, Jack and Kathy were quietly talking in the JWM Serializationgarage. Kelly joined them and Jack told her that they were going to interrogate Hankins, who they now knew was using the alias Huxley. His apartment had to be made to look as if he just left. His car would be gone and with any luck the police wouldn’t even be called. Whoever owned the apartment would put a rental sign up and that would be the end of the story of Mr. Hankins, alias Huxley. Jack said, “Okay, crew, let’s get to work. Put on latex gloves and wipe down the areas you think or know you touched. All signs of Kelly’s friend must disappear. Kelly, you take charge of doing the upstairs. Take your time. I’ll need at least 30 minutes with our killer of young women.”

After Kelly went upstairs, Jack and Kathy set to work improvising a water-boarding interrogation capability. It didn’t take much, a towel, bucket of water, an incline board of some kind and restraints. Jack searched the garage and found a six-foot-long 2×8 that once was part of a rather well-built workbench. In ten minutes they were ready to use the killer’s duct tape to firmly fasten him to the 2×8. With one end resting on the back cargo space of the Explorer, Jack was ready. He said, “Kathy, you handle the questions and I’ll motivate him.”

Together they carried a trussed up Hankins to the back of his Explorer and taped him to the plank Jack found. His mouth and eyes were taped. Jack leaned down close to Hankins and said, “This will be very unpleasant. I don’t care if it kills you. When you get a question, answer fully and correctly. Any lies will be punished immediately. I’m taking the tape off your mouth. Any screaming or shouting will get you taped up and the questioning period will be over. Cooperation is good. Resisting is bad. Understand?”

Hankins nodded and Jack ripped the tape off his mouth. Kathy moved in close and asked him to describe his training in the al Qaeda camps. Hankins hesitated and Jack put a dry towel over his face and said, “Breathe now. It will get harder.”

Hankins jerked as Jack slowly saturated the towel with cold water. He was soon struggling to breathe. Jack added more water. Waited another 20 seconds and took the towel off his face. Hankins gasped for air. Kathy gave him a minute and asked the same question again. Hankins said nothing for the next 5 seconds and Jack put the towel over his face again and said, “When the question is asked, you begin answering immediately. No thinking. No answer, no breathing. Understand?”

Hankins nodded several times. Kathy asked the same question again. He immediately began to talk. Jack recorded it all on his iPhone. The interrogation lasted an hour. Jack had to use more persuasion only one more time when Kathy asked how Hankins communicated with his al Qaeda control, what was the recontact plan, and what encryption system was used.

Kathy said, “Okay! I’m done here.”

Jack drew her off to one side and said, “Get Kelly out of here. Check and see if she’s done upstairs. If getting rid of this killer gets nasty, I don’t want Kelly mixed up in this mess. She needs a little protection from some parts of our work for now.”

“Agreed, but what are you going to do with him?”

“I’m working on it. The problem is getting rid of the body. It’s possible that Frank may be willing to take him for further interrogation or for use as bait. But, we must not leave a trail back to us. When you and Kelly leave, I’ll call Frank and see what he has to say. Does Hankins’ laptop have his killing pictures on it?”

“I haven’t checked it yet. We do have the photos I copied off his flash drives. I could put them back on his machine and backdate the download.”

“Do that. If Frank agrees, I’ll make sure Captain Shorer gets the pictures of the young women this creep killed. I keep forgetting all the illicit skills you learned at the CIA, or was it UNC?”

“Actually, both.”

Jack finished re-taping Hankins’ mouth as Kathy and Kelly left the garage to go back to the motel and check out. Jack went upstairs for a final check and to call Frank on his cell. He was put straight through. Jack said, “We have Hankins and have interrogated him. Kathy got some interesting stuff. If you’re ready, I’ll download the audio now.”

It took Frank a few minutes to scan the tape. Then he said, “Yes, we can use this, especially the encryption data. Our Afghan field guys can use the info on the camps and his training in Peshawar. I don’t want Hankins. But, it’s worth a try to use his recontact method. The Professor might respond by sending someone to checkout Hankins. Picking up whoever he sends may help us find the Professor. Your team is now big enough to dangle Hankins and see who bites. Work up a plan and tell me what you think. The only alternative is to make him disappear today.”

“All right. I don’t think the Professor will send one person. I’ll bet he sends a team of shooters to get rid of Hankins. I don’t think he has a place in his scheme for him.”

“You may be right. Give it a try. There is no real downside. Unless he takes Hankins alive and interrogates him, he won’t be sure we were involved. I believe he has so much at stake, he will continue with his plans.”

Jack was going to comment but found he was now listening to a dial tone. He grinned, that guy is certainly consistent. He never says good-bye. Sure doesn’t waste words.

He dialed Kathy and when she picked up, Jack said, “Frank wants us to dangle this guy by activating his recontact plan and see who shows up. I’m willing to try it for a day or two, period. We’ll need Lou and Storm. Please send for them. See if they can arrive today. Kelly can arrange for their lodging.”

“Okay, but you know this is going to be a mess. Keeping the perp captive for that time is going to be a witch.”

“If it gets too hard, I’ll get rid of him. For now I don’t want to leave him alone. I’ll take the first four-hour watch. Tell Kelly to get some rest. She’s on next. I’d like to get the personal ad in the Myrtle Beach Chronicle in time for tomorrow’s edition. Can we do that?”

“Yes, I’ll get right on it. That means we have to be ready to deliver him to the recontact site.”

“Have Lou and Storm in our room when I get there, and we can put a plan together.”

“Got it. I’ll pick up some food. Want your usual?”

“Yes! If you can find a good Reuben and pick up two cheeseburgers for Shadow, hold the vegetables and ketchup. He needs a treat for being so good cooped up in my car. See you soon.”

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 43

Kelly knew from Kathy’s briefing that Hankins was a Taekwondo middle belt with fourJWM Serialization or five years of one-on-one training once a week. She felt confident she could hold her own. Jack had arranged for her to study Hapkido. Hapkido was not a sport. It was about killing and levels of hurting. Her instructors were very good. She was a beginner but she had some basic moves, especially the kicks that pleased her instructor. She saw Hankins get off the floor. Get out of his jacket and slowly start up the steps.

This time, when he was halfway up and planning his attack, Kelly launched herself down the staircase, catching him in the face and chest with her heels. Hankins crashed to the floor. Kelly’s thrust carried her on to the hood of the Explorer. Before Hankins could get up, she had leapt back onto the stairs and was waiting for him at the top again.

“Hey, rug guy, you want to try that again. I don’t want to hurt you too badly. The boss won’t like it. Please don’t make me kill you. Believe me, I really want to.”

Kelly knew she was messing with his mind, and it had bought her some time. There were only three outcomes to this standoff. He would jump in the Explorer and escape, kill her and Sally, or she had to kill or maim him. If he believed she was from al Qaeda, and the Professor and others were on the way, he just might opt to escape. She could not stop him.

Kelly glanced at her watch, only 9:15 AM. It seemed like hours had passed since she picked the lock. If only she had brought her gun. She saw Hankins get up and walk over to the workbench. He searched for a minute, then picked up a hammer and started back up the steps. In some ways that was helpful. She now knew what kind of an attack he would bring. It had to be a downward or a level blow from the right side. She didn’t plan her counter-moves. She would take whatever opening he gave her. React, do not think, is what Kathy told her. Kelly saw Hankins making moves to get in close where she would have trouble using a kick against him. He feinted with a right-hand hammer strike and when she focused on defending the expected strike, he hit her on the right side of her head just below the temple area with his fist. Kelly staggered back toward the open door. Dazed and sight impaired, she regained her balance and when the hammer strike came from the right, she blocked it with a rising left forearm block and smashed his face with a powerful right elbow strike. The elbow strike surprised and hurt Hankins. He temporarily lost his balance and forward movement, giving Kelly the opening she needed to deliver a front snap kick to his groin. Her kick missed his testicles but was delivered with enough force to knock him down the steps. She knew he was badly hurt, but she was still having trouble with her vision and nausea. If he came back quickly, she would be in trouble.

Hankins got up and said, “You bitch. Now I have you. I’m going to hurt you before I kill you.”

Smiling he started up the steps again, switching his hammer from hand to hand. As Kelly was gathering herself for a death fight, Hankins suddenly flew backward and lay still. Kelly heard a voice saying, “Hey, little sister, thought I would lend a hand. Are you okay?”

“Kathy! Where did you come from?”

“Later. You okay?”

“Yes. A bit woozy. The son-of-a-bitch caught me with a solid punch to the head. I had him, you know. But, am I ever glad to see you. Is he dead?”

“No. I think he’ll come around. I just slammed his head on the cement. Are you focused enough to bring me something to keep our little perp still? You know, I don’t think he outweighs you by much.”

“I’ll bring you some duct tape.”

Kelly stepped back into the sleeping area and was surprised to see Sally on her feet holding a large kitchen knife. “That’s the spirit, Sally. It’s over now and you’re safe.”

“Thank God! I peeked and saw most of the fight. You were wonderful. What are you, some kind of ninja? I was praying for you. What happened to him?”

“My boss is what happened to him. She could handle three like him. He’s unconscious. Hand me the duct tape. He’s going to see what it feels like. Put some hot water on. I badly need a cup of tea.”

Kelly told Sally to stay up here while she and her boss got her attacker wrapped up. Hankins was still out. Kathy said, “The bastard is still alive. He is going to have a monster headache. Let’s tape him up while he’s not squirming around. Make sure his mouth and eyes are taped.”

Five minutes later he looked like he was encased in a cocoon. Kelly asked, “What are we going to do with him?”

“While you were upstairs, I called Jack. He was just on the outskirts of Georgetown. I got a little earlier start than he did. I don’t want to talk anymore around Hankins. He may be awake. Follow me over near the garage door. If we are quiet, I don’t think he can hear us. Okay, we have another more immediate problem. What do we do with your friend upstairs? Is she in decent shape?”

“Yes, she doesn’t seem physically hurt. Her arms and legs have recovered from the tight tape bindings. Mentally, I don’t know. She seems strong but she had an awful experience. She looks and sounds like she is a classy woman with money and a decent education. Probably well connected. I guess the problem is that she has seen or soon will see both of us. We don’t want to be part of a criminal investigation, court appearances or publicity that could be all over Hankins’ case, even without the al Qaeda involvement.”

“Well, you got it. Smart girl, if I overlook the bad judgment of coming here alone and unarmed. Right now I can’t. Let’s get on with the show. Jack will be here in about 10 minutes. He’ll park near your car and come in by the side door. Incidentally, I thought for sure you were on stakeout when your room was empty and the car gone. Lo and behold, your car was parked and locked in a very good place to watch the garage door. When I examined the side door, I saw your lock pick tracks.

“Using all my considerable analytic powers, I deduced you were inside. Opening the unlocked door and seeing your flying ninja act, I was sure. It was then that I realized junior G-girl had come to the party unarmed. When Jack gets here, I’m sure he will have thought the problem through. My suggestion is that we talk your friend into keeping the whole thing to herself. I doubt she will want the smarmy media speculating on what happened to her in this sordid place. I doubt she wants to sue anyone and surely doesn’t want to testify in court. If our sick perp is dead or locked up in some national security place, her overnight horror story will not be front page. Anyway, we have to get her out of here now.

“Take her out to your car. No names or story. This case has some nasty sides to it that could embarrass her and even put her life in danger. You can flash my badge, and I mean flash, and tell her we try to protect people like her from consequences they don’t deserve. Tell her the attacker is not working alone. Her name should be kept out. We can do that, if she’ll cooperate. She will not be needed in the investigation. We don’t even want a statement. Go! Do your thing.”

Kelly ran up the stairs. Her vision was almost back to normal. A couple of Advil would be great. She was carrying Kathy’s badge in her hand. She flashed the badge at Sally and said, “Get your stuff. All of it. We’re outta here.”

After a quick check, Kelly led the way down the stairs and out the side door to her car. Sally was quiet but when the car left Georgetown and crossed the Waccamaw bridge on Route 17 north, she asked, “Where are we going?”

“We wanted to get you out of there before local police show up. I’m part of a special federal unit that deals with serial killers. We have enough to send this guy away for life. We don’t need your testimony but, if you want, you can be part of the witness parade and have your story all over the news. I figured you didn’t want that and my boss agreed. So it’s your choice.”

“You mean for me this whole thing is over, and I don’t have to tell my story to the whole world?”

“That’s right. I could see no upside for you to be involved in a long drawn out legal case. But, it is your choice.”

“No! I just want to forget the whole thing.”

“You won’t be able to forget it, but you’ll be able to deal with it. Part of this procedure is that you do not talk to anyone about what happened. Otherwise, some defense lawyer will be handing you a summons. Understand?”

“Yes. How can I thank you?”

“You have. You stayed alive until we got there. I couldn’t stand another dead young woman. Just do something good for someone in need and live a full life. Remember, you’ve been given a second chance. Not many people get one. Use it well. Now, where is your car? I want to help you with a believable story as to why your car was left wherever all night and where you were. It’s possible someone called the police to check your car or to tow it.”

It didn’t take long for Sally to make up an alibi for her absence. She wasn’t sure anyone would have missed her. She had her own rented condo and lived by herself. She was working her way through a messy breakup of a long-term relationship. Her car was where she left it. Kelly hugged her, and Sally said, “You know I’ll never forget you, especially your mother tiger act on the landing. If you do this kind of thing all the time, please be careful. It’s strangely comforting to know there are people like you looking out for the rest of us. Thank you.”

 

 

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 42

Kelly was in a perfect place to watch the Hankins apartment just before 7:00 AM. The JWM Serializationgarage door was an easy target to watch. She calmly drank her Starbuck’s instant Morning Joe coffee and munched on a couple of Kudzu’s glazed donuts. She laughed at herself, in a stakeout drinking coffee with a breakfast of donuts. Was she a real cop or what? She kept telling herself this guy is dangerous. Was she really planning on searching his apartment after he left? Why not? He never went back to his place until after 4:00 or 5:00 PM. She had plenty of time. She could search his tiny apartment in less than an hour.

When the garage door went up at 8:05, Kelly was so focused on her entry plan, she nearly spilled her coffee reacting to a rush of adrenalin. The gray Explorer backed out of the garage, waited for a break in traffic and merged into the westbound traffic on Fraser Street. Kelly waited five minutes and walked the half block to the garage. The people door on the side of the garage was partially screened from the street by a large oleander shrub. The hinges were rusty, and she was sure they would protest being used. No problem. No one was home. The lock may be a different problem. It had a patina of rust and tarnish. She wasn’t really good at lock picking yet. Kathy had coached her but she was a long way from being proficient. This deadbolt lock was old and wouldn’t have the newest technology. Sweat was dripping down her sides as she struggled with her two picks. She was sure she was using the right procedure. The damn lock was just corroded. Five minutes later, with a curse and an angry twist of her top pick, the dead bolt slid back into the door. Taking a firm grip on the doorknob Kelly pulled and, with a protesting groan, the slightly warped door opened.

She quickly stepped inside and slowly closed the door but did not even try to pick the double-keyed lock closed. Light from one very dirty window allowed her to make out objects in the garage and the corner staircase. Giving her eyes a few minutes to adjust, she moved across the garage and started up the steps, staying close to the wall where stairs were always the sturdiest and less likely to squeak. She reached the small landing. Kelly tried the knob. The door wasn’t locked. She eased the door open just far enough for her to slide through.

Kelly had no way of knowing Hankins hadn’t gone to work. He was less than a half-mile away in the paint supply area of Walmart buying duct tape and a few other items for his painting business. After that he was going to pick up some frozen meals. He wanted to hurry back to Sally. He should kill her today. Why then was he thinking he needed several meals? Using her name was also a mistake. It made her more of a human to him. He had been lonely for so long. Hankins knew she couldn’t stay, and he couldn’t let her go. It was only a question of time and impulse. Sally had to die.

The first thing Kelly saw when she eased through the door was a fully dressed woman in a rumpled bed. She even had her shoes on. The duct tape across her mouth, around her legs and wrists was a frightening contrast. Kelly was at the bed in three strides and in seconds had the tape off her mouth. The woman was gasping so fast her words where jumbled. The cry for help came through. Kelly hurried into the kitchen and came back with a knife to cut the tape off her legs and arms.

The woman clung to her and gasped, “Hurry, get me out of here! He’ll be back soon! He’s crazy! He’ll kill both of us!”

Kelly said, “Are you hurt? Are you able to walk?”

“No. I’m not hurt, just terrified, and I don’t know if I can walk or not. Help me up.”

Kelly got her up but she couldn’t walk by herself. The tape around her legs had been very tight. As Kelly was mostly carrying her to the door, she was berating herself for not bringing her handgun. Kathy had told her not to go anywhere without a weapon. You either had it all the time or you would find yourself unarmed when you need it.

Hankins finished his Walmart shopping and was driving back to the apartment, staying within the speed limit. When he was in sight of his garage door, he keyed the remote opener. The door failed to open. He knew the batteries were low and needed to be replaced. Outside the garage, he tried again. The door went up with its usual creaking rumble.

Kelly was just starting down the steps when the door started up. She spun around and pushed Sally back inside the room.

Sally cried, “He’s back! He’s back! God! Help me.” Kelly grabbed her and said, “Be quiet! Get on the bed. Stick some tape across your mouth! Hide your ankles and wrists! No time to call 911. Don’t say anything and do not look at me! We need the surprise.”

Kelly could hear the garage door closing and Hankins’ footsteps on the stairs. He would soon be opening the unlocked door. The door swung open and Hankins with his arms full of packages saw only something moving incredibly fast. Kelly hit him chest high with a textbook side kick to the chest, packages partially deflected the kick but the force sent him tumbling to the garage floor where he bounced up against the Explorer. She didn’t know if he was carrying a weapon or not. She didn’t want to give him any chance to get back into the apartment and Sally. Kelly decided to fight him from the small landing outside the door.

Hankins rolled over and got to his feet. The light wasn’t good and he was sure that was a woman on the landing. He had no idea Sally could fight like that. He had just taken the hardest kick in his four years of studying martial arts. He started up the steps. The woman was wearing jeans and sneakers. It couldn’t be Sally. He called out, “Who are you?”

“Your worst fucking dream. Come up these stairs and I will kill you. You sick pervert.”

“What do you want?”

“We came for you.”

“Who?”

“You know. The Professor, your boss, sent me to find you. He wants you for running away after the fire. We didn’t expect to find a woman here. You have some explaining to do. I don’t like your chances. My assignment is to keep you here until others arrive. You don’t have enough time to get past me, and I don’t think you could. I’ll kill you if I have to.”

Hankins paled when he realized the man from Herat had found him. He was without mercy. Dying at his hand would be terrible. He had to take this woman first. If he could get past her and get his notebook and hidden flash drives, he might have a chance. Escaping from al Qaeda, just to have the cops all along the East Coast searching for him, was not much of a tradeoff. He gathered himself and started up the steps.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 41

At 9:30 PM, Kelly was driving toward Hankins’ apartment for another check, when sheJWM Serialization saw the gray Explorer pulling into the garage under his apartment. She continued for another block, then pulled into a strip mall. She could see the lights in the apartment come on. Kelly wondered about the change in Hankins’ daily pattern. Other than the time he drove up to the hotel bar at Broadway at the Beach, he had not been out at night since they had him under surveillance. Could that sick bastard have been out hunting? It was dark at 6:30 PM. He had barely time to hunt a subject, torture and kill her and get back to his apartment in three hours. Maybe he struck out again. Maybe he was just doing some scouting. She decided to watch the apartment for another hour. His lights were always out by ten. Kelly thought she would stay until Hankins turned his lights out. At 2:30 AM, his light went out. What could that squirrel be doing so late at night? Kathy said he wasn’t a reader and didn’t seem to be a devoted big screen TV watcher. He didn’t drink. He was up and on his way to work before eight in the morning. Kelly planned on being in a stakeout position before seven tomorrow morning. Kathy had told her that when a subject changes his or her pattern there is a reason. She would find it out tomorrow.

Hankins had no trouble getting his prey up the narrow stairs into the small, dingy apartment. She was still groggy. He guessed she only weighed about 115 pounds. He was so pumped her weight was nothing. He dumped her taped up body on the unmade double bed. Wondering who she was, he opened her purse and took out her wallet. She was Sally Ann Bradford, age 25. He noted her ring and decided she must be Mrs. Bradford. Her driver’s license was from Durham, NC. Apparently she was here as a tourist. Unless her husband was also here, maybe no one would be looking for her for a while. Her car parked in front of the dress shop would alert the police. No pictures of kids in her wallet or in her iPhone. She had a checkbook, a couple of credit cards and $500 in cash.

The woman opened her eyes and tried to scream. Hardly a sound escaped. Good, he could leave her in the apartment when he went out. With her hands and feet secured, she would be helpless and couldn’t make any noise. Hankins walked past the bed into his orderly kitchen and picked up a serious cutting knife. Coming back, he showed her the knife and said he was going to take the tape off her mouth. If she screamed her face would get cut. A scar to remind her of their date. With panic in her eyes, Mrs. Bradford nodded she understood. He ripped the tape off, messing up her makeup. The knife blade was nearly touching her face. Hankins saw she was trying to talk. Finally he understood she needed some water. He put a hand under her head and gently tipped the glass. After drinking she tried to talk again, but he stopped her. Going into her purse, he found lipstick and blusher. Telling her to be still, he patched up her makeup. Standing back, examining his handiwork, he thought, this one is special. The best I have ever captured. I must be careful not to destroy this opportunity. He also thought, I must be crazy to have brought her here. I want to talk to her, but if I wait too long, fear, stress and tears will take her beauty away before I can capture the moment of death.

Just having her here gives me problems I’ve never had before. I want to keep her for some days but she will have to eat, use the bathroom and even bathe. It’ll be risky to leave her alone for more than an hour or so. If I kill her tonight those problems go away. I’ll still have to get rid of the body. That means keeping a dead woman in my apartment until after dark tomorrow. It was now 2:30 AM and he still hadn’t made up his mind. Even as frightened as she was, he enjoyed talking to her. It’s surprising what you can learn about someone in a very short time, if they are motivated to answer all your questions. He even answered some of her questions. She asked if he was going to rape her. He laughed and said no, he wasn’t interested in sex. He could tell from her eyes that his answer made her more frightened. He wanted to tell her that real power was the power to decide between life and death, including how and when. That was purity. Death was clean. No shades of gray. No judgments about good or bad. In comparison, sex was tawdry, full of delusions and illusions. Hankins was certain she would not understand. A discussion like that could ruin the moment and beauty of death.

Just after 2:30 after giving her another drink of water and helping her to the bathroom, he used his ether pad and put her to bed using the last of his duct tape. Tomorrow he had to get some more and a couple of frozen or carryout meals. Nothing else was on his agenda.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 40

Hankins looked at his watch. It was 7:00 PM dark and cold. He was bored with his new JWM Serializationlife in Georgetown as an indoor house painter. It paid less than his Oriental rug store in Charleston and the work was much harder. His urge to kill had grown until he couldn’t think of anything else. His last foray to Myrtle Beach produced nothing. But, he never looked beyond the hotel lobby. He felt he had graduated from taking any young woman available. He wanted to kill someone whose disappearance or death would make the national media news scene. In the past he had worked like a trapper, setting the trap and waiting until a young woman came close enough to be grabbed. Now he was going to be the hunter. He would search an area until he saw someone with class and money. The type of car, the dress and the shops the potential victim visited now defined his search criteria. He was going tonight. The urge was strong, but he must not settle for anything less than he deserved.

Kelly, following Kathy’s instructions about keeping only a casual watch on Hankins, missed him leaving his garage. The light was on in his apartment and she assumed he was there. He was now sitting in his Ford Explorer watching the front door of the well-lighted shop. Hankins had noticed a fashionable jewelry shop in North Myrtle Beach on a previous hunting excursion. From his parked car, Hankins could clearly see the interior of the store. His plan was good. He had only been in place for 30 minutes, yet had seen two very desirable targets. Now he was watching a young woman of his dreams shopping for what looked like diamond earrings. He had seen her park her car a half-block from the jewelry shop. She went into a high-end dress store near where she parked and was now in his hunting area. A car moved from a parking place next to her Lexus. Hankins didn’t even think. He just slid the Explorer in next to the Lexus on the driver’s side.

He could still see the front door of the dress shop but not the interior. He knew she was alone. All he had to do was wait. He decided to use his cane and a shopping bag of empty boxes as props. Hankins was waiting in a secluded spot three cars away from the Lexis. He saw her leave the dress shop with an armload of packages. When she walked between the cars with her purchases, Hankins was only a few steps behind. As his prey approached the driver’s door of her Lexus, Hankins stumbled, dropping his packages between their cars. She turned around, saw the man with a cane trying to retrieve his dropped parcels, and bent down to help him.

Muttering apologies, he took his ether-loaded cloth out of his bag and pressed it tightly against her face. No one saw the struggle. In less than 30 seconds, she was on the floor in the back seat and under a blanket. He put her packages in her car, closed and locked the Lexus door, and drove out of the shopping area onto the service road. He found an isolated spot and bound his victim with duct tape. He hated handling duct tape while wearing gloves.

This one was too good for his usual routine of torturing his catches and then quickly killing them with his signature counterclockwise neck twist, while he shot images of the moment life left. Dumping the battered bodies was a mere housekeeping chore. He never gave it a thought and never went back to the dumping place. He had his digital images to awaken his memories.

This one would be different. He was going to take her home. He knew it was dangerous, almost madness. But, the urges were strong, stronger than ever, and she was special. Even her looks. Blonde with a page boy haircut, the stylish black skirt, white ruffled blouse and black short jacket. Good legs in stockings and high black pumps that showed them off. It was the eyes that surprised him. He had never seen more beautiful eyes. They were almost violet. He needed another look. The pictures would be sensational. Maybe he would have to post them someway.

Home was only 15 more miles. The plan was coming together in his head as he drove. He heard some stirring in the back. That was okay, she couldn’t shout or even move about. He planned on driving straight into the garage. Thank God, it had a remote opener, a decrepit one but it worked. She would stay in the car until he readied a place for her upstairs. If she would be quiet, they could talk. He wanted to hear all about her. For a while she could remain dressed, and he would be nice to her. If she refused to do as he asked, the rules would change. He would have to make that clear. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair.

He realized he hadn’t even thought about the man from Herat or his work with the terrorist. He heard the news reports on his TV about the violence in Charleston and knew who was responsible. He was so lucky. If it hadn’t been for the fire that burned his shop and killed five of the terrorists, he would have been involved in that mess and would now be dead. They would never find him, and his woman would help him not to worry about them.

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“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 39

After talking to Kathy, Frank made the decision to put out an immediate APB notice JWM Serializationthrough the FBI to locate the Professor’s green Passat, license South Carolina SIT 301, last seen on SC Route 17 headed North in Myrtle Beach at 7 AM. He made it clear the requirement was not to apprehend only to locate and immediately inform the FBI, who would take over the surveillance, under strict instructions to follow discreetly, using air assets when possible.

The Professor crossed into North Carolina and was making his way to I-95 and Richmond. He knew his training protocol said he should change cars now. Changing cars always carried some risk. He decided he would abandon the car in Richmond, breaking the chain of ownership and renting or buying another one somewhere in the area. Using his iPhone, he sent an innocuous text message that gave the final go for the Charleston attack. He and his followers knew few, if any, of them would be alive tomorrow. They were Soldiers of Allah who were proud to die in his name.

Jack Brandon had just finished a long call to Kathy when the first reports of gunfire were reported as a news flash. Within the next 45 minutes, there were reports of attacks in nearly all Charleston areas. A car bomb had been exploded in the Medical Center of South Carolina University. More reports of gunfire and fire bombs were flooding the news services. The Emergency Rooms of the major hospitals were jammed with the injured. Every fire company in the city was out in full force. The airport was closed. The State Police were blocking airport access roads to trap the attackers who smashed through the gates and used gunfire and gasoline bombs on aircraft loading or unloading passengers at the gates. Casualties were climbing. The Mayor called for police and firefighters from the outlying areas. The Governor asked for federal help and issued orders to call up units from the South Carolina Guard. Homeland Security promised swift help. Shelter announcements were constant. Anchors and officials were struggling to keep panic from their voices. Charleston was in chaos.

Jack knew the action was beyond anything they could help with, but decided to bring Kathy, Lou and Storm back to Charleston tomorrow afternoon. Kelly had to stay in Georgetown to watch their serial killer. Kathy was certain that Hankins was not interested in getting in touch with the Professor. The little snake just did not have what it takes to be part of the Professor’s team. Kathy told Kelly to keep a very loose watch on Hankins. Drive-bys to check on the activity level at the garage would be enough. If Kelly saw him leaving Georgetown to follow, but very discreetly. And no static stakeouts to watch his apartment and garage. Too much risk without any backup. Kathy had emphasized her concerns, but on the drive back to Charleston she had the feeling that Kelly didn’t think Hankins presented much of a threat to her.

The following afternoon, when Lou, Storm and Kathy arrived and gathered in the Brandon condo, the news was full of the extent of the attacks. People killed numbered 37, injured 115. Property damage estimates were not all in, yet calm was returning to the city. The immediate attack was over. By early morning the last of the attacker holdouts had been wiped out. Southern resolve was reasserting itself. The people’s view of Muslims had shifted from one of tolerance to a hardened watchfulness.

Most of the attackers traveled in pickup trucks. The number of attackers was not known yet, but 22 had been killed in gunfights with the police. Several of those were killed at roadblocks set up by the State Police. There were no reports of any captured attackers. Pamphlets carried by the attack teams stated they were Soldiers of Allah and the war was just beginning. Before it was over, Charleston would be Cordoba of the South, named after the Muslim cultural city in Spain that was the high water mark of the Muslim invasion of Europe.

Late in the day Frank called Jack and said, “You have now seen the Professor’s work. His fingerprints are all over this attack. With 20 odd fighters, he brought a major American city to a momentary standstill. His weakness is that he cannot sustain an effort like the attack on Charleston. He just doesn’t have the manpower and cannot get it. Although we won’t get any credit, we won this engagement. Just as we won the Vietnam battle of Tet in 1968 in military terms. I’m not sure what the long-term political effect will be of this miniature engagement. I hope and suspect that the American people are much smarter and tougher than the Muslim strategists believe. If the intent of the KKK symbolism and attacks by the Soldiers of Allah in American cities is to terrorize the population and to turn faction against faction, it will fail. But, this is not over yet. It won’t be until we capture or kill the Professor.”

“Do you have any instructions for us? It seems to me this has escalated beyond our capabilities.”

“I may need your group when we locate the Professor. In the meantime you could deal with your serial killer. National security issues no longer protect him. Justice can take its course.”

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